Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Children's Extravaganza Book Tour

I was so excited to open my e-mail a few weeks ago and see "The Children's Extravaganza" blog tour offered. R and I read constantly (I'm so proud of my bookworm!) so I'm always on the hunt for quality picture books for her and especially ones that point her to God. Kids' books are tricky: the storytelling and diction have to be engaging but not confusing, the pictures need to reinforce the story, and the theology has to be accurate even in its simple text.

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is part of Bergren’s “God Gave Us…” series. The dedication reveals this book was inspired by Mady Grace, only six years old when she died, and was written “for all those who already know the wonders of heaven.”

The polar bear cub in the book begins by asking, “Papa, what’s heav’n?” Her father responds, “Why, heaven is God’s home…the most amazing place we’ll ever get to see.” The cub’s series of questions and the wise and tender answers from her father as they go about their day make up the rest of the book. The cub asks pretty typical questions—like when will they go to heaven, if they will eat or sleep there, and what will they do all day. The father’s answers don’t assume more about heaven than what we do know from Scripture and they address what the child needs to know--to be secure in her God who created her to worship Him both on earth and in heaven. Especially important though is the answer to the cub’s question of “how do we get there.” The sacrifice of Jesus, depicted in metaphor and illustration of a bridge, shows Him as the Way to our “forever home.” All in all, a sweet book.

I was not familiar with the "Dandilion Rhymes" series by Dandi Daley Mackall, who has authored more than 400 books. (I guess I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to kids' books.) Her newest books are When God Created My Toes and God Loves Me More than That, both illustrated beautifully by David Hohn.

God Loves Me More Than That, based on Ephesians 3:17-19 on the depth, width, height of God’s love, answers the question posed on the first page, “How much love does God have for me?” Accompanied Hohn’s detailed illustrations (my favorites are the hippos splashing in the rain and the “thunder-rumbling, storm-charged cloud”), the answer comes in a variety of rhymes and word pictures showing God’s love is bigger, louder, wider, deeper than anything you could imagine. I love that Mackall’s book begins with Scripture and then illustrates the concept for young children. The vastness of God’s love is infinite and the intangible qualities of our God are difficult for them (and us!) to grasp. This picture book begins to do that and to reinforce that God’s love is amazing and so much stronger than our earthly love for others and for Him.

Unfortunately, I didn’t care for Mackall’s other book, When God Created My Toes as much, though my issues are minimal. Mackall takes inspiration from Psalm 139:13-16 and then contemplates the unique aspects of toes and knees, head and hair. “When God created my toes did he make them wiggle? Did he know I’d giggle? Did he have to hold his nose when God created my toes?” I love the physicality of this concept and of reveling in God’s creativity, our individuality, and the amazing design of our bodies. But I don’t grasp the purpose of the last line of most stanzas, like this one with knees: “Did we sing our ABC’s when God created my knees?” Or “Did we do a double flip when God created my hip?” I don’t get the “we.” Is it the presence of a soul at conception? And does this indicate a regenerate heart that can have relationship with God before birth? These are the things I think about...and my husband too. He had the same reaction.

And while Hohn’s drawings are, again, detailed and beautiful (and I like addition of the kid’s sketches that accompany the four-color illustrations), some of the drawings show behaviors I would rather my children not do—like finger-paint the walls and furniture or sneak up on Dad while he’s drinking a cup of coffee. As a friend and I were sharing the other day, we don’t want to have to review house rules while reading to our kids. (You may only paint with Mommy. Art supplies stay in the playroom.) I guess this could present a teachable moment: See what happens when you play surprise peek-a-boo with Dad and he's holding a hot cup of...well, in his case it would be a Diet Coke.

If any of these interest you, I have one copy of each to give away to a lucky reader. First to e-mail me gets it. And all books are available on Amazon.com. Click on the links below.

God Gave Us Heaven: http://www.amazon.com/God-Gave-Heaven-Lisa-Bergren/dp/1400074460/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218755286&sr=8-1

God Loves Me More Than That: http://www.amazon.com/Loves-More-Than-Dandilion-Rhymes/dp/1400073162/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218755325&sr=1-1

When God Created My Toes: http://www.amazon.com/When-Created-Toes-Dandilion-Rhymes/dp/1400073154/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218755355&sr=1-1

A couple of grown-up books coming soon! Happy Reading!


Anonymous said...

Interesting reading, thanks. I find it hard to get the right mix of fun and education with kids' books. Bayard's seem to have solved this problem and cater for for all ages with their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which has a special focus on teeth!) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days: http://www.storyboxbooks.com/potatoprinting.php, http://www.adventureboxbooks.com/macaroni-picture-frames.php, http://www.discoveryboxbooks.com/skittles.php Enjoy

Vicki Taylor said...

I have really enjoyed your book reviews Amy. Great job. I especially appreciated these on children's books. I'm a huge fan of picture books for children.

Katie said...

Oh yay, I will have to look into these. Could you regularly post children books worth reading? Thanks.