Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love

Have you ever been smack dab in the middle of doing something when the thought God is smack dab in the middle of all this with me comes to mind? Larry Libby’s and John Blase’s picture book, Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love is a great reminder of God continuous love for us.

Set in a Mexican village, the story follows a conversation between a childless couple and a group of their “adopted” neighborhood kids. The discussion starts with a question from Willie Juan: Little friends, someday when you are in heaven, what do you think Abba will ask you?

The children share ideas that reveal something about their faith, fears, and expectations. For example, one thinks Abba will want to know if Abuela, or grandmother, was loved and cared for. As the children speculate, they ask questions. Willie Juan responds to each child with wisdom and encouragement. For example, when one expresses uncertainty, he says, “Even when we sometimes forget things, Abba always remembers His love for us.”

Throughout the book, the authors use the phrase “smack-dab in the middle” to provide unity and flow to the tale. They also sprinkle in a number of Spanish words, which serves to make the texture of the setting richer. The story concludes with the same warmth and sense of caring that it opens with via a reminder: we are ALL smack-dab in the middle of Abba’s love… a love big enough to hold us all.

The illustrations, done by Nicole Tadgell, are beautiful. She captures the heart of the message by painting realistic looking characters from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. She adds authentic Mexican details to the home, yard, and clothing. Each two-page spread exudes contentment and love and acceptance, which make the illustrations particularly well suited to match the focus of the book.

What I Like: I loved the illustrations and the way the authors/ illustrator incorporated so much of the Mexican culture into the book. As a teacher, I appreciate the inclusion of Spanish words in the text and the repeated use of the phrase “smack dab in the middle.” Plus I like that the message about God’s love was conveyed in every aspect of the book.

What I Dislike: It was a little long in length, which means younger kids might have trouble staying engaged the whole time it takes to read through the story. And, while it's a sweet story, there is not a lot of action going on.

Overall Rating: I’m split between Excellent and Very Good. The illustrations were so well done, and the general sense of warmth in the story so strong, I think the idea of the book is excellent. But the length gives me pause, as does the lack of any real action that will maintain reader attention. Therefore I'll rate it Very Good with a nod towards Excellent.

Age Appeal: Ages 4 and up, although I would personally lean toward 6-8.

Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2011; ISBN:978-1400317134; Hardcover (also available in Kindle), 32 pgs., $14.99

Buy it Now at for $11.99
OR Buy it at for $14.99
OR Buy the Kindle edition for $9.99.

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