Christain Heroes: Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge

Reviewed by T. Jaden Ozwell

I was an avid reader as a child, devouring any piece of print I could get my hands on— and my parents were happy to oblige. But do you remember reading those biographies supposedly written for children? I say “supposedly” because they were fine for kids in the sense that the adult content of life was removed and the print was larger—but not usually in the sense of being interesting or enjoyable to a young reader! In my experience growing up in a Christian home, some of the worst were biographies of the great heroes of the faith—Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, John Wesley, and especially Martin Luther. I couldn't bring myself to study dear Luther again until college because that particular biography was the first book I disliked so much that I couldn't finish it.

However, there was one biography that I loved dearly and even read multiple times. It was about George Washington Carver, whose story I remember vividly a decade or more after reading it. My siblings thoroughly enjoyed his story after me (and also despised that biography of Martin Luther … and didn't finish it). Recently, it came to my attention that this one biography I recall with pleasure from my childhood is actually part of a 41-book set written by Janet and Geoff Benge called Christian Heroes: Then and Now, published by YWAM Publishing.

Proudly claiming an age range from 10 to 100, the Christian Heroes books are written as third-person descriptive stories which simultaneously contain the most important names, dates, and other rote history while being quite fascinating. Corrie ten Boom's relationship with her family members and horror at what happens to her country become relatable without being graphic; Nate Saint's journey flying gifts to the Aucas is as exciting as it is realistic about the difficulties; and, indeed, George Washington Carver's study of botany affects the way you view peanuts—not to mention Christianity in the aftermath of the American Civil War—forever. While the books certainly follow similar patterns, they are good patterns that communicate well. The device of opening with an important turning point and then going "back to the beginning" is well used in stories where births and childhoods are generally not the most interesting parts.

As your children (or even yourself if you want a fast overview) grow in their knowledge of the Christian faith, it’s invaluable to learn the history of some of its strongest followers, whether missionaries, resistance workers, or scientists. While I’m sure there are other good biography series being published, Christian Heroes covers a wide and good variety of people and professions, and are well researched and written. I may be biased about my opinion about books when I was a child, but I can certainly say that even now as I read through a number of the titles in this series, they are enjoyable and useful.

Certain titles in the Christian Heroes series are available in Chinese, French, German / Deutsch, Japanese, Korean, Polish / Polski, and Spanish / Española.

Jaden is a Christian 20-something determined to learn about and develop a relationship with God while sharing the insights He has taught her. She especially hopes to communicate that pain, beauty, emotion, and thought are all equally real and important in God’s plans.

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