I’m often frustrated by the Christian books marketed to children, and to their parents. The children’s Bibles are filled with fragmented stories selected apparently at random out of the Bible and illustrated with chubby-cheeked white-skinned cherubic children. The stories in fiction are stilted and artificial. The rhyming books… oh the rhyming books. Everyone thinks they can write like Dr. Seuss. News flash — you can’t. Instead, they produce books of agony — torturous to read because of heavy reliance on the stale and worn or on the so-creative-I-don’t-know-how-that-rhymes.
It is rare and refreshing to find a book beautifully illustrated, well-written, and portraying children from all over the world. So today, I have good news! I have found such a book. It’s called “Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love” and it’s a children’s book written by Brennan Manning of “Ragamuffin Gospel” fame.
The main characters were Willie Juan and Ana, who live in a little village in Mexico. They aren’t your stereotypical family, which is refreshing — they are unable to have children of their own. But they open their doors to the children of their neighborhood, make and share sopapillas, and tell them stories about God, who they refer to as “Abba.” The children in the book are from all over the world (as you can see from the cover), and the illustrations are rich and beautiful.
The story is well-written and flows naturally, while still addressing things important to children. Willie Juan asks the kids what they think Abba will ask them when they see him in heaven. The things they mention are caring for their family members and caring for their animals. When little Irene mentions being afraid of Abba because he is so big, Willie Juan answers, “Irene, you don’t have to be afraid. Abba loves you very much.” (This is my favorite part of the book.)
Children are often fearful about the world and unsettled by life. (Adults are too.) This story reinforces what I want my children to understand about God (and what I need to remember about God). God loves them, God gives them good gifts, and God wants them to take care of and enjoy those gifts. As Ana says, “Every good thing comes from smack-dab in the middle of Abba’s heart.”
I loved this book. If you have kids, or if you are still a kid at heart, or if you appreciate a well-crafted story and beautiful illustrations, you will love this book too.
Guess what!?!? I get to give one lucky reader a copy of Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love away (not my own copy [cuz I’m keeping that!] but a new one, shipped directly to you from the publisher)! Leave a comment to enter (be sure you leave a valid email address so I can reach you if you win). You may enter multiple times if you share this on Facebook or Twitter, and if you like my Facebook page. Be sure to leave separate comments for each thing you do. I will select a winner via random number generator on Monday.