Book Review - Christian Biographies for Young Readers

Image of Athanasius (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
by Simonetta Carr
Reformation Heritage Books 2011
Hardcover 64

If you haven’t stumbled across Simonetta Carr’s excellent set of “Christian Biographies for Young Readers,” you and your children are missing out. Each of the six titles in the series are beautifully illustrated, historically accurate, age-appropriate biographies for upper elementary-aged children. In the last couple years I have reviewed three of the titles and wanted to share about them here for our readers.

Athansius

Athansius is one of the most important early Christian leaders, perhaps the only one with a Creed named after him. But like many Christian young people, I grew up without learning much about him at all.

Simonetta Carr hopes to remedy this problem through her latest addition to the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series from Reformation Heritage Books. In Athanasius, Carr gives young readers a vivid account of Athanasius’ life. Complete with beautiful illustrations from Matt Abraxas, the book also includes a timeline, maps and lots of background facts about the time period of Athanasius’ life.

Written for kids aged 7-12, this book will appeal to kids of a wide age-range. The story is set in the 300s AD in Alexandria, but Athanasius takes us from the deserts of Egypt, to Tyre, Rome, and Trier, Germany among other places. His life criss-crosses that of several emperors and he finds himself in and out of exile constantly. Athanasius is most remembered for his role in helping formulate the Nicene Creed and solidifying orthodox teaching on the Trinity, which is enshrined in the Athanasian Creed. His life also stands testament to the awful reality of persecution which so many Christians of ages past endured.

The book is arranged like a cross between a coffee-table book and a story book. The quality of the book will make it more suited for the mantle or special bookcase than a kids’ playroom. The art is beautiful and the story stays accessible for young readers. This book will serve well in Sunday Schools or homeschool classes and takes its place alongside other titles in this series. If you are looking for wholesome reading material for young readers, this volume and the entire series from Reformation Heritage deserves your consideration. 

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Lady Jane Grey

Image of Lady Jane Grey (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
by Simonetta Carr
Reformation Heritage Books 2012
Hardcover 64

I don’t remember having heard the story of Lady Jane Grey, so when I picked up Simonetta Carr’s most recent book I knew I was covering new territory. I was not disappointed. Jane Grey’s life story is truly inspiring, even though her life was tragically cut short. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since parents are the likely readers of my review, I’ll risk some spoilers. Jane Grey was in England’s royal family, during the time of Henry the VIII. When Henry’s son Edward was dying, he named Jane Grey to be his heir — in hopes of spoiling his step-sister Mary’s chances at the throne. But more than mere political intrigue was involved here. It was Grey’s strong evangelical Christian testimony which moved Edward to select her. And Mary was destined to become known as “bloody Mary,” in her zeal to purge England of Protestant opposition to Roman Catholicism. Lady Jane Grey, who never asked or wanted to become queeen, ruled for less than two weeks, and after a lengthy imprisonment, was eventually put to death as Mary moved to secure her rights to the throne.

Jane Grey and her Christian testimony, shine through in this bright and colorful book for kids. Like always, Simonetta Carr has done her homework and provides a factual account of Grey’s life. She shares the touching last moments of Grey’s life–her preparations for death, and the full text of a letter written to her sister, encouraging her in the faith, just hours before Jane was to become a martyr. Carr captures the uncertainty of the story and illumines it with historical detail that bring seventeenth Century England to life, for today’s children.

Illustrator Matt Abraxas outdoes himself in providing rich and vivid drawings, detailed maps, portraits, pictures and other artwork which will make flipping through the pages of this book a joy for parent and child alike. Inquiring young minds will enjoy the timeline provided and an assortment of fascinating facts from her era. The rest of the story, when it comes to religious freedom in England, is also provided.

Once again, Carr has given us a masterpiece. This book will educate and delight young readers, and it will challenge and inspire both them and their parents to live for Christ. As a father of six children, I appreciate books like this that can inform and shape my children’s impressionable minds. This book will find a special place in our home.

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Image of Anselm of Canterbury (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)
by Simonetta Carr
Reformation Heritage Books 2013
Hardcover 64

Anselm of Canterbury

Simonetta Carr has done it again. She has given us a superb historical biography of an important figure in Christian History written for young readers. And once again, an older reader like me, has enjoyed it as much or more than the intended audience.

Anselm of Canterbury is now the sixth title in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series, a set of superbly illustrated and beautifully crafted hardcover books for children. Reformation Heritage Books is to be thanked for providing this coffee-table-quality set of treasures. I’ve previously reviewed Athanasius and Lady Jane Grey. This work on Anselm is even better than the two earlier works I read. Perhaps his story is more intriguing or less known, but I found the work even more captivating than the previous volumes, while the artwork was as engaging and the history as fascinating as ever.

Anselm became the unwilling archbishop of Canterbury who would rather have lived a life of solitude. Instead he served his fellow man and his church and state superiors. Known for his teaching and his care of the sick and the poor, Anselm is best remembered for his book Cur Deus Homo (Why God-Man?). In this book he develops his satisfaction theory of the atonement, providing a well reasoned argument for why Jesus had to become the God-man. In the simplified explanation of Simonetta Carr:

According to Anselm, even one “small” disobedience to God is greater than many worlds. Only one person could save people from this terrible problem–someone who was fully God, so He could live a perfect life and take the terrible punishment for all the sins of others, and fully man, because it was man who sinned, so man should repay. That’s why Jesus, who is fully God, became fully man for us. (p. 43)

As the above excerpt shows, Carr’s writing is suitable for older children and doesn’t dumb down history to be accessible. She aims to unfold the study of history for young readers but her care for accuracy prevents her from adjusting the story to be simpler and easier. She presents the real history, with its conundrums and questions, for her young readers. This title raises the question of the role of church and state, and the function of the Roman Catholic pope. She satisfactorily explains the quandary of church relations with the state, but only briefly sketches the nature of the papacy. In doing so she provides a platform for careful parents to engage their kids in the informed assessment of church history without overly simplifying complex debates and forcing premature conclusions.

Like the other titles in the series, period maps and illustrations illuminate the pages of her book. Masterful illustrations by Matt Abraxas and engaging full color photographs spark the imagination. Also included are excerpts of Anselm’s writings and interesting facts about the customs and lifestyle of his time period.

If you pick up a copy of this book, you will want to pick up the entire set. Books on Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, and John Owen are also available. I hear she is working on John Knox as the next biography in this important series.

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