HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Huguenot Garden: A Children’s Story of Faith
Author: Douglas M. Jones III
Publisher: Canon Press, 1995
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9-12, but suitable for all ages
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Jones, Douglas M. III. Huguenot Garden: A Children’s Story of Faith (published in 1995 by Canon Press, Moscow, ID). It is 1685, and twin sisters Renee and Albret Martineau, maybe six to eight years old, live in La Rochelle, France, with their father, a fabric shop owner, mother, older brother Abraham, older sister Mary, younger brother Guilliaume, and new baby sister Phoebe. The Martineaus, along with Mme. Martineau’s sisters, Aunt Catherine and Uncle Philippe and Aunt Annet and Uncle Gaston, and their families are all Huguenots or French Protestants. The two girls learn about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in August of 1572 which was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion, killing anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000. The Edict of Nantes, signed in 1598, by King Henry IV of France, granted the Huguenots substantial rights in the nation.
However, Renee and Albret still experience mocking and teasing from other children for being Protestant. And now the new King Louis XIV has revoked the Edict of Nantes with the Edict of Fontainebleau, declaring Protestantism illegal. He is sending his soldiers or dragoons to La Rochelle to tear down churches, destroy homes, arrest ministers, and try to force people to convert to Catholicism. What will happen to the Martineaus and their relatives? Will they suffer from the persecution? Or will they be able to escape? Huguenot Garden is a children’s story which follows the twins and the rest of the Martineau family as they work, worship, commune, and suffer persecution together. There are a few items of Calvinistic Reformed theology, such as baptizing babies and calling the minister “pastor,” with which some believers would disagree, but the book is quite beneficial on several levels. The story aims to portray sweet glimpses into the everyday life of this seventeeth-century, French Protestant family, and it is always nice to read about a family in which people truly love and care for one another in spite of their troubles.
Yet, beyond this, the book serves as a gentle, kid-level introduction for children to the ungentle theme of persecution, which could have been quite a fearful subject, but does so without scaring them, being neither sugar-coated nor too graphically horrific. The author has chosen to underscore God’s faithfulness rather than the tyranny of men. Douglas Jones is the senior editor Credenda/Agenda magazine, a fellow of philosophy at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, ID, and the author of the children’s books Scottish Seas and Dutch Color. Huguenot Garden received a 1995 C.S. Lewis Noteworthy Children’s Book Honor. Finally, there is the historic value. Louis XIV’s actions caused as many as 400,000 to flee France and move to Great Britain, Prussia, the Dutch Republic, Switzerland, South Africa, and the new French colonies in North America. A whole section of my home county was settled by the descendents of French Huguenot refugees, including the ancestors of my fifth grade teacher Odile Morgan.