Martin Luther: Guest Review by Shanna Gonzalez

Today Janie and I have the opportunity to introduce you to two delightful resources: first, fellow Christian and kids’ book blogger Shanna Gonzalez, whose own blog covers a wide array of kids’ books in a thoughtful and disciplined way; and second, a particularly noteworthy kids’ book biography of Martin Luther.  We felt sure you’d want to hear what she had to say, especially the pronunciation guide at the end.  (How would YOU pronounce Wartburg?  See, I told you that you need this post.)  See the tagline at the end for a link to her blog.



In Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World, Paul Maier presents an accessible tribute to Martin Luther, the brilliant and charismatic leader who sparked the Protestant Reformation.  This biography, geared to an elementary and upper-elementary audience, focuses not so much on Luther’s theology as on his personal faith, his experience of grace and his opposition to certain Catholic teachings.  The story, although even-handed, is told from a Protestant perspective, emphasizing Luther’s positive qualities and accomplishments, while leaving out all of his faults.

One might wish the author had explicitly laid out a summary of the Five Solas of the Reformation, but his emphasis on the man’s personal story is probably appropriate for a young audience who may not be able to grasp doctrinal distinctions, but who can appreciate his influence on the present church.  The book concludes with a statement that Luther’s

greatest gift of all was to find in God’s Word the answer to the question that had tormented him as a monk: “What must I do to win God’s forgiveness for my sins?” The Bible showed him that God had already done it all for him by sending Christ, whose suffering and death paid the penalty for sin and whose resurrection would be shared by all who had faith in Him.

Luther’s great accomplishment, says Maier, is that he changed the way many Christians understand the Gospel as revealed through Scripture.

While Maier’s text is readable and interesting, it is nearly overshadowed by Copeland’s arresting paintings, which give Luther a compelling, fire-eaten look.  His scene of Luther on the road to Wartburg, especially, evokes a mysterious medieval mood somehow reminiscent of Robin Hood — Luther hardly appears to be the stodgy theologian he might otherwise be to a young child.

One hindrance to reading aloud is that the text contains several German personal- and place-names, without a pronunciation guide.  Below is my best approximation of pronunciation, with some help from my German-speaking friend Karl-Dieter Crisman.

Eisleben – Ice-LAY-ben
Magdeburg – MAHG-deh-burg
Eisenach – EYE-zuh-nach (ch something like Scottich loch)
Erfurt – ER-foort
SHTOW-pits (like an owie, not a towtruck)
Tetzel – TET-sul
Cajetan – KADZH-uh-tuhn
LIE-psig (like telling a lie)
Wartburg – VART-burg
Melanchthon – Meh-LANK-tohn

At the end of this month is Reformation Day, the day Protestants observe Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the Wittenburg door, and this book is a great choice to help introduce the day to kids.

Shanna Gonzalez reviews modern and classic children’s literature from a Christian perspective at her blog  Occasionally she finds time between reviews to read those stories to her two young children.

For more on how we’re celebrating Reformation Month, see Janie’s review of picture book Reformation Heroes and enter to win a copy here.  You can listen to Douglas Bond’s take on Reformation Tours, or check out Pilgrim’s Progress: Mission Adventure


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