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Charles Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Trailblazers) Paperback – July 20, 2006
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At night I've been reading my kids a biography of Charles Spurgeon by Christian Timothy George. It's in the Trailblazers series for children published by Christian Focus. They have biographies of great saints from Church history ranging from Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin to Bill Bright and Martyn Lloyd Jones...I'm impressed by the books that Christian Focus is putting out. If you have children, be sure to check them out. (Josh Harris ~ Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland)
Famous preacher of the 19th century
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Overall, the book was very well-written. Here is an example of the author's masterful manipulation of words:
"Closing her eyes, she touches the window to feel the fury of the winter weather. A shiver runs down her spine. Snowflakes dance outside, following the wild movement of the wind. She dreams of dancing too, dancing outside in the snow, to the rhythm of the icy air."
The one problem I had with the book was the liberty the author took "fictionalizing" Spurgeon's bio... until I realized Trailblazer books were historical fiction. With historical fiction, the challenge is providing enough historical detail to remain true to the subject and characters, while providing entertaining fictional themes to draw the reader in. I understand that biographies usually lack color and dialogue, so in order for an author to make characters compelling, mere historical information is not adequate for the purposes of telling the story. I appreciate Christian George's artistry in weaving a tall-tale about the Queen of England in with the life of The Prince of Preachers (chapter 1 and 10), culminating in the harmonization of life events in a character-driven conclusion.
What is especially helpful about this book is that it seeks to teach the young reader biblical truth and ethical values. Throughout the story, there are moments where the author presents an interaction between Spurgeon and another character. His wisdom and humor shine through to us as we witness pastoral advice and charisma. George's book is also useful in that it includes multiple appendices, including a timeline of major historical events with significant moments of Spurgeon's life.
Overall, I would say this is a great introduction to the life and ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I look forward to reading this to my children and will encourage them to read it themselves when they are able. Christian George does a great job of grabbing the attention of the reader and holding it throughout the entire book.
I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. I was in no way coerced to write a favorable review.
I have long enjoyed reading Spurgeon quotes and used them frequently on my Facebook page, but never found the time to read about the man. While this was a historical fiction for youth, it was inspiring to read about a man who was so gifted in the way he proclaimed God to the masses. The writer showed a man who was able to personalize the Gospel for the everyday man & rattle the old school & "traditional" Anglican church. Spurgeon's love for telling people about Jesus was even illustrated with having him leave his bride waiting at the altar while he evangelized' The book did not focus on all the sunshiny parts of Spurgeon's life though, it also included his bouts with depression, & his troubles with gout.
The book was all tied up neatly with the story beginning and ending with Queen Victoria disguising herself to go out and see this great preacher. Now while that is surely part of the fiction of the book, I found it a wonderful way to show what a draw this man had on all walks of life, from the elite to the poorest orphan who charged a bench tax, to the maid desperate to learn.
One of the things I enjoy about the Trailblazer books is that they all end with a brief historical summary of the subject of the book & a timeline of their life, and discussion questions. So these books are perfect for incorporating into your homeschool curriculum! I was very blessed to have the opportunity to review this book & learn more about this great man in the process and look forward to finding out more about him!
The Real Spurgeon
Having never read a Spurgeon biography-that is a confession and I hope that does not disqualify me from having anything of value to say in Christian circles-I can only assume that there is historic accuracy in the events promoted in this book. With that assumption in mind, I found the events, peoples, and issues that the author focused on were interesting and inspiring. George weaves his biography through the ups and downs of this saint's life. Spurgeon is not presented as a gold-gilded brightly-haloed saint but rather appears as a real human with faults and foibles like the rest of us. In fact, the struggles of Spurgeon that the author walks us through are definitely one of the strengths of this book. Seeing Spurgeon in his coma-like state after a tragedy at a preaching event or the fear he faced preparing for his first sermon and the rest of his trials make this a compelling story that I think young people will connect with. One can relate to this preacher of preachers despite the esteem he is held in by most of North American Christendom. His relationships with his wife, friends, and acquaintances are also an enjoyable facet of this read. I think that the friendships, romances, and encounters are well-chosen and well-conveyed.
Truth or Fiction
There is clearly some creative license apparent in this book. And I think that is what will make this appropriate for youth. As mentioned earlier, straight biographies can be tough to sell to young people, but this book reads very much like a work of fiction. There is convincing characterization, particularly in the case of the protagonist Charles Spurgeon. We see him develop and grow and he is a likeable and intriguing individual. His fears are portrayed honestly, and his insecurities and doubts, as well as his strengths and courage, are all traits that young people will connect with. There are many conflicts both internal and external, which give rise to a plot that build suspense and takes this book beyond regurgitating facts to have the force of a good story. There are many edifying themes throughout the book, and Spurgeon's trust in God despite his shortcomings, and God's faithfulness in spite of Surgeon, will be one theme that resonates with young people.
Perhaps the best commendation I can give this book is that I will encourage my own kids to read it. One of my children ambitiously read a short biography of William Wilberforce; she struggled through it and I was proud she didn't give up. However, I don't think she got a lot out of it. I think a book like Charles Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers would be far more appropriate for her and one in which she will be edified in the reading. That being said, as an adult, I enjoyed reading the book. At times it brought tears to my eyes and at times it brought a smile to my face. And it has encouraged me to remove the haven't-read-a-Spurgeon-biography stigma that has plagued me for so long. Get your hands on this book and give it to a young person you know, but give it a quick read yourself before you hand it over.
I received a copy of this book from Christian Focus for the purpose of review.