Simonetta Carr‘s Biographies for Young Readers series is excellent. I have reviewed a number of her books, and loved each one. Her biography of Iraneaus is no exception. As always, it is a beautiful volume, filled with artwork and photographs to illustrate both the narrative and the historical period. This is what I have come to expect from the series and I was not disappointed.
Writing about the Patristic era of church history, however, is pretty tricky. There was a lot going on in that time period, and the few available children’s books written about it tend to focus entirely on persecution and martyrdom, but Iranaeus’ story is about so much more than that. His primary contribution to the Church is his work Against Heresies, and I didn’t know how Carr would be able to deal with that in an accessible way for children.
Turns out, she does it beautifully. From defining the term “heresy,” to describing the history of the Marcions and Gnostics, Simonetta Carr packs a huge amount of background information into a few sentences, engaging her audience, without overwhelming them. She also includes two other church fathers in the narrative of the story. My children and I were delighted to find Polycarp and Justin included in the text. It really does a wonderful job of introducing readers to the broader world of the post-Apostolic centuries of Christianity.
In other biographies, Carr has done an excellent job of humanizing and personalizing the subject of the work. Ireneaus does not receive this same treatment, not as a failure in the author’s work, but a strength of it. There is very little written about Ireneaus’ personal life, and the works we have in his own pen are either theological, or about others. As in her other work, Simonetta Carr does not include guesswork as fact. I am grateful for her fidelity to historicity.
I have hoped for a while that Simonetta Carr would consider writing a book or curriculum on church history for children. I know our family would not be the only ones to use it. This book strengthens my desire for such a project. In the case of Irenaeus of Lyon, I would also recommend it for adults seeking to learn more about a time in church history that is often neglected, to our detriment.
I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an hard-cover edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.