When Joey lies down in his bed that night, his thoughts about heaven are interrupted by a tap on the window - from a little girl with wings...Gabby, his guardian angel, who says she can take Joey to heaven for a little while if he'll just wear a gold "visitor's" pin. Before Joey can count to 10, the two are at heaven's "golden gate."
The first thing they see are family's greeting and hugging each other. "They're celebrating," Gabby explains. "That's what happens when people die and go to heaven. They're greeted with love by all their friends and family..." Then Gabby takes Joey soaring over a wondrous landscape, filled with rich hues, countryside, and cities. There's even an amusement park with roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and cotton candy.
Next they go into outer space. Gabby says, "All this is part of heaven...Anyone who lives here can explore the entire galaxy." When they fly back to an earth-like location, Joey notices all the animals - even tigers and zebras, dogs and cats, playing and getting along. Gabby tells him, "They never fight. They all get along." Joey even sees beautiful brontosauruses, who let him pet them.
Finally, Gabby shows Joey "the best part of heaven." She points to a bright light in the distance: God. "One day when you live here, you'll be able to go over the hill and meet Him face-to-face," Gabby says. She also says that God created all of the things they've seen so far, expressly so humans could be happy in heaven forever.
By then, it's time for Joey to go back home. As soon as Gabby disappears, in walks Joey's mom, telling him it's time to get ready for school. Joey bursts with news about heaven, informing her it wasn't merely a dream - his guardian angel really did take him to visit heaven. Joey's mother shakes her head, but doesn't want to argue - yet when she makes his bed, she finds a small gold "visitor's" pin.
"Joey just smiled at her as he rushed out the door to school."
What I Like: Erwin Madrid has done a fine job of illustrating this book. His images are vivid, beautiful, and sometimes fun. He makes heaven look like kid-paradise, complete with friendly dinosaurs.
What I Dislike: I'm disturbed by the addition of fantasy and extra-biblical content in this book. For example, while it's true the Bible talks about angels looking out for humans, it never once uses the words "guardian angel," even though Gabby insists, "Everyone has a guardian angel." Another example is the description of the gates of heaven being gold. The Bible says there are twelve gates and they are pearly (Rev. 21:21). I know of nowhere in the Bible where it says our relatives will greet us as we enter heaven, and while I agree that heaven will be a beautiful new earth, I'm not certain it will have amusement parks or cotton candy. There is even a non-biblical error: There is no such dinosaur as a brontosaurus.
As we read this book, my 5 year old kept asking, "Is that true, Mommy?" Sadly, often I had to answer, "no."
I also wish that, like many other children's books about heaven, the author gave Bible references for the things he is teaching.
Publishing Info: Harvest House; 2013; ISBN: 978-0736955096; hardback, 32 pgs., $11.19
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Special Info: You can watch a video trailer for this book at the author's website. Also, you might read our reviews of other books by Anthony DeStefano - and check out our reviews of other kids' books about heaven.