Book Review - Reformation Heroes for Children

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With the renewed interest today in the Reformation, its history and theology, it is not surprising to find more and more books written for children that highlight some of the heroes and heroines of that era. What follows are two brief reviews of recent books devoted to lesser-known Reformation-era figures.

The Quest for Comfort: The Story of The Heidelberg Catechism

Growing up, I was introduced to a wide assortment of “heroes of the Christian faith.” But most of them were Americans—pastors, or presidents, or missionaries—and most were from the last two hundred years. As an adult, I came to a deeper appreciation of the Reformation, and I learned about a whole era of church history that was to some degree overlooked in my education. I now appreciate men like John Calvin and Martin Luther for their courage and tenacity, their faith and piety. As I continue to study the Reformation, it’s lesser-known figures are also catching my eye. The work of men whom history has almost entirely forgotten continues down to this day in such influential church documents as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism.

In a new book by William Boekestein, the story of the creation of the Heidelberg Catechism is told on a child’s level. The Quest for Comfort: The Story of The Heidelberg Catechism (Reformation Heritage, 2011) traces the life stories of Caspar Olevianus, Zacharius Ursinus, and Frederick III. These three forgotten men, are the primary authors of the most enduring Reformation-era Catechism: The Heidelberg Catechism.

The turbulent period of the Reformation and the fervent faith of these great men are captured well in this short book. Children will see preachers in jail, and Christians in exile—and such realities are sure to encourage reflection and interaction with the story. The book also introduces the Heidelberg Catechism and would serve well as a book to be read alongside a family study of this important catechism.

Young readers will be enthralled by the names of these men, if not their tales. And the pages of this book are fully illustrated with a classic look and rich, full colors which will transport the reader to another age. The deluxe hardback binding will ensure the book stands up to the constant use young minds will make of it.

I would imagine that young readers in the 3rd - 6th grades would be able to read this independently. And children from Kindergarten and up will find the story fascinating. The color pictures make the book ideal even for younger children in a family devotions setting.

I wish as a child I had access to books like this that majored on the Reformation story, and the rich and varied history of the Christian faith. Author William Boekestein has written other tales for children, such as Faithfulness Under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres (the author of the Belgic Confession). His simple and direct style is suitable for children and I hope he goes on to write many more wonderful tales such as these for children.

I highly recommend this book. Listen to the free audiobook and consider possibly purchasing this book as a special gift for a young person in your life. You’ll be doing them a big favor and introducing them to the world of the Reformation.

William Boekestein (M.Div., Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) is pastor of Covenant Reformed Church in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He previously taught in a Christian school for several years. He and his wife, Amy, have three children.

Evan Hughes is an illustrator and graphic designer. He and his wife, Kate, live in Scranton, Pennsylvania with their two sons.

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Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata

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What would it be like to live in the years immediately following the Reformation? How joyful would the discovery of gospel truth be? Yet, how terrible would it feel to know people close to you, who are suffering for their faith? The turbulent period which followed the Reformation is captured well in a new book by Simonetta Carr.

In Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata (part of the Chosen Daughters series from P & R Publishing, 2011), Carr tells the story of a Reformation-era heroine still remembered to this day. Olympia Morata was an Italian tutor and scholar, who embraced the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin with as much fervor as her professor father. She was fluent in Latin and Greek by the time she was 12, and at 13, she was summoned to the court of the Duke of Ferrara to tutor his eldest daughter, Anna D’Este. Morata developed into a scholar in her own right, lecturing on Cicero and studying philosophy. And she was known for her poetry, having written her own metrical adaptations of the Psalms.

This obscure historical figure is brought to life through the imagination and pen of author Simonetta Carr. Carr weaves us in and out of the tale of Morata’s short life. We share her wonderment at going to court, and learn with her of the terrible plight of French refugees fleeing religious persecution. Morata’s relationship with her father and her family is developed and a romance eventually unfolds.

But the story of Olympia Morata has its dark turns. She encounters suffering martyrs and survives a bout with the black plague. At one point her town is besieged and then sacked, and she and her family run for their lives. And at the young age of 28, she dies.

The author doesn’t leave us with the bare facts of the case. She infuses the story with Gospel hope. The characters rehearse Scriptural promises to each other and find encouragement in the Gospel. And through this fictional account we can imagine what it really would be like to be there in Olympia’s and her husband’s shoes living through these difficult times.

Stories like these can help build the faith of our children. This book, directed primarily to girls, will both educate and inspire them. And the story is written well enough to captivate both children and their parents. As the father of five daughters, I can’t wait to place Weight of a Flame in their hands. I can’t thank the author enough for uncovering another Christian heroine for my daughters to look up to and to emulate. May the hope-filled life of Olympia Morata inspire many chosen daughters to trust the Gospel and risk their lives for the cause of Christ.

Simonetta Carr, mother of eight and homeschool educator for twenty years, has worked as a freelance journalist and a translator of Christian works into Italian. She is the author of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.

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