While browsing through a shelf of old books, I came across this unknown and unpretentious-looking book, Martin of Mansfield. My curiosity was peaked. Who was Martin of Mansfield?
I’m very glad I paused to look at this book, for it is a little gem. As it turns out, Martin of Mansfield is none other than Martin Luther, famous leader of the Reformation. The book is written in the form of a fictional biography, telling the facts of Martin Luther’s life as though it were a story. As I read the book, I found it perfectly calculated to interest the minds of children through its gentle prose and simple dialogue.
I loved the introduction to this book. Mrs. Seebach tells us a story of when she was a little girl. One day while she was playing in her grandfather’s library, she found a book with a picture of a young man it. He was gazing intently at a large book which was open before him. She tried to learn who he was, but could not because the book was written for adults. As she grew older she discovered more about him and finally decided to write a book about him so that little girls and boys could learn about him while they were still young. She fulfilled her goal.
Martin of Mansfield was remarkably thorough, considering its target audience and reading level. It began with Dr. Luther’s birth and ended on the day of his death in 1546. While it left certain chunks of his life out, it included the significant portions – his education at Magdeburg and Erfurt, his life as a monk, his years of teaching at Wittenberg, his bold stance before the Diet of Worms and subsequent concealment at the castle of Wartberg, and his life as a tender husband and father. Throughout this variety of circumstances, Dr. Luther is accurately portrayed as the imperfect but principled man that he was. His struggles are shown as well as his triumphs, and his humorous side is glimpsed as well as his serious.
Note to Parents.
At the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, the Luther family is gathered around a Christmas tree opening presents. I was unsure about the accuracy of this scene so I did a bit of research on Luther and his celebration of Christmas. It turns out that Luther did indeed celebrate Christmas, and there is even a legend about him popularizing the Christmas tree in Germany. However, this legend is not supported by either his writings or those of his contemporaries. So whether or not this scene is historically accurate, we don’t know.
On pg. 211, Martin and Katie are discussing whether or not Martin should take a trip down to Mansfield to help two counts settle a dispute. Katie is trying to convince him that he should not go in what I considered to be a respectful manner. However, the author chose to label Katie’s attitude as ‘rebellious’. This can be very easily talked through, but I did want to mention it.
Conclusion. This is an excellent resource for middle-aged children. It is simple and informative, and it should foster further interest in the life of Martin Luther.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret