Raising Tech-healthy humans was a well deserving shortlisted book in this year’s Australian Christian Book of the Year. Written by productivity consultant Daniel Sih, this book encourages families to pre-empt the screen/tech balance before things get out of hand. It’s not specifically Christian in content (so there’s no Bible references or justifications) but that’s a strength not a flaw because we all know it’s not just Christian families who are struggling with how to set boundaries with their children and devices.
One of the main recommendation points for this book is the extremely practical and honest approach it takes.
The Faithful Spy is an illustrated biography of Dietrich Bonhopeffer for young readers. It is presented in graphic novel format with the illustrations and design work limited to a palate of aqua and red ink. I found this a compelling account of Bonhoeffer’s life and the events of history leading up to, and including, the second world war.
Now, here’s a lovely book about grace for kids (and their adults)!
His Grace is Enough is a delightful picture book written by Melissa Kruger and illustrated by Isobel Lundie. The story, if it can be called that for it’s probably more like a spoken lesson, is an invitation for children to understand the reassurance and hope of God’s grace.
The rhyming text is written from the perspective of a parent or loved one reaching out to a child who may have made a mistake or done something they are ashamed of: ‘You’re hiding from me and look so upset. Did you do something wrong that you now regret?’ Over the following pages, various examples of doing the wrong thing, and natural responses to them, are discussed.
Ahh, I love well produced children’s books! I love the smooth covers, the crisp spine, the high quality illustrations drawing readers into layers of meaning. 10Publishing’s, The True King, is a Christian children’s book that hits all those score cards for me. However, as I’m finding with a lot of theologically heavy kids’ books these days, I’m a little restrained from full enthusiasm.
Written by Nancy Guthrie, an American Bible teacher, writer and podcaster, The True King is an illustrated children’s book that attempts to convey the entire narrative of the Bible. Told as a story about the Kingdom of the Great King (God) and the coming of the True King (Jesus), the book is, in a sense, a story-answer to the question: “Why do we pray ‘Your Kingdom come’?”
What I like about this book is the scope. From the opening scenes in the garden of Eden to the return of Jesus one day soon, this book attempts to communicate the vision of God’s plan for his people and his wonderful reign.
What I don’t like about this book, is also the scope. I felt as if Guthrie was trying to nod to every glorious doctrine possible, slipping in phrases and nuance that – without explanation or the patience to sit through a three point sermon – a child isn’t likely to grasp. Perhaps the strength of this approach is that adult readers (well versed in Biblical theology) will marvel at the nuggets of truth and layers of understanding the text offers. But I felt it was possibly trying to do too much for its child readers.
Having said all of that, you may be thinking I have a problem with teaching theology to children. I don’t. But I suspect us adults often forget how many years of Bible teaching we’ve received, how many books we’ve read, sermons we’ve listened to, podcasts we’ve heard etc. that have all contributed to our understanding of phrases like, in this book: ‘God was pouring out the punishment guilty people deserve on his innocent son’ or, ‘God poured out his Spirit on his people, giving them the power to take the good news of his kingdom to people all over the earth’ (here, the text was accompanied by an illustration which unfortunately made me think of Pompei).
So, yes, I might be a little critical when it comes to introducing children to large theological concepts. But that's not to say The True King isn't worth a look.
This is an excellently produced book and Jenny Brake's illustrations are fabulous. I particularly loved the two pages accompanying the text about the kings of Israel and the waiting in exile (see above). And apart from a few small personal quibbles with some of the theology, I love the heart of what this book is trying to do. The ending pages are beautiful, both in text and artwork, drawing forth a longing for 'Gods Kingdom come'. It's just lovely. I just have two concerns: firstly, that young readers' interest will not last the full length of the 45 page text before they get twitchy, and secondly, that their young ears will miss the layers of poignant significance hidden in Guthrie’s text and grow numb to their impact later on. I may be wrong. I'd like to be wrong. And I'll admit that I didn’t test drive this one on a child. So if you have read this with young children, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below and let me know.
All the details you need:
Title: The True King
Written by: Nancy Guthrie
Illustrated by: Jenny Brake
Available from The Wandering Bookseller.
If you've ever read my picture book 'The Other Brother' you'll know I have a soft spot for families who open their homes to flexible arrangements and have malleable definitions of what makes family. I'm a firm believer in foster care and open adoption. Yes, I'm one of those people who believes Christians can make a tangible difference offer foster care to kids in need. I've seen the difference it makes to kids, I've experienced the blessing of being involved, but I'm in no way blind to the hardship and heartache that come with the foster care journey. And I guess that's why, when I saw this book - 'A carer's devotional journal: for carers of kids from tough places', I wanted a closer look.
The journal is published by ARK (Aussies Responding to Kids), a Christian organisation whose mission is 'to be extended family, living out the gospel of Jesus, by inviting vulnerable kids into our hearts, homes and families through adoption and foster care' (from the ARK website). The journal itself is a simple paperback book that alternates fillable journal pages with Scripture verses and a devotional reflection. There are three double page journal spaces for each devotion. Most of the devotions were written by Heather Packett, but there are also some by Stephanie Reedman, Louise Pekan, Trudie Atkinson and Terri Thomas.
I sat down with the book one morning at breakfast to get an overview of how the devotions worked and to decide whether I felt the journal was one I'd recommend. I didn't have my pencil ready and I wasn't prepped for a proper devotional time. I was just curious, so I started reading. I wasn't even three devotions in before I was holding back tears. I pushed on, got half way and then stopped, resuming my read through a couple of days later only to be even more impacted than I was the first time. Why? Because I had not read devotions like this before.
Here was a book that offered gentle reminders that the heart of God is for the vulnerable AND the carer in the same moment. It spoke to the unspoken stories, whispered of tremendous grace, and acknowledged the hard parts.
Because being a foster carer is hard. It takes more strength than you think you have. It stretches you to breaking, then breaks your heart. And not just once, but over and over and over again. So often, carers feel unseen, invisible. They are misunderstood, glorified, pitied, avoided or begrudged. This devotional acknowledged all of this and wrapped it all up in the reminder of Christ's all sufficient grace.
I appreciated Stephanie Reedman's words in one of her reflections when she said, 'Fostering is not a journey that many outsiders understand' and yet 'nothing I face is ever missed by God, and that when we make mistakes or pay for the mistakes of others, we have a Redeemer who is always for us and always with us'.
If you are a foster carer, or you know someone who is, this devotional journal is worth buying. It's an honest, real and faithful encouragement for those who care.
All the details you need:
Title: A carer's devotional journal: for carers of kids from tough places.
Written by: Heather Packett and leaders from ARK Australia
Publisher: Aussies Responding to Kids (ARK) Ltd.
Available from the ARK website.
In high school I used to call them 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. These days I probably call them journal entries, or blog posts. Whatever the name, here's some of what I get when the penny drops, or doesn't, and I sit down to write...