This picture-book adaptation of the Burpos’ 2010 account for adults of then-4-year-old Colton’s near-death experience comes with a built-in audience but doesn’t reach much further than it.
A note to parents and grandparents precedes a two-page explanation that, during a visit to the hospital, “Colton closed his eyes, and when he opened them— / Jesus was with him!” The boy’s brief sojourn in heaven is related in an ingenuous child’s voice laced with exclamation marks. Readers learn that “Heaven is not scary—ever!” and that “Everyone is happy there!” He meets a number of biblical celebrities, his great-grandfather and—tellingly and horrifically—“my big sister [who] was so excited to see me that she wouldn’t stop hugging me!” Several pages of description of heavenly delights follow before Jesus explains that he is “answering your dad’s prayer” and returning him to this vale of tears. Children entranced by the happy animals and Michael’s awesome flaming sword will feel that Colton got a very bad deal. Ong paints a supersoft-focus heaven populated by white-robed angels and a crowned Jesus. Aside from an appealingly rainbow-maned white horse and the welcome inclusion of dark-skinned angels (none of them named characters), the aesthetic is one that recalls mass-produced mid-20th-century Sunday school materials. Believers may well be charmed by Colton’s close encounter; nonbelievers will suspect that Colton’s account of heaven owes more to his parents’ stories of his big sister’s afterlife than actual experience.
Is heaven for real? Maybe, but this book is not likely to persuade any skeptics. (Picture book. 4-8)
Teaching our daughters how to love themselves is the first step toward the next generation’s owning its power.
It’s heady stuff for a picture book, but it’s never too soon for a woman—even a little woman—to know her worth. Denhollander (the first of sex offender Larry Nassar’s abuse victims to speak out) presents a poetic discourse that resonates beyond its young intended audience. Her simple rhyming couplets speak to the power of image and the messages that shape how we become who we are. The eloquence comes not from the words or phrasing as much as the message as well as the passion. Denhollander, an attorney, a mother, and a former gymnast–turned-coach for a time, delivers stanzas infused with sweet sentimentality as well as fiery fierceness. New artist Huff provides lovely, expressive illustrations depicting girls of many racial presentations in various stages of self-discovery and acceptance. The figures are smiling and cartoonlike, with oversized, round heads and sturdy bodies—though none could be called fat, none exhibits twiglike proportions. Denhollander’s book is unapologetically Christian in approach, with more than one reference to “Him” or a creation by a greater power. With sincerity helping to mitigate occasionally artless text, this is a worthwhile message for young girls who, in an age of shrinking women’s rights, need all the encouragement possible to find their voices and love themselves.
Girls will hear the answer to the titular question.
(Picture book. 4-8)
The annual harvest from farm to table is explored with a religious perspective, focusing on Christian harvest traditions and the Jewish celebration of Sukkot.
Crisp color photography highlights children in scenes of farming and the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. The book features several instructive points about the variety of produce available, the harvest concept and sharing. Finally, it covers two different yet corresponding religious ways to observe the harvest and thank God. Church-based harvest festivals are illustrated by the decorating of a church with various breads, wheat stalks and baskets of food. Sukkot is shown with the building and decorating of a Sukkah and how this symbol of a shelter or hut relates to the ancient Jewish celebration. An informative and eye-catching design on glossy paper offers a large, multicolored print, the majority of text blocks in black against soft pale backgrounds, with key words in bold blue; these are repeated in a vocabulary border at the bottom of each page. The text is largely framed in questions, encouraging personal response and discussion. The simplicity and functionality of the book’s premise is enhanced with an addendum of teaching suggestions for specific pages and more detailed background information about the concepts presented.
This will serve well in both religious and nonreligious settings for fall curriculum support.
(Informational picture book. 5-7)