I want to thank Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a copy of John Knox: The Sharpened Sword in return for my honest opinion.
It’s no secret that I love Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazers line of Christian biographies for children ages 9-14). They are written by various authors in a narrative format with fictionalized dialogue. Reading a Trailblazers book almost feels as though one is reading a novel rather than a biography.
I also really appreciate the fact that the Trailblazers series covers figures from Christian history that are generally not available in books for children. Some of the men and women they’ve covered in their 35 published biographies (so far) include John Stott, John Calvin, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and Queen Mary of Orange. See what I mean? Not your average fare. The books also cover some of the wonderful missionaries we all love to read about like Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward and Adoniram Judson…..
These books have become a standard part of our history curriculum.
I was excited to see a new addition to the Trailblazers. Catherine Mackenzie is the author of nearly 90 books. Our family was first introduced to Ms. Mackenzie’s work through her Little Lights Biography Series for younger children. They are fantastic!
The Reformation, and the period following it were a bloody time in history. Catholics killed Protestants, Protestants killed Catholics, and it seems like everyone killed the Anabaptists. There are no Anabaptists in the story of John Knox, but there is plenty tension over religious freedom. The battle to worship Jesus Christ alone and to look to Scripture alone for guidance was being waged across Europe, and it came at last to Scotland.
From the seige of Saint Andrews, Knox was arrested and sentenced to serve as a slave on a French ship, rowing in the galley. His journeys afterward took him through England, and back and forth from Scotland to Geneva, where he worked alongside John Calvin. He spent the last years of his life preaching in Scotland.
The Sharpened Sword is an excellent addition to any study on the Reformation, or on Scotland. It’s also interesting to read just for a better understanding of Church history.
There are a couple of points you will want to know about before choosing The Sharpened Sword for your family. The first is that this book is written from a Reformed perspective. Second, be aware of the fact that a good deal of the story line from the last years of Knox’s life center around his battle for religious freedom in Scotland against Mary Queen of Scots. Mary’s affairs and marriages were somewhat messy and interfered much with her reign. While Ms. Mackenzie is not explicit about Mary’s behavior, she does not avoid it either, implying that the queen used flirtation to gain power. She also chronicles Mary’s marriages, and at one point uses the word ‘lover’. For this reason, I will wait to have my children read The Sharpened Sword until middle school.
Purchase John Knox: The Sharpened Sword and the other biographies in the Trailblazers biography series for 8-12 year olds at
Other Christian Focus Trail Blazer & Torchbearer books reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- Brother Andrew: Behind Enemy Lines
- Fanny Crosby: The Blind Girl’s Song
- Nate Saint: Operation Auca
- Michael Faraday: Spiritual Dynamo
- Mary of Orange: At the Mercy of Kings
- John Stott: The Humble Leader
- Titanic The Ship of Dreams: John Harper
More Books for 8-12 Year Olds Reviewed at Thinking Kids
- History Lives Christian History Series by Brandon & Mindy Withrow
- Guarding the Treasure: How God’s People Preserve God’s Word by Linda Finlayson
- Tough Questions About the Bible by Joel R. Beeke
- The New Astronomy Book by Danny R. Faulkner
- God’s Special Tent: The Story of the Tabernacle and What Came After by Jean Stapleton
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- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
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- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.