Monday, January 26, 2009

How Far Is Heaven?

Children are curious and ask questions about everything. How Far Is Heaven?, written by Jan Muir Peine and illustrated by Doris Gabel, is a touching story about a young boy, Brady, who wants to know how far away Heaven is and how to get there. Brady’s Grandpa (Grampy) has died. Brady knows Grampy went to Heaven, but Brady wants to know more. How far is Heaven? Is it near the Milky Way or out past Jupiter? Brady wants to know how to send a letter to Heaven. Does Heaven have a postman? So, he asks his mom for advice. She tells him, “You don’t have to send a letter to let Grampy know you care. You can talk to God about him in a sweet little thing called prayer.”

The illustrations are bright and bold and full of texture and patterns. They are a great accompaniment to the text. They are also very special. Each picture contains at least one hidden Christian symbol. For example, there are three symbols on page 2: (1) A tree, which stands for the Tree of Life; (2) the sun, which stands for Christ; and (3) water, which is clean and pure like a baptism. There is a glossary in the back of the book explaining the symbols used on each page.

But, there’s more to the illustrations than that. The book is dedicated to the memory of siblings Brad and Brooke Franklin. They were each killed in separate automobile accidents on the same stretch of road. As a way to honor their memory, the artist incorporated patterns and objects from the kids’ own clothing and personal items. For instance, on pages 21-22, the illustrations of the bed pillows match the pillow made from one of Brooke’s old T-shirts. And, on pages 25-26, the pattern for Brady’s T-shirt was taken from Brad’s favorite shirt.

What I Like: I like the idea of a story about a child asking about Heaven and how to get a message to someone there. It’s important for children to understand they can talk to God through prayer and ask God for anything, even to deliver a message to someone who has died and gone to Heaven. And, they will understand that Heaven is a special place to be.

I also like the idea of a book being dedicated to someone's memory (in this case the memory of two siblings) using illustrations from their lives to enhance the book.

What I Dislike: The story is written in rhyme. There are places where the rhyme scheme and rhythm is forced, making the text less than smooth. I think the story would have been better if it had not been written in rhyme.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: The publisher does not give a specific age group, but I believe ages 4-8 would be appropriate for a book of this nature.

Publisher Info: Ashway Press, 2008; ISBN: 0975457594; Paperback: $6.99.

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