Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Teacher Who Became a Spy – Molly Frye Wilmington and Marcin Piwowarski

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Teacher Who Became a Spy by Molly Frye Wilmington
Series: Here I Am! Biography Series #1
Published by B&H Publishing, B&H Kids on April 14, 2023
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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Teacher. Spy. Believer. Bonhoeffer.

Not every hero story includes a world war, a cruel enemy, daring secret missions, and a hidden code for you to uncover. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story does.

In this unique picture book, Shep the sheepdog puppy narrates the powerful tale of how one man bravely followed Jesus during a dark time in world history. Hear how Bonhoeffer the teacher loved his students and warned people of danger. Then discover how Bonhoeffer the spy used clever thinking and crucial codes to defy the Nazis, protect his country, and love God and his neighbor, even when it cost him his life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story helps children understand faith, perseverance, and suffering in an approachable way. Readers will be inspired, as he was, to enjoy life during good times and to stand firm in faith during the hardest of times.

This book is the first in the Here I Am! biography series, which highlights fascinating and faithful Christians in history. Don't miss the next two books, which will explore the stories of C. S. Lewis and Lottie Moon.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my personal heroes, and this picture book biography is an amazing way to share his story with children. Molly Frye Wilmington tells Bonhoeffer’s story in a way that kids can relate to and understand, and I thought it was great that the author highlighted his work in youth ministry, since it is often overlooked and is especially relevant to a young audience. Wilmington introduces what Bonhoeffer was like as a teacher and pastor, and she shows how he stood firm against Nazism through his speaking, writing, and spy activities. She clearly explains the conditions that influenced Hitler’s rise to power, and she simplifies complex topics without talking down to her audience.

The narrator is Shep the Sheepdog, a character created for this book. I was concerned that this might feel gimmicky, but it was great. The dog provides a layer of whimsy that softens some of the extremely heavy topics in the story, and Shep’s commentary ties in with key themes, such as Bonhoeffer being a good shepherd like Jesus. Another unique element in this book is that there are dots under some letters, imitating how Bonhoeffer and his associates sent coded messages. Kids will enjoy decoding the secret message, and this activity makes the story even more memorable. Also, Marcin Piwowarski illustrated children in some of the scenes, showing how some of Bonhoeffer’s young relatives helped with decoding and sending messages. I like how this book highlights elements of Bonhoeffer’s story that kids will especially connect with.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Teacher Who Became a Spy is an excellent introduction to World War II, Bonhoeffer’s ministry and legacy, and important themes about resisting evil. This is a wonderful book, and although it deals with very heavy topics, including Bonhoeffer’s death as a martyr, it is appropriate for the intended age group. Many parents will prefer to read this with their children so that they can answer questions that come up and process the challenging content together, but even though the story may frighten sensitive children, the book is gentle and kid-friendly overall.