Wednesday, March 21, 2007

God's Paintbrush

God's Paintbrush, written by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and illustrated by Annette Compton, is a different kind of picture book. It does not have a central character (or characters) and it does not tell a story. It is more a collection of vignettes about everyday situations that children encounter. Each short narrative is followed by a question, or questions, that connects the issue with how God fits into our lives.

One example is that of a young boy talking about his best friend moving away. He says he is sad and he hurts inside. The question is then asked, "What do you think makes God hurt?" Another example is a scene where Mom and Dad are tucking their child into bed, giving him hugs and kisses. The question, "What does God's touch feel like to you?" makes you think about being able to "feel" God's presence. All the concepts help to illustrate how God relates to all aspects of our lives. The questions that go along with each scene are thought-provoking and sometimes unusual. No answers are given to the questions. This allows the reader to think about the ideas and come up with answers on their own.

What I Like: I like the different format for the book, as well as the variety of scenarios and situations presented. The language of the text is also beautiful. It's quite poetic and invokes powerful mental images. One example is: "I think the wind is God's breath moving through the world, making it come alive."

What I Dislike: The watercolor illustrations are colorful, and represent many multicultural issues and cultures, but they are a bit sloppy in appearance. I think they distract from the text rather than add to it.

The title of the book was also somewhat misleading. Because it is called God's Paintbrush, I thought it would be filled with beautiful artwork representing God's wonder and glory in the natural world. However, the only mention of "God's paintbrush" is on the first page: "A sunbeam peeked in my window this morning, and painted a rainbow on my wall. I think the sunbeam is God's paintbrush dipped in a watercolor sea, painting clouds and coloring our world." With the exception of this first page, the title seems to reflect the "painting" of the pictures that illustrate each different concept about God.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, the book is meant for 9-12-year-olds. This is probably because the reading level is too high and the book too long for younger readers to make it through on their own. However, I think 4-8-year-olds would enjoy the book, if read aloud to them, and broken down into small chunks, as the book is rather lengthy for a picture book.

Publishing Info: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2004; ISBN: 1580231950; Hardcover $17.95.

Special Info: The author is the second woman to become an ordained rabbi (1974) and the first rabbi to become a mother. The book is not written with a Jewish slant, though; it is non-denominational. Visit the author's website. Visit the illustrator's website.

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