Athanasius, Simonetta Carr (with illustrations by Matt Abraxas), Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.  Hardcover, 63 pages, $18.00.

As soon as I took this book out of the envelope, I was impressed.  This volume for children has been published in a quality manner.  From cover to cover, the book is filled with beautiful illustrations (by Matt Abraxas), helpful maps, and other visual aids.  Once again Reformation Heritage Books has produced a book that does justice to its subject.  This is a publisher with a clear commitment to excellence.

The subject here is Athanasius, one of the early church fathers.  He was an important figure in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity.  The patristic period is often ignored in Christian literature for children and so this biography definitely fills a gap.  Athanasius lived during a tumultuous time and because of his strong convictions, he was often on the run and living in exile.  He was loved by some and hated by many.  His life’s story is compelling.

Simonetta Carr is a United Reformed Sunday school teacher from California.  She tells the story of Athanasius crisply and accurately.  The book also touches on his theological significance, but it does so in a way suitable for younger readers.  How young, you ask?  As I do with all the children’s books that I review, I test drove this one with my family.  I’d say that the fourteen year old and twelve year old probably understood the most.  The eight year old did okay with most of it, though the theological aspects were beyond her.  Our three year old liked the pictures.  The back of the book says that it’s suitable for ages 7-12, but I’d suggest that it’s best geared towards those on the upper side of that range.

I could see a book like this being used in several ways.  The average Christian family could do like we did and read the book together out loud.  It could also be passed on to older children for their own personal reading.  Homeschooling families could use it as part of their church history curriculum, as could regular Christian school teachers.  The back of the book includes a “Time Line of Athanasius’s Life” as well an appendix with interesting facts about Athanasius and his context.

Athanasius is one of several volumes in the RHB series Christian Biographies for Young Readers.  If this one is any indication , the other titles in this series will also be worth checking out:  John Calvin, Augustine of Hippo, and John Owen.   Through volumes like these, we are reminded of how our good and gracious God has preserved his church through the centuries and we’re encouraged to fight the good fight in our own day.