"Jonathan Edwards lived at a time when many people were seriously questioning long-accepted ideas about the world, life, and God, and his answers to these questions have left a mark on the way we think today. While he is often remembered as the preacher of a scary sermon about a spider dangling over a fire, he remains significant as one of the greatest thinkers America has produced. Simonetta Carr traces the events of Edwards’s life from a young student interested in science to husband and father, pastor, leader of the Great Awakening, missionary, writer, and college president. Colorful illustrations, interesting facts, and a compelling story combine to introduce young readers to this important theologian and life in colonial America."
Earlier this year I reviewed the first book I read in this series, a biography of John Knox, so I am already well acquainted with the Christian biographies for young readers series by Simonetta Carr. Having said that, I was curious to see how Mrs. Carr would pull off a biography of Jonathan Edwards in a way that would hold the attention of 7-12 year olds. I love Jonathan Edwards and own many of his writings, but his story is nothing like Knox's. There are no battles, slave galleys, or confrontations with Queens in this book. So, to see how well this book works with it's intended audience, I read it to my two youngest children, Samuel, who is eight, and Hannah, who is 5. I especially wondered how Sam would respond.
Sam listened intently as I read, and I think one thing that helped with that was the abundance of large colored pictures that helped visualize what we were reading. This series is a great tool for introducing children to our fathers in the faith and bringing them to life. Another feature my kids loved was the Did you know? feature at the end. When you read Sam's review, the comment on the height of Edwards' family comes from that section. It was jokingly said that "Timothy Edwards (Jonathan's father) had sixty feet of daughters" because his ten daughters were so tall. Kids love stuff like that.
I love incorporating Sam's thoughts with these books, so here is Sam's review unedited and in his own words:
"It was sad when most of Edwards' family died at a young age and it was crazy that most of his family was tall. I liked that Edwards' was preaching the Bible, not what was popular."
There are a lot of biographical facts in this book that bring Jonathan Edwards and his family to life, and this book gives children a look into a day much different than ours, a more dangerous and primitive place, a place in desperate need of the gospel, but as you can see by what Sam wrote about Edwards' preaching, there is much more. There is solid theology throughout, and the gospel message proclaimed by Edwards is presented loudly and clearly.
Mrs. Carr did an excellent job fleshing out Edwards as a man and I was touched by the love he shared with his dear wife Sarah. A particularly poignant part of this book was the story of his daughter Jerusa, who lovingly cared for missionary David Brainerd as he lay stricken with tuberculosis. How sad that four months later, this "flower of the family" herself died from fever. I was touched as I read about Edwards searing pain and grief as eight months later he still struggled to understand why this happened, but he faithfully understood that God was teaching him "how to sympathize with the afflicted." This was a side to Edwards that I didn't know. I feel that I know him much better now, he is no longer just the brilliant preacher and theologian, but an imperfect vessel bent, broken, and shaped by His God and Creator into an instrument for His glory and the edification of the Church.
I could go on and on, this book held my attention throughout. I especially enjoyed the appearance of the great Whitfield and also thought Mrs. Carr's treatment of the Great Awakening was an excellent balance of historical and theological truth that was still simple enough for children to understand.
In summary, this is an excellent way to introduce your children to Jonathan Edwards. Read this to them before you have them read Religious Affections or Freedom of the Will! :) Five stars!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.