We just finished reading Barbara Willard's Son of Charlemagne. The girls and I really enjoyed it, and found it even more compelling than Augustine Came to Kent.
The life of Charlemagne (742-814), or Charles, King of the Franks, is viewed through the eyes of his son, Carl. Because we are seeing through the eyes of a child (and later, a young man) who loves and admires his father, one might assume that the portrait will be too rosy but Willard does a fine job of portraying Charles as a flawed and conflicted man and a product of his time. The order to kill more than 4,000 Saxons at Verden, for example, is presented in a relatively straightforward manner, with the implication throughout the rest of the book that the incident may have been one of the greatest sorrows of Charles's life. At the same time, repentance is never explicit and Charles maintains (and his son assents) that it was the only decision he could have made given the circumstances.
It's in light of such actions that the girls and I discussed the ways in which one can be "a product of one's time." In his history of the Catholic Church, Triumph, H.W. Crocker (in the section on Charlemagne) puckishly laments the passing of the days when "one could be both a Catholic warrior and a Frankish barbarian without contradiction." It's exactly that sort of contradiction that led to some good discussion here. The girls originally had no sympathy whatsoever for Charles, and were scolding him for his hypocrisies. By the end of the book, they judged him to be a man ("He was definitely human," said Anne) of greatness in many ways (who would not admire his deep love of family?) but also one who made a great many mistakes.
A book for children that can acknowledge and communicate such complexity is a treasure indeed. Highly recommended.