A beautifully bound children's book arrived on our doorstep a few weeks ago. The boys were immediately captivated by the images and began thumbing through the pages before I could even sit down to read it with them! Soon we were all captivated by the story and spent one lovely, rainy afternoon learning about a most important figure in the history of the church.
Written by Simonetta Carr and illustrated by Matt Abraxas, Anselm of Canterbury is the first book we have read in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, but it will not be the last.
Anselm, a Benedictine monk and theologian who lived in the 11th century, is famous for his answer to the question: "Why did God become man?" Carr's biography deftly weaves Anselm's theological instruction into the fascinating story of his life in Europe in the early Middle Ages. He was much-loved as a teacher, and his popularity leads him to humbly gain positions of leadership in the church, finally accepting his highest honor as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The writing, execution, illustrations, and organization of this book are
of excellent quality, and I know we will treasure this biography in our
home library. Carr presents the narrative well: the chapters are just the
right length for reading aloud, while also providing a thorough,
interesting tale that will captivate even the adults. My children
kept pleading with me to read "Just one more chapter, please!" The illustrations include
maps, reproductions of illuminated
manuscripts, original sketches, and photographs, which provide a rich
background for the text and kept even my youngest child's attention. I
especially appreciated their quality and tone as they fit the story well
and refrained from being cartoonish.
Compared to some other books I have read recently that present history
to young children (and even some for adults), this fares much better, as Carr refrains from talking
down to young readers and gives great attention to providing the
context and setting of Anselm's life. Carr not only describes the
physical location of his birth, but also the cultural, religious, and
social atmosphere surrounding the life of this great figure in church history. She also depicts the peculiarities of that time -- monasteries and the papal office and the disagreements
between kings and church leadership-- and relates them to our own lives as Christians today.
In the "Did you know?" section at the end, Carr explains how
Anselm and other teachers of his time believed that "we can understand
God's Word better and better if we see how Christians of the past have
explained it." That idea is exactly why we need books like this one
which help us and our children understand the life and views of
Christians throughout the ages, as we "stand on the shoulders of giants."
The timing could not be more perfect for our family, as we will be studying the Middle
Ages this year in our homeschooling curriculum. I plan to use this as a
supplement, and will look for more books in this series that also fit with our timeline. I would recommend this to all parents as an excellent series to add to your collection.
We are grateful to Reformation Heritage Books for sending us a copy to review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.