Tuesday, July 28, 2020


by Mark Ludy
60 pages / 2014

Mark Ludy's wordless account of Noah's life will fascinate young and old. There's so much to see on every page, and the wordless nature of it invites parent and child to discuss all that's going on.

The danger with such an account is that for some it might come to replace the original biblical version. As children pore over this picture book's pages repeatedly, they could easily forget that even as it is reasonable to believe Noah might have made use of the strength of a dinosaur or two, the Bible doesn't actually say he did.

But what such a book can also do is help us re-evaluate some other non-biblical assumptions we might have inadvertently adopted.

Noah's wife is shown here as a lighter colored black, while Noah himself is maybe Grecian, Roman, or perhaps Sicilian. What both most certainly are not – and what they most probably were not – is a British or Scandanavian sort of white. That might bring questions for the many a child and adult who, having grown up with picture Bibles that have a white Adam and Eve, and a white Jesus too, have presumed Noah was white as well. But it is more likely that Adam, Eve, and maybe many of the generations that followed had some sort of middle brown skin, as that genetic coding can contain within it the possibility of both darker and lighter skin in the generations that follow.

Another corrective: while evolutionary theory portrays Man as being much simpler back in history, the Bible details some big advances being made from one generation to the next (Genesis 4:20-22). They were no primitive dummies so it is helpful to see Noah shown as living in a fairly advanced level of industry and technology. They aren't in a rocket age, but they also aren't living in caves either.
Finally, we also get a good idea of the sheer magnitude of the Ark, correcting the silly bathtub toy picture some might have stuck in their heads.

This is not a book that we shouldn't ever let overshadow the biblical account, but when we put it in its proper place – like that of a commentary that helps us reflect on what Genesis 6-9 is actually saying – then it can be a wonderful aid.

I will offer a couple of critiques: while there's a dinosaur and some mammoths to be seen working on the ark's construction, neither can be found in it. Also, while animals two by two can be seen making their way to the ark, there don't seem to be any groups of 7 (Genesis 7:2). Of course, we don't see every animal arrive, so maybe we just missed those, and they'll be found in any expanded future edition of the book.

So who is this for? We probably all think of picture books as being for children, but I really think everyone will love it, from ages 3 on up to 103!

You can take an extended peek here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.

by Kirsten A. Jenson
2017 / 40 pages

Talking with our kids about pornography on the Internet is not a conversation any parent wants to have. But we need to do it. So when I saw this book online I ordered a copy, thinking it might make things easier.

And it did. Once I put it to use.

Amazon delivered it quickly, as is their custom, but then it sat on the shelf for probably half a year. I don't know why it took me so long, but this last week, I looked up from my computer one summer vacation morning to find all of my young charges in my office together reading. I love the company...at least when they are quiet. But this time around they were twitching and tapping and whistling and chatting, making my work impossible. It was either time to chase them back down the stairs or...time to read a book together. So, I finally got to it.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is best suited for children from 4 to 7. In my case, my audience consisted of one in that range and two above it, but it worked because the older two were just listening in. I had tried the original version intended for 8 and up (with the same title, but lacking the "Jr.") with my oldest, and found it really helpful, but on the long side. We'd gotten interrupted 15 minutes in, and only about a quarter into the book and we've never gotten back to it since. While I do intend to read it with her at some point, this picture book version of the same message was a good substitute for now.

The book, after all, is just meant as a prompt for the discussion parents need to have with their kids. So as we read along, we all did a lot of talking. The book could probably be covered in just 5 minutes, but the discussion took at least another 15.

First, we learned about how there are pictures all over, on our walls, on billboards, and on screens too. Some are good pictures, like pictures of puppies or family pictures or fun videos. "But some pictures," the author informs us, "are not good. They are bad for you." The definition given of a bad picture is very clear, and very G-rated: "Bad pictures show the parts of the body that we cover with a swimsuit. These parts are meant to be kept private."

In response to this page, one daughter brought up a billboard, where the "lady wasn't wearing many clothes." We discussed how it was good to bring that up with mom or dad, and that we'd want her and her sisters to wear more clothes than that. It also gave me an opportunity to go over the book's helpful definition of bad pictures and how this example both kind of fit but kind of didn't.

I'd recommend Good Pictures, Bad Pictures jr. for any parent, but note that if you don't already read to your kids regularly, don't launch into this one as one of your first. There was a reason I took so long to get to it: it is a weird topic. But what made it a lot less weird was that we do regularly read together, and talk about what we're reading.

So, two thumbs up for this great tool to help parents with an absolutely vital conversation.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

C. S. Lewis: Creator of Narnia

by Sam Wellman
202 pages / 2013

This biography of C. S. Lewis is part of the Heroes of the Faith series, which engage readers in the highlights of the lives of significant leaders in Christian history. Given the title of the series, you could predict that this book would not be an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of C. S. Lewis's ideas, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the author caught the personal foibles and motivations of the title character.

Although (strangely) the cover and spine of my edition did not even give the name of the author of the biography, Sam Wellman skillfully shows how Jack (Lewis's nickname since childhood) went from a nominally Christian upbringing through a full-fledged embrace of atheism to being Surprised by Joy (his young self's hint at the reality of transcendence). Along the way, Wellman gives us glimpses of the sources, experiences, and inspirations behind Jack's writing, starting with his pre-Christian poetry, and progressing to his defense of and understanding of his Christian faith.

Wellman also shows us how Lewis was associated with other Christian writers, both influenced by and influencing them, including the famous Inklings. He portrays Jack's personal relationships with his father, with Mrs. Moore (the mother of a fellow soldier killed in World War I); with Jack's brother Warnie; and with Joy Gresham, the woman he eventually married. Wellman makes clear how Jack was an honorable man whose Christian faith enabled him to ignore personal attacks by unfair critics, but also demonstrates that Jack had to struggle with sinful weaknesses like the rest of us.

Anything missing from the book? As I mentioned above, Wellman does not critique his subject's ideas, and once or twice, in focusing on the critical and popular reactions to Lewis's book, gives some books less appreciation than I felt that they deserved. However, Wellman does often clarify the goals of Lewis's writing through thoughtful discussion of brief excerpts.

Wellman's biography will provide the younger or inexperienced reader of Lewis's writing with an overview of why and what he wrote, and may well encourage readers to check out more of his work.
If you would like to learn about how C. S. Lewis became the creator of Narnia (and Boxen, and much else), you can find this book here, and here in Canada. (There is also a shorter biography of Lewis by the same author entitled C. S. Lewis: A Lion for Truth, which I have not read, but which may be suitable for younger readers.)