Sunday, August 17, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!!

I have a whopping FOUR books for you all this weekend! I guess I’m making up for skipping last Saturday; my apologies again. I read to my son each day and the books I select are mainly picture and board books from all different genres, though I do try to get at least one Christian-based choice in there per day. I want to begin teaching Jacob about Jesus and His world and while he is still so young, reading him stories about believing is the best introduction form. I really enjoyed all four selections, there were definitely two standouts, one for writing and one for illustrations. I hope you find something you like!

God Gave Us Heaven is part of author Lisa Tawn Bergen’s famous “God Gave Us” series, God Gave Us You probably being the most popular. In her own beautiful way, Bergen tells us the story of a little polar bear cub that begins asking her Papa questions about heaven. Some of the questions are difficult for Papa to answer, such as “How do we get to heaven?” and “Will I get to see you in heaven?,” though he tries to answer in the best manner that a Daddy possibly can. Little Cub is, as most children are, very curious and wants to know all she can about that great place called Heaven.

The manner in which Bergen produced such a simply written story about such a complex subject is amazing to me. I loved how innocent Little Cub was and how real her Papa’s answers were. They were given to Little Cub in a true and honest form. Papa wasn’t afraid to use phrases such as “I think,” letting his daughter and the reader know that he wasn’t trying to have exact answers.

Illustrator Laura J. Bryant did a great job as well, bringing soft, simple artwork to a beautiful story.

When God Created My Toes, written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn is a cute rhyming story about just what God was thinking when he created each of us. Told in whimsical and playful tone, with lines such as “When God created my nose, did he know I’d sneeze in a wintry breeze? Did we kiss like Eskimos when God created my nose?”

Though definitely not serious in topic or the best in rhymes, the book is silly and fun, with great illustrations. Kids will take one look at the pages referring to God creating our hands and laugh out loud!

I think this one is a good choice for helping to explain to children that God created each part of us specifically and for a purpose, though sometimes we can have fun with each part!

My favorite choice this week, story-wise, is another by the team of Mackall and Hohn, titled God Loves Me More Than That. Hohn’s great illustrations accompany the telling of just how much God loves us…much more than we could ever think! The reader gets to see God loving us higher than the moon, deeper than a treasure chest at sea, and louder than a cheering football crowd.

If looked at critically, the writing may not be considered fabulous and the librarian side of me probably wouldn’t be recommending it to those parents that want an excellent picture book to teach about God, but in my own opinion as a mom, this is a very nice telling of how God always loves us more than we could ever imagine. The mom side of me loves it, the librarian side (and critical side) thinks it’s just ok.

My final choice for this week is my favorite in the category of illustration. Fire Fish is written and illustrated by Davy Liu and part of “The Invisible Tails” series, which are all based on biblical stories and told by an animal’s perspective.

In this specific story, we meet three little fish that take on a quest to become Fire Fish, which they believe is the ultimate goal (though the Fire Fish are not what the three little fish imagine). With the help of the omnipotent Finmaker, they triumph over danger and lots of frightening moments on their journey, finally coming to the conclusion that they really don’t need to become Fire Fish after all. The three little fish realize that they were made to be the fish they are and as long as they have a home and family, they are perfectly happy.

Now, here’s my thing. Liu has worked for Disney Feature Animation, as well as Warner Bros. and you can definitely tell. His illustrations are flawless, beautiful, and almost indescribable. The underwater landscape in the book is magnificent and the fish have that quirky, silly, Disney-style to them that children will love. However…I think the story may be a bit over little one’s heads. The book is really one huge metaphor, the Finmaker being God and with His help we can all accept ourselves as we are. I just think this message is told in such a complex manner that it may be missed. It will probably need to be explained just what the Fire Fish are, just where Momma and Pappa disappear to, and who the Finmaker really is supposed to be.

That being said, if you have the time to read Fire Fish with your children and proceed to have a discussion with them about it, then it’s a great choice. Ask them questions about who they believe the Finmaker represents and what they think the three little fish are trying to accomplish on their journey. Talk about self-esteem and how God made each of us to be exactly our own and not to be like everyone else. According to the last page, the story is loosely based on the events in Exodus, so maybe bringing in the family Bible and reading through some of that specific book would be a good idea as well. In this manner, Liu’s story can be very successful, especially accompanied by such amazing illustrations. Older children can read it on their own and will be able to appreciate not only the illustrations, but also the message.

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