By Bethany Kilcrease and Tabitha Moldenhauer
I love books. And now that I have a daughter, I have an excuse to purchase books from a whole new genre: children’s books. CPH is currently reaping the benefits of my newest interest.
One of the books I recently purchased is Ruth Meyer’s Our Faith from A to Z. This book teaches children the Christian faith by going through the alphabet and explaining an aspect of Lutheranism for each letter. For example, A is for Apostles’ Creed, B is for Baptism, C is for Catechism, D is for Doctrine, etc.
Each letter has a short didactic poem like “A is for Apostles’ Creed, written long ago / To simply state what we believe, that we in faith may grow” (4). In addition to the poem, each page contains a longer explanation of the letter word. I assume that the poems are meant for small children and the longer explanations are meant for adults or older children.
Overall, I thought the explanations were quite good, although I did notice a few errors. For example, Meyer writes that the Apostles’ Creed is the oldest of the three ecumenical creeds, which is not quite true. The Apostles’ Creed is probably derived primarily from elements of the Roman baptismal creed, which was first mentioned around 340. The Roman baptismal creed itself was derived from even earlier Rules of Faith. However, the Apostles’ Creed as such did not come together until around 750, whereas the Nicene (Niceno-Constantinopolitan) was largely finalized in 381. So, while the Apostles’ Creed (and Nicene Creed) is based on very old second-century material, the form we have today is actually not as old as the Nicene Creed.
Also, it’s worth noting that Martin Luther was a friar, not a monk (16). However, as even peer-reviewed academic publications can’t seem to keep that one straight, I guess I have to cut a children’s book some slack. Note that as a historian I can’t help but obsess on these things a little. To most people none of this makes any difference.
What most people will care about is the illustrations by Dave Hill, which are great! They are colorful and realistic. I especially like how the illustrator actually drew pictures of the Lutheran Service Book. Hopefully my daughter will be able to make the connection when she is older. My only quibble is that, again, we have people receiving communion standing (see S – Sacrament). Since my daughter still primarily wants to eat books rather than read them, I can’t really judge how she would respond to the book’s content. To know that, we have to turn to Tabitha Moldenhauer’s review.
The two Moldenhauer in-house children’s book experts, ages 8 and 10, read the shorter verses for each letter in Our Faith from A to Z and many of the explanations at the bottom of the pages. They think the book would be educational for children, but that the explanatory paragraphs on each page are too long and difficult for younger (preschool and early elementary age) kids to understand. They found the illustrations very engaging and familiar, since they represent well what the children see in church and their Lutheran school every week. They questioned the “X” page – “eXchange,” but conceded that there may not be a word that begins with “X” that would have fit the book. Katherine’s favorite page was “K” – “Kyrie,” because her name begins with “K,” and Alexandra’s favorite page was “J” – “Jesus/Justify.” As she Lutheranly points out, “That’s the most important.”
Overall, the book is a nice, basic explanation of the Lutheran faith. The two levels of reading make the book useful for younger children and older children or adults. The “U” – “Unity” page is another personal favorite. It draws attention to the Proper Preface heard every Communion service, but easily overlooked, that we indeed are “with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven.”
This wouldn’t be a review without a little picking at nits, so here you are: Martin Luther gets two pages, “M” and “R.” For a book with only 26 pages, that seems a bit Martin-heavy. Also, the “Y” – “Youth” page assumes more uniformity for age of confirmation and youth instruction than is practiced in the synod. Finally, the “G” – “God” page would have been better without the old trope of an apple as a picture of the Trinity.
One disclaimer: the book is LCMS-specific. It mentions LCMS youth organizations, Higher Things and the National Youth Gathering, and the Lutheran Service Book is referenced, used in the illustrations, and named as the commonly used hymnal. With that in mind, I wouldn’t purchase this book for children who are members of different Lutheran church bodies.
However, it is a good little book for LCMS children and families with strong Small Catechism and Divine Service connections, so these LCMS kids and their mother would definitely recommend Our Faith from A to Z.