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This October marks the 500th anniversary of The Protestant Reformation, a historical circumstance that remarkably changed the world.
In 1517, Martin Luther, an obscure German monk, published his 95 theses in protest over key practices in the Catholic Church, setting off a chain of events that so turned the world upside down we remember him half a millennium later.
Wittenberg and other German towns have been pulling out the stops to commemorate Luther all year long, and this book was published in Germany in 2015, gearing up for the celebrations:
The Life and Times of Martin Luther, written by Meike Roth-Beck, illustrated by Klaus Ensikat, translated into English by Laura Watkinson published in the U.S. in 2017 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
It’s been translated and is available for American readers now, so with Reformation Sunday coming up in a few weeks, perhaps you’d like to find a copy.
I’ll talk about the art first because despite your fears of a dry, theologically-dusty tome, this is one beautiful book.
Klaus Ensikat is a brilliant German illustrator who has garnered some of illustration’s most prestigious awards in his lifetime of work, including the coveted Hans Christian Andersen prize in 1996.
Looking at these pages, you will immediately understand why. His technical precision, his painstaking, engraving-style line work, along with the subtly-tinted color palette and mastery of the medieval scene yield illustrations at once precise and soft, splendid and human. Every page in the book is rich with period detail and ambience. Plus, Eerdmans’ production team ensured that the whole book has the feel of something rather noble. Beautiful type, heavy, creamy paper, rich burgundy endpapers — beautiful straight through.
Author Meike Roth-Beck’s background in education is evident as she clearly, simply, engagingly, unreels the story of Luther. She colors in the background of Martin’s world and growing-up years, then narrates his entrance into monastic life, the questions that began troubling him, and the revelation he discovered while studying. She takes the time to explain the meaning of over a dozen of his 95 theses, quoting them and commenting on them, before continuing her account of the remainder of Luther’s life.
The book is geared for ages 7-11 I’d say, and as such does not explore Luther’s flaws or the long-term impact of the Reformation other than a somewhat overly-tidy paragraph. That quibble aside, it’s an unusually beautiful, informative record of the man and his main arguments that will be a happy find for many of your homes/schools/churches.