When I was teaching young children, I often explained to them that if they wanted a glimpse of the future, they should look into the past and learn from it. History is such a large slice of the pie called the past that we who are teachers, parents, and leaders need to carefully select which slices to learn from. For those of us who are Christians, we additionally choose to direct our young charges toward histories that reflect as much about God’s nature and character as they do about the people they are reading about. That is what this children’s biography series does.
Not only does the author introduce her readers to a Christian family in France from about 400 years ago, we learn much about God and a particular slice of French history. Mrs. Carr skillfully weaves her tale so well that we easily feel empathy for all of Marie Durand’s family as they face one challenge after another, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The era was long after the inception of the Protestant Reformation, but before “The Age of Enlightenment” as some modern history books call it. Marie Durand was born into a world where the ability to worship God according to their consciences was illegal. Parents had to make compromises to live in peace. Marie had an older brother, Pierre, who loved the Lord in spite of his public education. When he became an adult, he decided to become a Protestant pastor. It was a risky decision because his illegal activities put his entire family in danger of being imprisoned. One day a spy in the congregation informed the authorities of his activities. Because the home where he conducted worship services belonged to his mother, she was arrested and sent to prison. She died there seven years later. Marie was only seven years old. Pierre escaped to Switzerland where he sought further education and training to become a pastor.
Several years later, soldiers raided the Durand home where they found hidden Bibles, hymnals and their father’s diaries. The government used these as evidence of Pierre’s crimes. They arrested Marie and Pierre’s father because he was related to a criminal. He was sent to prison where he stayed for a long time. Marie was left alone at the family estate when she was only 17. Shortly after that, she became engaged to a family friend. They only enjoyed their engagement for a few months before they were both arrested and sent to separate prisons, again for being related to Pierre. The remainder of this 64-page book focuses on the thirty-eight years Marie spent in the Prison of Constance. It was there that her numerous letters guided and encouraged the hearts of many Christians, including her family in exile and family in prison.
Opening the copy of the book I was to review, I was immediately impressed with the physical quality. It is of legacy quality construction in the way it is bound. The pages are sturdy, glossy, thick, and smooth to the touch. This book is a great addition to any child’s book library. The author, Simonetta Carr, partnered with illustrator Matt Abraxas whose oils fit the time period they portray. All the illustrations he contributed to this book depict incidences of deeply emotional moments and personal relationships. It’s the type of art I would want my children or grandchildren to spend time with and learn from.
While this is a children’s picture book, young readers would appreciate the story line, the extra information the photographs offer, the timeline of events laid out in the final portion of the book, the pronunciation key of terms and important names mentioned on the pages. The author also provides a copy of a letter Marie wrote to her niece while she was still in prison and some fascinating historical background that influenced the story line.
Finally, Mrs. Carr’s writing style makes this piece of history come alive for the parent, the reader, the listener, the visual learner, the art enthusiast, and the teacher. It is a flexible book which fits many needs. I highly recommend it for its educational value and for personal pleasure.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) on behalf of Reformation Heritage Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”