The River of Grace

by Joyce McPherson
134 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Corin, Edmund's Friend

A fun and educational read for the family.


Note: This book is sub-titled A Story of John Calvin.

An ordinary boy who loved to read, John Calvin was raised in the Catholic church, becoming clerk to a bishop at the age of twelve. Through the influence of God's Word and some fellow students, however, he realized the truth of God's free grace and began working as a pastor to teach reformed theology. Through his teaching, his help in translating the Bible to French, and his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin had a profound impact on the Protestant Reformation, and became one of the best-known Reformers.


Biblical values are upheld and all sin is strongly put down. There are discussions and a few disagreements about what God would have his people do in various circumstances. Books and the ability to read are highly valued.

Calvin and those with him were strict about religion, driving those of other denominations (such as the Anabaptists) out of the city; even such great men as the Reformers were by no means perfect.

Spiritual Content

Being the biography of a Protestant Reformer, the book has a lot about God, Jesus, the Bible, and different theologies.


Characters die of old age. Jesus's crucifixion is briefly referenced. Calvin witnesses a monk being burned at the stake. Calvin is threatened and various people try to kill or injure him, but they fail.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is served at communion.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content



The River of Grace is one of my favorite biographies. This is not so much because it has the most interesting topic (though the topic is interesting) but because the writing is just right for its designated audience. The descriptions are not too long but give the reader a very clear picture of what is happening. Each chapter is headed by a relevant quote by Calvin or another person from his time.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

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