At 5 Minutes for Books, we are proud to feature books across many genres for children and adults. This week is all about highlighting children’s books, but if you’d rather spend some time browsing our Christian category, you will find Christian fiction, apologetics, biographies, and women’s interest titles.
You may not know Francis Chan. I don’t really know much about him either, but I know he’s gotten a LOT of attention for his book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
I can see why he’d pick it up. The cut paper/collage style of illustrations by Matt Daniels are very appealing.
After he read it, I asked him why he liked it. “It’s funny,” he said.
When I read it to him another day, he showed me the cover, and said, “See, he only brushes half his teeth,” and in fact on the cover, his top teeth are white, and his bottom teeth are yellow.
Herbert does everything halfway, and it gets him in trouble. He only listens to half of what his parents and teachers say, he only ties one shoe, he only eats half of his meals, etc. etc. I guess Kyle found that to be funny (it is told in a light tone, meant to show how silly that would be). Then the application comes in (after Herbert especially got into trouble because of his careless habits) about how God wants us to do everything with our whole heart.
It was a little heavy-handed, but a seamless part of the story, because it occurred in the form of a talk that Herbert’s dad was having with his son, which is a very natural situation in which such a conversation would take place. I also smiled a bit at Herbert’s transformation after this truth set in, which was a bit instantaneous, but if it helps young ones understand the truth that God can and does indeed transform us (though not usually overnight), I guess it’s okay in my book.
Kyle deemed The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village “babyish,” and didn’t want to read it — I guess because of that adorable tractor with personified eyes.
The farm setting of this books gives illustrator Matt Daniels a chance to really shine. Chan’s text and story is a bit simpler, making it appropriate for a preschool set, but an older child not as quick to judge as Kyle is would enjoy the story as well. In fact, I really enjoyed this story about how the villagers used the tractor to plow their fields by pushing it, until Farmer Dave found the owner’s manual and found out what the tractor could really do with a little preventative maintenance.
By using the tractor the right way, they were able to yield many more crops that they could share with others.
And of course, I saw the spiritual application coming — that the Bible is our owner’s manual that tells us how to live, and that God gives us power in the Holy Spirit to love others and do great things. Again, this sort of “preaching” seems to just come out of nowhere after what was a great story, but when I thought about it more, it was exactly what Jesus did in the parables — telling a story, then applying it to our life in Christ.
These are both great stories that obviously appeal to children (I still haven’t read The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village to Kyle, but I will, and I know he will like the absurd humor of them trying to push the tractor and not believing it could work by itself). If these are the lessons you want to reinforce with your children, these beautiful picture books will help you do it.
Jennifer Donovan often chides herself for not talking more about God’s goodness with her children, so while it seems trite, she appreciates the lessons taught in these books. She recounts other parenting failures at her blog Snapshot.