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book review abolitionism

Who What Why Series on the Abolition of Slavery Book Review

What is the Who What Why Series?

The Who What Why Series is a growing set of Christian biographies for elementary-aged kids written by Danika Cooley, owner of Thinking Kids Press. This endeavor began with a series on the Protestant Reformers, Who was Martin Luther?, What was the Gutenberg Bible?, and Why Did the Reformation Happen?. Danika recently expanded her project following nearly a decade of research on the topic, to include a series on the abolition of slavery from a biblical worldview. The period of slavery she covers is from Joseph in the Old Testament up to World War II. This effort was to satisfy a gap in the educational market that Danika noticed and felt compelled to fill.

A Series on the Abolition of Slavery

The Who What Why Series on the Abolition of Slavery includes Who Were the Abolitionists?, What Was the Underground Railroad?, and Why Did Slavery End?. Each of these books are written for children ages 9-11. Danika writes in a very conversational tone, like a mother would speak to her children. There are many sketches throughout these books that tie in with the narrative. With each new character and event, Danika is constantly pointing the reader back to Scripture and the Gospel. The books in this series on abolitionism include short chapters with larger print and a timeline in the back for the child to review. Overall, these books are easy to read, filled with interesting and relevant illustrations, and are Gospel-centered.

Evaluating the History of Slavery Through a Biblical Lens

What really struck me most as I was reading this series was how Danika covered world history from ancient to the modern era concerning this subject. That is not something that I have personally witnessed in other children’s books on this topic. So many books like these for children focus solely on American slavery, and where Danika’s series does have an entire book dedicated to our nation’s history: What Was the Underground Railroad?, the other two books in her series on abolitionism are more fairly balanced in representing the history of slavery abroad.

In the same way that most history books covering slavery focus primarily on the American slave trade, resources on this same topic tend to only consider one types of slavery. I was thankful that Danika took the time to make a distinction between indentured servitude and chattel slavery, because we do see examples of both in the Scriptures. I believe this contrast is very important for children to learn as they make connections throughout their education. We want our children to understand that God’s character never changes and to see how God’s Law, his moral standard for holiness, is the same across the Old and New Testament.

Even though Danika began conceptualizing and writing the Who What Why Series on Abolitionism nearly a decade ago, it seems this series has been published at a time when this topic is once again at the forefront of public discourse and political debates. Entities such as Black Lives Matter push their social justice agendas which are opposed to biblical definitions of justice. For a clear definition of social justice watch Voddie Baucham’s Defining Social Justice. Danika has done a wonderful job of defining justice according to God’s Law in her books and directing the children to look at this issue through a biblical lens.

The summary of God’s Law is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) We know from God’s Word that all men are made in God’s image and that makes every man our neighbor. We can see now that stealing a man, who is made in God’s image, is a sin that ought not be practiced among those who call themselves Christians, but it was not always so clear to God’s people. It is important to recognize that people are a product of their time and culture, and we cannot divorce them from it as we interpret their actions. There were Christians throughout history who owned slaves, and there were Christians who fought against this practice in order to free slaves. This can be confusing for children who think in dichotomous terms, and I do think that Danika’s books do a decent job in helping children process this friction. One must remember that these books are produced specifically for young children to read, so they are missing nuance where those who are very familiar with the complexities and debates concerning these issues and events may feel the need to supply their own thoughts or opinions to broaden their children’s understanding.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that Danika’s Who What Why Series on Abolitionism is well-researched, eloquently written, beautifully illustrated, and most importantly, rooted in Scripture. For such a heavy subject matter, she has tackled it with wisdom and grace. Children do need to be taught this difficult portion of history from a biblical worldview. Your students will meet new historical characters in Who Were the Abolitionists?, learn of courage under fire in What Was the Underground Railroad?, and will be shown how men rightly understanding God’s Word brought about reform globally in Why Did Slavery End?.

Click below to purchase your copy of this series on the Abolition of Slavery.

Who What Why Series
abolition podcast

Listen to our Interview with Author Danika Cooley about her newest addition to the Who What Why Series on Abolition:

This season is all about being intentional as Christians in every area of our lives. One of those important areas is in the education of our children. The topic of slavery is a contentious one in our society for a myriad of reasons. It is difficult enough tackling this topic among adults, but many parents struggle with how to introduce this heavy subject with young children. Join us as we discuss how to teach children about slavery from a Christian worldview with our guest, Author Danika Cooley from ThinkingKidsPress.com. We will be discussing her newest three books that have been added to her Who What Why series: Who Were the Abolitionists?, What Was the Underground Railroad?, and Why Did Slavery End?.

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