Saturday, October 3, 2015

British Friends, A British Author

British Friends, a British Author
We had visitors around this time last year. Our British friends, the Fox family (Frances and her husband Ian and younger daughter Hannah) were coming to the United States and could they spend a day with us? How exciting. Yes. We looked forward to it. They would join us at church, Sunday dinner at our house, and later tea.

Karen, Frances, Hannah  2014

I know Frances from our early days of home teaching. (We've been writing paper letters for 25 years.) She found me when L'Abri in England pointed her my way. In those days everything was done through the mail - for us: air-mail. Frances wrote asking about Parents' Review. She was one of my first subscribers in 1991. She was reading and learning about Miss Charlotte Mason when I was. Her two girls, Rachel and Hannah and my own, corresponded for a time. Our girls are now young women who keep in touch the modern way, through Facebook.

A happy meeting of  friendship-afar:  Hannah  - Yolanda 
When Frances read my description of the book, Linnea in Monet's Garden in Parents' Review, she didn't just buy the book. She decided to go to Monet's garden in Giverny, France while on holiday. France is a hop, skip and a jump from where the Foxes live southeast of London. Later, Frances wrote me about their visit to Giverny and I put her experience in the magazine under the title "The Foxes in Monet's Garden." Cute? Those who have Parents' Review will find it in Fall-1994 - with a picture of Linnea drawn by my daughter Sophia - whose reading the of book and imagination had to suffice.

Knowing that Frances would spend a Sunday with us, and that I would be teaching a Sunday School class for mothers that morning, I asked Frances if she would share in class. She wrote me one last paper letter before flying to the United States, that she would be happy to. (We correspond on paper -still.) I hoped the ladies would find, not only our discussion interesting, but certainly her accent as well. It was my plan to talk about the moral value of stories. When the day came I asked Frances some questions in class about the author Patricia St John - pronouncing this author's name Sinjun - like the American Injun, as Frances had corrected me politely in private. Anyway, my pen friend contributed beautifully and honestly. Thank you, Frances.

You see, I had not forgotten that in the 1990s  - responding to Frances' invitation - Patricia St. John came to speak at her church. Frances had thoughtfully placed the cassette recording in a letter to me then. Miss St. John (1919-1993) has since passed away but having read her autobiography and having listened to her voice and message, I feel a sort of warm acquaintance with her. I still have the recording. I found her message to be so inspiring when I first heard it that I turned it into an article for Parents' Review, Summer-1996.

Yolanda, one of our married daughters, still has a video player. Therefore, I've hung onto our video of Miss St John's story - Treasures of the Snow - set in Switzerland (where she lived for part of her girlhood).  It is probably the best known of her stories. Its characters demonstrate repentance, forgiveness, true friendship, and courage. (I do not see a DVD for sale on Amazon.)

Many appreciate how this author, with sensitivity, weaves a Christian theme into each uncomplicated plot. For this reason parents will choose one as a family read-aloud. My children read Treasures of the Snow, Tanglewood's Secret and others - silently in their leisure. I hadn't read any. Therefore, not too long ago I picked up Twice Freed.  I'm glad I did. It enlarged my Christian sympathies. (Something that needs enlivening periodically.)

A Dream Come True

Reading her autobiography in the 1990s - An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Story - I learned that Patricia Mary St. John served as a nurse and missionary in North Africa after World War II. Years later, a girlhood dream came true. In 1966 Miss St. John traveled with her sister in a Volkswagen to many of the places where St. Paul preached. As a young girl she had the notion of one day writing a story about Onesimus, the runaway slave. Philemon was a book of the Bible that had captured her developing imagination.

Many years later, after visiting the cities mentioned in the book of Acts, she wrote, Twice Freed. It merits a place in the history curriculum but could be read anytime.

Twice Freed is a conversion story, as inferred in its title. Although written by a Protestant, set in the time of the early church, it does not wave a Protestant or Catholic flag. It is one that can be appreciated by either. Our Christian roots are the same.

