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Review: John Calvin by Simonetta Carr

John Calvin by Simonetta Carr

Both admired and vilified, and arguably one of the greatest men in the history of Christianity, John Calvin comes to life in this beautiful biography for children.

Calvin was born in northern France and studied hard from a young age.  He was able to attend the best schools in the country and read widely, also from Martin Luther’s works.  Despite struggling against Luther’s ideas, Calvin eventually believed they were Biblical.  Soon afterwards he became a fugitive, hunted by the French authorities.

From then on his life was deeply involved with the Protestant faith.  Hoping to help his persecuted countrymen, he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion to show King Francis I what the Reformers really taught and believed.  Although he desired a scholar’s quiet life, he none-the-less accepted the thankless task of pastor in Geneva. The rest of his life included expulsion from that city, peace, plague, marriage, a reluctant return to Geneva, ill-health, almost 200 sermons a year, the first Protestant college, many commentaries, and thousands of pastoral letters.

All these things are presented in a simple but appealing way with photographs, contemporary portraits, Taglietti’s evocative illustrations, a time line, and historical tidbits.  Besides Calvin’s life, the book deals with Calvin’s love for God and His people, the turbulent times he lived in, and  his legacy, even in the drafting of civil constitutions in the US.

As in all her church history books for children, Simonetta focuses on biographical events and Calvin’s contributions rather than on controversy. Thus the persecutions of the Protestants are not emphasized in John Calvin, but their faith and ideas are.  Here is where Simonetta’s skill shines through:  she combines meticulous research with a sensitivity to children and thus is able to present complex people and times in a way that both interests and informs.  Although she does occasionally address children directly, her careful research, smooth story-telling, and well-chosen illustrations make this book a suitable overview for teens and adults as well.

This book is great for reading aloud to children ages 7 and up, can be read independently by the average 10 year-old, and will give even adults a clear and accurate outline of Calvin’s life.

I highly recommend John Calvin by Simonetta Carr for homes, homeschools, church libraries, and Christian schools. 

Related reviews:

A detailed biography for young people:  This was John Calvin.

Stories of the Huguenots, French Protestants who faced persecution:  Done and Dared in Old France, The Escape, and The Secret MissionThe Escape is one of my favorite children’s books.

Other titles in Simonetta Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young Readers series:  Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo, and Lady Jane Grey.

Disclosure: I received this book from Simonetta Carr for the purpose of this review.  As usual, I am not compensated for my review.

This review is linked to Trivium Tuesdays.

One Comment

  1. Amy says:

    This is a series that I really want! I’ve seen them, but haven’t taken the plunge to buy them. Thanks for the recommendation!

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