September 30, 2015
Simonetta Carr, Marie Durand. Christian Biographies for Young Readers. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Reformation Heritage Books. 64 pp. 2015. $17.99
When you do a search on Amazon for "biographies for children," you find a list of books about people who are famous because of things they accomplished in their lifetimes--Ben Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Ben Carson to name a few. While a faithful biography may describe the many times someone tried and failed, the account will finally bring us to that great moment when success came at last. That is the point of a biography, is it not? It gives us an account of how someone who did something extraordinary, usually something that made the world a better place for everyone, accomplished that extraordinary thing. After all, what child wants to read a biography about Mr. Gray next door who grew up, went to work at the office every day, raised three average children, retired, and died? It is the achievement that someone is famous for that makes him or her interesting. As parents and teachers, we encourage children to read biographies because a great achievement seldom occurs in a vacuum. Great achievements are the result of diligence, persistence, creativity, and other character qualities that we want our children to imitate.
As Christian parents, however, we value quiet, everyday faithfulness. We hope our children will remain faithful, especially in relation to Christian beliefs and practice, all their lives. Most of our children will never do anything as earth shaking as inventing the light bulb or developing a system to enable blind people to read. But all of our children will be called upon to believe in Christ and to live out that belief, clinging to it even in the face of gale force cultural winds that seek to loosen their grip.
In Marie Durand, Simonetta Carr has given us a biography of a woman whose greatest achievement was just that--quiet, everyday faithfulness. Marie was a young Protestant Christian in southern France at a time when Protestantism was illegal. As a child and as a teen, she witnessed firsthand--and suffered herself--the persecution that has often come to Christians who want simply to remain faithful to what Scripture calls them to believe and do. Marie had just barely grown to adulthood when, as a teen bride of three months, she was arrested and imprisoned with several other women in a tower. Marie spent the next thirty-eight years of her life in that tower. Participation in the Catholic mass would have been the key to her freedom if she had chosen to use it, but she did not. Who knows? Perhaps, had Marie remained free, she might have achieved some great accomplishment that would have put her front and center on the Amazon page for children's biographies, but all she ever did was to scratch "Resist" into the wall of the room she lived in for thirty-eight years. (Actually, we're not even sure she was the one who did that).
Simonetta Carr has done us a great service in giving us this biography of a woman who accomplished nothing more than remaining faithful to gospel truth in the face of relentless pressure to set it aside. This is the ninth book in Carr's Christian Biographies for Youth series, and she has clearly mastered just the right blend of child-appropriate background explanations with skilled storytelling. Marie Durand is full of color illustrations and photography that will capture our children's attention and enhance their understanding, although, for me, it was Carr's superb narration that kept me turning pages to the end (and I already knew the story!). The fifty-three pages of story and illustration are followed by a timeline, a pronunciation key, several pages of additional information ("Did You Know?"), and the translation of an actual letter from Marie while she was in the tower.
Marie Durand is a beautiful children's book that I will give as a gift to some of my favorite Christian children with absolute confidence that they will both benefit from it and enjoy reading it.
Starr Meade is the author of several books for children including Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism and Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Storybook. She teaches high school history and literature to homeschool students