The review I've written is placed in the post script for those interested.

New Facebook Page 

Recently, I put up a Facebook Page for an author. I think the banner my son made for my author's page is spectacular. It is amazingly done with the use of on-line drawing tools. Nigel extended the oil painting of Miss Charlotte Mason, meticulously. The British robin perched on the fence post was drawn by my request. Nigel (my instructor in all-things-techie) tells me that clicking "Like" will notify my readers of new posts. 

Post Script
The photographs of summer's close, with the growing season looking a bit tired, were taken by the Man-of-the-House at Landis Valley.

For your convenience I am linking to Amazon, books mentioned in this article, where you can read further reviews. 

Linnea in Monet's Garden  (There is a dvd too - I remember borrowing this calm cartoon from the library).
Treasures of the Snow
An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Faith  My high school age daughter read this after I did.
Twice Freed

A Hypothetical Flashback
Something occurred to me while finishing this article. That is: Looking back over my children's growing years, I have a suspicion - and a very strong guess - that we wouldn't have had such bookish adventures or fabulous friendships had we taken a road other than the Gentle Art of Learning. That's why it is easy for me to forecast to my young or new Charlotte-Mason-minded readers, "You have a wonderful adventure ahead of you."

Have you read any of Patricia St. John's stories?

Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
Review by Karen Andreola

Onesimus has an unsettled heart. In the first chapters I looked at this fatherless teen as a mother would. And just as his mother did I thought, “Onesimus, why can’t you accept being a slave? It’s not so bad." But when Onesimus is unjustly accused of stealing something that was maliciously slipped into his pocket without his knowledge, and his master Philemon orders that he be given a beating for it, I pitied Onesimus. My maternal sympathy rose to meet his suffering soul and body.

Bitterness takes root and settles in the boy's hardening heart. When the opportunity presents itself, he gives into a moment of temptation. He commits an irreversible act of revenge. I turned the pages more slowly after that. I was disgusted with Onesimus. But a ray of light shines into the cracks of the story. It made me turn the pages again with hope and anticipation. While doing business with a merchant in Ephesus, Master Philemon goes to hear a man speak of a new religion (with Onesimus). That man is Paul - an apostle of Christ. Philemon gives his life to Christ. But the scraps of St. Paul's teaching that reach the ears of Onesimus, do not move him. He isn’t interested in peace, brotherly love and forgiveness of sin. They are ideas of weakness to this boy, approaching manhood, whose heart seethes with ambition and a desire for self-importance.

His mother, too, becomes a Christian. But all the boy can think of is breaking free. He runs away from Philemon (though a kinder master), his monotonous life, and the dull little streets of Colosse. He manages to make his way to the city of Rome. But no one can run away from God if his Holy Spirit is working in the heart and mind of one whose heart is broken by regret and harsh circumstances. 

The cover of the book shows Onesimus smiling at a pretty girl. Mistress Eirene is the daughter of a merchant who, in the beginning of the story travels to Philemon’s household to close a business deal. She has a kind and gentle spirit. She doesn’t talk down to Onesimus although he is a slave. Longing for her friendship, against all odds, he plans to somehow meet her again. This is a very small part of the story - although the cover seems to convey otherwise - and is handled honorably.

Not a plot where all characters meet with health, wealth and prosperity, both hardship and joy work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Isn't this the best kind of happy ending?

Twice Freed    For ages 12 to teen - to adult - unless you have a sensitive child (as I had.)

Nice to visit with you againHappy Reading,

Karen Andreola

My Parents' Review is described here. 


  1. Karen,
    How nice to see a post from you today. I hope you have had a nice summer. Cooler fall weather is just starting here in Texas. Linnea in Monet's Garden is a favorite of mine. I also have a book with pictures of Giverny, which is beautiful. At a museum visit I spied a small doll of Linnea and, of course, had to have it, too. I would love to visit Giverny. I read Treasures of the Snow years ago. I will have to get out my Parent's Reviews and look for the articles you have mentioned. I hope all is well there, and that you all have a blessed fall season.
    Dianne L

  2. I hadn't heard of this book my Patricia St. John, and since my children are always looking for new books to read, we'll have to pick this one up!

