It begins with a young girl, Lola Mazola, begging her father for money to go to Happyland. The brochure tells of a wonderful place with rides, shows, lakes hotels, a water park and a zoo! But her daddy doesn't have the money. He tries to sell a painting so that she can go, but no one buys a painting that day.
The next day Lola goes to Sunday School where her teacher, who is also her Uncle Tom Tweed, teaches the class about John 3:16. He examines the verse little by little from the beginning. He explains that God is the One who made everything. "He made trees and plants. Bees and ants. And fleas and seas and knees and peas. And bumblebees and chimpanzees." Tom Tweed goes on to say that even though we can't see God, He is all around us and He loves us very much.
Next Tom Tweed talks about the world and how we are all part of it. He repeats the verse: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son ..." Then he explains who God's Son is: Jesus. He tells the class about Jesus' birth; how He grew up to be a man, a teacher and a preacher. "He was perfect. Perfectly perfect." Then Tom Tweed tells of Jesus' death and resurrection. "Why did Jesus die and return to life? For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish ..." Then the teacher talks about Heaven and how it is God's happy land; how it is so much better than here. "It's perfect. Perfectly perfect." So what does perish mean? "To perish means never getting to go to God's happy land." We're not able to go to God's happy land "because we have all broken God's rules in the Bible ... But since Jesus died on the cross, God can forgive us ... Then we can go to His perfect place." We get this free gift when we believe in Him. But what does that mean? Lola's uncle explains this, too, then gives the class a sample prayer they can pray along with their own copy of John 3:16 to take home with them.
When Lola gets home, she is still upset about not being able to go to Happyland. That is, until Uncle Tom surprises her with a gift: $100! It's enough for her to go! As she packs her bags, she tells her father it's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. He reminds her: "Not quite ..." Her father opens his Bible to John 3:16 then tells Lola again of the gift God gave her: eternal life if she will believe in Jesus.
As bonus features, this book offers a letter to parents at the beginning and notes in the back for the whole family. A certificate is included for kids to sign and date when they choose to believe in Jesus. Finally, a "Now what?" section which offers four practical tips for helping believers grow their faith and relationship with Jesus.
What I Like:This is the first children's book I've seen that so clearly details God's plan of salvation in such a logical manner! I love the step-by-step (inductive) study of this verse. It's beautifully accurate and age-appropriate. The running rhymes and sporadic repetition are fun to read and hear! The illustrations by Glin Dibley are friendly and colorful. Finally, the front and back matter are excellent.
What I Dislike: Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible - a version likely unfamiliar to most. It was a little distracting to me because I've memorized John 3:16 in different, more common versions.
Overall Rating: Excellent
Age Appeal: 4-8
Publisher Info: B&H Kids, 2008; ISBN: 0805446338; Hardback; $9.99
You may also purchase a set of 10 paperbacks from Christianbook.com for $39.89 -- perfect for Sunday School gifts!
Special Info: Jesus' face is pictured twice in the illustrations.