The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (12:1), some of whom he lists in the preceding chapter. Reminding ourselves that we aren't alone in the good fight of faith has been a strengthening practice of Christians for centuries, and one of the best ways to do this is by reading biographies of saints, missionaries, and pastors.
Children are particularly ripe for such stories—they may not be subject to as many temptations as adults, but they're in particular need of heroes and role models to inspire obedience, faithfulness, and boldness. Simonetta Carr writes compelling stories of a number of great Christians for just this purpose.
While Carr attends a Reformed church, these aren't denominationally oriented biographies. Instead, each one tells the life story of a man or woman whose commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ led them to forsake everything the world had to offer in order to attain the reward of everlasting life in the presence of God.
Each biography is around 60 pages long, handsomely bound in quality hardcover, and beautifully illustrated by Matt Abraxas (no relation to the Santana album). In addition to Abraxas's original paintings, there are plenty of photographs and maps to provide historical context. Every volume ends with a timeline of the subject's life, a "Did You Know?" section of fascinating background information, and a brief selection from the subject's writings.
These aren't just kid-friendly stories. While they are for children, each of the books presents the subject's life against their historical backdrop, explores the doctrinal issues they encountered and defended, and doesn't shy away from accounts of persecution and hardship. Carr means to educate children and build up their faith, not offer phony versions of ultra-pious people.
Christian Biographies for Young Readers as a series currently focuses on the early Church and the Reformation period, though more volumes are projected and may cover more recent figures. Presently available are biographies of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, John Calvin, John Knox, Lady Jane Grey, and John Owen.
While most children will be able to read these, Carr never condscends to them. You won't find made-up dialogue, childish writing, or difficult concepts reduced to a shadow of their true meaning. What you will find are extremely attractive volumes that will offer generations of Christian children the kind of nurture and examples they need to grow strong in the Lord.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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