Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Several years ago, we discovered Simonetta Carr's Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. These mini biographies are beautiful, appealing to children of all ages (and their parents, too!), and quite varied in the individuals covered - including both well known and not so well known names.

The most recent addition to the series is Martin Luther, who obviously fits into the "well known" category. But, our history books often gloss over the biography of this influential man. Simonetta Carr digs just a little deeper, even in a children's book, to provide some background to the familiar information most of us know about Martin Luther.

Several of my favorite things about this book actually line up with my favorite things about the whole series:

  • The book itself is beautiful and of high quality. Although it appeals to children, it is also the type of book you would want to display on your coffee table, in a book basket, or on a prominent shelf in your home.
  • The illustrations are delightful. Using a combination of historical images and the artwork of illustrator Troy Howell, the illustrations give children a solid grasp of the story and the genuine history of Martin Luther and the times in which he lived.
  • Martin Luther digs back a little further than most history books and child-friendly biographies, giving a glimpse into Luther's childhood.
  • This book gives a personal feel to Martin Luther, showing a glimpse into his tender, sometimes light-hearted nature instead of simply depicting him as a bold church hero.
  • There is a good balance of the heroic and the humanity of Martin Luther, allowing a glimpse into some of his faults as well as his strengths. I love this reminder to children that God uses real people.
  • In addition to the well-flowing story, the author includes a "Did You Know?" section that adds some additional information. Some of these facts enhance the story already told, facts that would not have fit into the smooth flow of the story or information that parents may want to share at their discretion. Others are additional facts that move beyond the story. They also include additional information about Luther's wife Katherina.
  • The book ends with a brief timeline and a portion of Luther's Small Catechism.

I appreciate that Carr included details about Luther's later-in-life anti-Semitism, but put that in the notes rather than in the midst of the story. That leaves parents free to discuss such things in their own way and time. It also introduces the reality that Luther was not always right in his beliefs. Again, he was a human, just as we are. And, we can take his strengths and be thankful for his bold actions while also evaluating his beliefs through our own studies of Scripture. This is, in fact, the greatest portion of Luther's legacy: the freedom and drive to explore the Word of God for ourselves.

I love timelines, so I would love to have seen a little more depth to Carr's timeline at the end of the book, especially after his marriage to Katherina von Bora. Also, it is hinted that the nailing of the 95 theses is not a definite historical fact. I would like to have seen this discussed a little more in the facts or in a historical note to parents, especially since this is heavily taught as fact in many resources.

Overall, I enjoy this book's approach to exploring both well- and lesser-known information about Luther and his story. I'm delighted to add Martin Luther to our collection of Christian Biographies for Young Readers.

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