New Books for My Daughters
I am always looking for good books to help teach my daughters the beauty of the Christian message. This Christmas season my daughters received several new Christian-themed children’s books. In this post I would like to review three of them, two of which I obtained free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and one that I purchased for my girls as a Christmas gift.
Let There Be Light by Desmond Tutu (Zonderkidz, 2013)
I had no idea what to expect when I requested this book through booklookbloggers.com. When I saw that it was written by Desmond Tutu, whose book God Has a Dream (2005) helped in leading me back to Christianity and remains one of my favorite inspirational titles, I had to get it. Let There Be Light is a simple retelling of the creation story found in Genesis. Tutu’s retelling focuses heavily on the God’s love as He creates us all and the universe in which we inhabit. The very last line of this book states “You are loved.” The beautiful illustrations from Nancy Tillman make this book really stand out. My 11-month-old daughter cooed and grinned at the pictures in this book. Let There Be Light is an excellent little book to read to your baby, toddler, or preschooler. They will love it. I received this book in the form of a board book, but it also comes as a Kindle edition or a hardcover book.
Nature Girl: A Guide to Caring for God’s Creation by Karen Whiting & Rebecca White (Zonderkidz, 2014)
I requested this book through booklookbloggers.com as well hoping to get my 10-year-old daughter excited about caring for the environment. Nature Girl is geared towards preteen and teenage girls. The book is divided into ten chapters with each chapter containing Bible verses, fun projects, tips, and information about the environment. The first chapter contains many beauty tips and recipes for young girls to make their own all-natural beauty products. Also in this chapter is a list of potentially harmful substances for girls to avoid. The second chapter focuses on food and contains a list of essential vitamins and how they are helpful. The chapter also features many recipes for healthy foods. The third chapter is about the earth in general and teaches girls how to perform some basic tests for the environment and how to make compost. The fourth discusses animals, the fifth focuses on water, the sixth talks about air, and in the seventh chapter the authors discuss energy. The eighth chapter talks about recycling, the ninth about having fun at the park, and the final chapter focuses on a “green” attitude in general.
While this book contains many fun projects, tips, and recipes and my daughter said she enjoyed it, I was slightly disappointed about a few aspects of Nature Girl. Theologically speaking, there just was not much there. While each chapter contained a verse from scripture and occasionally mentioned our relationship with God’s creation, it was a very small part of the book and could easily be missed. In addition, a clear political agenda is found in a few places. For example, the authors begins Chapter Three by discussing how the manufacturing of nuclear weapons in Rocky Flat, Colorado contaminated much of the area. They give the impression that the event was no big deal and that animals are now thriving in the area. Although they mention that “people are still not allowed there,” they also state that “God made the world able to heal itself” (49). While I agree with the healing ability of God’s creation, the tone here downplays humanity’s ability to damage and distort creation. A similar problem is found at the beginning of Chapter Five. Here the authors downplay the damage done by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 by claiming that bacteria in the ocean consumed the vast majority of it while the rest was cleaned by human effort (76). While it is true that bacteria helped some, there was far too much oil spilt by the deepwater well for any natural clean-up method to work. In fact, over four years later, dead animals are still washing up on the Gulf shores covered in oil and plant life is still dying off in many areas. Once again the authors downplay our ability to destroy the earth. There are a few other places where a political agenda can be found, but the two above mentioned are the most egregious. Still, the authors do mention the harmful side-effects of chemicals and the burning of fossil fuels. I cannot recommend this book with confidence and will keep seeking out good books that teach my daughters love for creation in a proper Christian manner without the ideological baggage.
Pictures of God: A Child’s Guide to Understanding Icons by John Kosmas Skinas (Conciliar Press, 2008)
I purchased this book as a Christmas gift for both my daughters this year. My family and I began attending a Greek Orthodox Church in June and I want to help my daughter understand the various traditions of the Church, especially its most visible aspect. This is an excellent introduction to icons for children. The author wastes no words and writes short but very effective descriptions of the icons included in this book. The specific icons selected for inclusion in the book are excellent as well. Pictures of God includes the most famous icon of Christ which is called “The Pantocrator,” and also The Nativity of Our Lord, Christ Walking on the Water, The Annunciation, Theotokos of Tenderness (Virgin Mary with baby Jesus), The Crucifixion, The Hospitality of Abraham, Noah and the Ark, Guardian Angel, Saint George, Saint Katherine (of Alexandria), All American Saints, and Christ Blesses the Children. The last few pages of the book tell children exactly what icons mean to Christians and how to properly use them to “remind us to pray” and “keep our minds on God.” Contrary to some common misperceptions people have about Orthodox Christians, icons are not objects of worship. They are guides just as the Bible is a guide and just as the saints are guides leading us all to God Almighty. The very first page of the book states that “icons, like all beautiful things, reveal God to us” and that while other may say “look at me!”, icons say “look at God.” This book gets that message across very well and will help young Orthodox children appreciate the role of icons in the Church.