Reviewed by Justin Powell
Irene Howat recounts the stories of ten boys who grew to be martyrs for Christ. Each story begins with a childhood setting of the future martyr which both humanizes the historical hero and provides a cultural context to further illustrate their dedication. Although written for a young audience, Howat includes careful historical details that will educate both the child and the parent who may be reading the stories. Each chapter also ends with key vocabulary, points to consider and a prayer of faith making it both an educational read and a devotional of sorts. Ten Boys Who Didn’t Give In is a part of the wider series by Howat called Lightkeepers. This installment will peak the interest for anyone who has not read the other books.
The success of Ten Boys can be found in Howat’s ability to contextualize the young boys within their cultural history while fluidly bridging the gap to the modern reader. She uses enough details to place the reader back in time while still maintaining a fast moving story that allows each chapter to be short for younger audiences. Additionally, the young martyrs are presented as actual human beings with families, friends and life pursuits. Polycarp begins his story as a young boy upset to be torn from his mother. Alban’s story begins with him playing war with a friend. They become great heroes of the faith, not because of supernatural abilities, but rather ordinary natural adherence to the faith. Howat never uses the phrase “what would you do in this situation”, but each story has relatable elements for a variety of age groups which leads the reader to this question.
As stated above, Ten Boys is primarily an elementary read that would be a wonderful addition to a school library or class set. Parents and teachers who want to provide an introduction to the history of Christianity could easily use these stories individually as a platform to discuss the wider culture and history of each period. With Howat’s concluding points to consider and prayers, the book could turn into a daily devotional for the family.
Justin Powell is a PhD student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Ten Boys Who Didn't Give In