Monday, June 19, 2006

Children’s Bio of Luther

Thunderstorm in Church , Louise A. Vernon
(Herald Press, 1974, 2002), pb., 132 pp.

Here is another biography from Mrs. Vernon. As in the others the story is told from the viewpoint of a child near the key person. This time the child is Luther’s oldest son Hans. The reader learns of Luther’s life as Hans hears the stories from his father and aunt (their nanny) and as Hans overhears discussions of visitors in their home. One does get the feel of how busy the Luther household must have been, challenges of life in that day, and some of Luther’s characteristics.

As in the other Vernon bio’s I was not completely satisfied. First, the move to a child of the featured person is a fine idea here, but I did not care for the overly psychoanalytical approach to this. The key issue in the book is Hans worrying about how he could ever do anything as great as his father. Frustrations with living up to his father and angst about his future work unnecessarily distracts from the story of Luther. Second, while it was obvious that the author was often drawing directly from Luther’s writings, the story moved awkwardly and unclearly. It was clear then that Mrs. Vernon was quite knowledgeable of Luther’s writings and sought to draw directly from them- both commendable aspects. However, these accounts/facts were placed together in an order the purpose of which was unclear. I often found myself at a loss for understanding why the story jumped from one point to another mid-paragraph. Furthermore, one looks in a children’s biography for explanation and clarification. While this book gives facts, these facts are often not clarified but can be misleading or confusing. For example, at one point in describing Melanchthon further, reference is made to his deep love for learning. One might expect any number of examples to be given. However, Mrs. Vernon proceeds to talk about Melanchthon’s interest in astrology and his desire to ‘cast’ Luther’s horoscope! I have no idea about the historicity of this (though it very well may be true), but what is the value of introducing this here in a children’s book? She does have Luther say he is not interested, but there is no real clarity given on this whole realm. This is the worst example, but other similar portions could result in this being a more confusing than helpful read for some.

In summary, this is a decent biography of Luther. I certainly am grateful for anyone who seeks to write a biography of Martin Luther (and other heroes of the faith) for children. One can read this book with profit- provided you are prepared to explain. It is not an easy book to follow though my boys did enjoy it overall. I hope there is a better Luther book for children somewhere.
[NOTE: We are about to begin another Luther book, so soon I hope to give our thoughts on it.]


At 6:45 PM, Blogger Shep Shepherd said...

What are your thoughts on the "Luther" movie? (Old one and new one). I was wondering if you had seen it.

For some reason I did not remember the horoscope part to the book. I'll have to find my copy and look that up.

I think someone could make a better book if they had Luther as the main character himself. That would be excellent. I think Mrs. Vernon does take some creative liberties.

By the way - I wasn't sure if you noticed, but I think someone spammed your Lamplighter post.

Thanks again for our chat at Union today. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As you probably noticed on my blog, I love theology -

God be with you,

A. Shepherd
The Aspiring Theologian

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

Your parents may have simply skipped the reference to horoscopes while reading- that's what I did!

I have seen both Luther movies. I enjoyed both though both had their faults. On balance I prefer the older one. I think it captures Luther better. Still I am glad they did the new Luther movie and that it was positive. The scene where he is preachign and they have him walking up & down the aisle was so historically bad as to be funny! All in all I appreciated it.


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