    I am glad to 'like' your author page!

    Your 'Gentle Art of Learning' has been such a blessing to me personally, Karen. I love seeing my children thrive by learning this way!


  3. Oh, how our family enjoys Linnea. It is a calming DVD.

    Autumn arrived at our house last week. It's cool enough to just barely have the heat on at night, it's wonderfully gloomy and rainy (lovely sunshine is forecast for later this next week...), and our dogwood's leaves are glowing even in the rain. It's my very, very favorite time of year.

    Paper letters are the best, I think. They are a delight to send, and they are a delight to receive.


  4. Twice Freed sounds like a good book for my 14 year old son. I have never heard of it before. Treasures of the Snow is one of the BEST stories for children who have a tendency to bear a grudge. I remember the "Foxes in Monet's Garden" article. We still have the Linnea book floating around somewhere, too. We used to have a fabric toy that was a replica of the garden, complete with a shaggy-bearded Mr. M in a rowboat. There were flowers and tadpoles, etc., to count, and it zipped shut. I believe my mother found it in an art museum gift shop. Anyway, my girls used to get it out with a small little girl figure to play Linnea meeting Mr. Monet.

    And how do we search for you on Facebook? I found your personal page but there is no "Like" option.

    So nice to hear from you as always. :-)

  5. It' so good to see a post from you Karen! I've been thinking about you and wondering how you and your family were doing. I always love reading your thoughtful words-they take me back to when my children were little and I first discovered your Charlotte Mason Companion. You have been such a blessing to me and my family over the years. Thank you and may God bless you and your lovely family.

  6. A warning about the Moody edition of Treasures of the Snow, and their other St. John publications... they are revised. I know some of their earlier editions are the original but I don't know at what point they changed the text. I would love to see enough people contact Moody that they decide to publish the original again.

    So St. John is pronounced sinjun? I never knew that! I have been saying it wrong for years! Thank you for the lovely post.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Sometimes, when British titles are printed by American publishers the terminology is edited so that the book reads smoothly here. (I can see that this would be especially the case with a children's book.) When I arrived in the London airport I saw "WC" on a door. I had to ask to be sure that this was indeed the door I was looking for - the "water closet." Moody is a conservative publisher. I would be surprised if they subdued the Christian content in any way. I was told, through hearsay, that when the story Heidi was translated into English its Christian reference was removed. Perhaps this can happen - sadly - however, it was not verified to me.

      I will confess that I pronounce "St John" as commonly spoken here in America when among my American friends. If I were to be in British company (or being recorded) I would mind-my-manners and pronounce the name as Frances advised.

  7. How lovely to have kindred spirits come for a visit! Such a time spent together fills your cup for the days ahead. (I feel that way about our meeting this past August!)

    My daughter Rebekah has enjoyed several of Patricia St. John's books. In fact, on my bedside table right now is The Tanglewoods' Secret, there because Bekah says that I must read it! I think that's a good reason. :)

    Thank you for your always thoughtful, always helpful posts!

  8. My Aunt Mavis gave me a copy of Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John for Christmas when I was about 10 years old. I read it several times then and read it again to my 10 year old daughter this past spring. I've heard Treasures of The Snow on Christian radio broadcast ( every year after Christmas). I'll have to see if I can get her other books.
    I'm glad I stopped to read your blog today. Heather

  9. I love Patricia St. John. I have her autobiography and re - read it now and again. What a lovely history you have shared!

    Mrs. White

  10. Another Patricia St. John fan here! By the way, Treasures of the Snow is on DVD on amazon ~ :)

  11. St John is also used as a Christian name, pronounced in the British way, as readers of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre will be familiar with.