Dave & Neta Jackson
Bethany House, 1996
When my husband and I were engaged, he was in graduate school and living with Haley’s in-laws. I was still in college nearby, and would drive up occasionally and stay with their family for the weekend. After dinner together, we would sit together around the table and listen to a chapter from a book; those that I remember are from missionary biographies. During that season of life, of course, I was full of plans for my own soon-to-be formed family, and it definitely included adopting this tradition.
Happily, my own daughter is just now reaching the age where this is feasible – although reading a long or in-depth chapter book is still a few years away. But Dave and Neta Jackson’s Hero Tales is just right for beginning to share the stories of heroic Christians with preschool and early elementary aged children.
The book tells the stories of fifteen Christians who lived their faith heroically. Many were missionaries, and all were evangelists, in the sense that they devoted their lives to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Reformers (Luther, Tyndale, Menno Simons), opponents of poverty and oppression (William & Catherine Booth, Harriet Tubman), foreign missionaries (Gladys Aylward, Adoniram & Ann Judson, Hudson Taylor) and bold preachers (Wesley, Moody) are all represented. Each receives a brief biographical summary, and then three short stories from their life each illustrate a character trait that God used for his Kingdom.
The stories are brief and simply told, making them suitable for younger children – say, ages 4 to 8. And they don’t feel contrived to merely illustrate some heroic trait; they genuinely commend the humility, boldness, sacrifice, patience, and joy that these men and women embodied. Simple as the stories were, I was moved and inspired by many of them.
My only quibble with the book is really a by-product of its intended audience. That is, some of the treatment struck me as over-simple, especially the account of Martin Luther. I’m concerned that the portrayal of the the Catholic church – while essentially accurate – could contribute to the common Protestant misperception that it was a godless, superstitious place. The truth of the matter is of course much more complex: godlessness, cynicism and superstition resided alongside real piety and holiness. And that’s probably too much to try and show to a 4 or 5 year old in just a page and a half. But be aware: you probably don’t want this account to be the only or last your child hears.
Minor quibbles aside, though, this is a lovely book for introducing your child to the heroes of the Christian faith. May it inspire them to go and do likewise, whether you read it around the dinner table, on the couch, or at bedtime.