G. A. Henty Historical Novels Review
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Review By Harriet Yoder
PrestonSpeed has done an excellent job of reprinting the Henty Books since 1996. They had a dream to put this wonderful collection of accurate historical novels back into print. Careful to keep the original spellings and content (no abridging here), Doug and Beverly, owners of PrestonSpeed Publications, make sure the books are printed on museum quality paper with the highest quality cover stock available. The bindings are smyth sewed—not just glued.
Written for “young lads” these historical novels are great for young lasses too! These excellent books, called Henty Books, make a great basis for homeschool history studies. Each gripping story captures the attention while informing the reader about the history, geography, military, customs, and politics of the era. As we read these aloud for our multilevel history study, we use a historical atlas and plot the movement of the characters on a map. I choose appropriate historical coloring books to keep the younger children busy while the older children prefer to draw their interpretation of the scene.
Henty does a wonderful job of teaching in his books. There are many mentions of science in the books we’ve read. You can incorporate science into your study. Henty usually discusses the animals and science of the age. For example, irrigation is discussed in Cat of Bubastis. You'll also find engineering and science in his discussions of military tactics.
I especially appreciate the character building values that are demonstrated by the main characters. The young lad is always a good role model for the listener-- generous, brave, kind, intelligent (keeping his wits about him), and a good leader. In the books I have read there is usually a strong heroine who helps our lad on his quest -- in keeping with the traditions of courtship. The young characters are considerate, courageous, and respectful of parents and elders. The hero uses his head in difficult situations and never gives up hope. Before I read the outcome of each peril to them, I challenge my children to try to figure out solutions. Great for building critical thinking skills.
While there wars and battles in the various novels, one needs to keep in mind that in the time periods we are studying it was typical. Personally I have gained insight to spiritual warfare. The very characteristics that make our heroes successful in battle will help us to win spiritual battles: courage, determination, creativity, etc. Many times we are taught that battles were lost by pride, disagreement among leaders, lack of unity among troops, rejoicing over a victory before it was complete, and not knowing when to retreat.
An added benefit of these books is the wonderful vocabulary. It is always good to read to children using a higher vocabulary level. New words also make for great discussions. Keep your dictionary handy when you are reading these novels.
One suggestion for using the Henty historical novels in your home school curriculum is to read them chronologically and supplement with library books on related topics. Another is to start with the time period you are currently studying. In either case to find related quality literature by time period or geographic location, I like All Through the Ages. Another resource, Let the Authors Speak also groups good literature by time period.
Overall, these will be a great addition to your homeschool library. Though sometimes Henty was a little tedious in his explanations of history in the beginning of the books – to set the scene for the reader, if you stick with it, you will hear “read one more chapter, please!”
G. A. Henty Resources
The Boy's Guide To The Historical Adventures Of G. A. Henty