Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life has sold about a gazillion copies by now, and has inspired countless other books. One of them is Made For a Purpose by Dandi Daley Mackall. Warren writes the one-page Forward to this picture book, emphasizing the main theme: God loves you as you are, and created you for a purpose. But it's Mackall's experienced pen and Glin Dibley's whimsical illustrations that bring this message to life for children.
The protagonist of Made For a Purpose is C.J., a girl whose father recently abandoned his family. C.J. avoids the "clubhouse kids" who meet regularly to read the Bible. She doesn't trust them - or anyone else - since her dad left. Instead, C.J. finds a place on the beach where nobody else hangs out, and builds an elaborate sand castle. She dreams of designing big buildings and thinks a famous architect might happen along and hire her on the spot...But then a group of clubhouse kids invades her space. C.J. hides in an abandoned lifeguard station before they can spot her.
C.J. overhears the group talking about what God wants from them: To love him, be his friend, and be a part of his "forever family." C.J. is intrigued. Then one of the boys discovers C.J. in her hiding place, and the group tries to make friends with her. "I don't do groups, and I don't do friends," replies C.J.
Still, over the next several days, the clubhouse kids hang out near C.J.'s special spot. C.J. admires their behavior toward each other, but figures there's no way she can be a part of their group. Then, one day C.J. goes to the beach to find her elaborate sand castle destroyed. She accuses the clubhouse kids of smashing it and tells them to never speak to her again. After they leave, C.J. realizes there are dog prints everywhere; a dog destroyed her castle, not the clubhouse kids. She's sad she's lost the friendship of the group, and figures they'll never forgive her...Until she happens upon the clubhouse kids trying to repair her sand castle. The children make up and C.J. asks timidly: "I still want to be an architect. Do you think God will let me?" One of the boys replies: "Let you? Who do you think made you so you want to build things?"
The book ends with five questions for parents to ask their children regarding how God made them and what their purpose in life is.
What I Like: The illustrations in this book are fun, imaginative, and expressive. The text is never preachy, yet manages to expertly get across spiritual truth. And what an important truth the author is pointing out! The real source of self-esteem is not one we can afford to ignore.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Age Appeal: 4 - 8, but I think this book is more appealing to the older end of that scale.
Publishing Info: Zonderkidz, 2004; ISBN: 0310709539; hard back, $15.99.
Special Info: Visit the author's website.