Thursday, March 15, 2007

God, Can You Hear Me?

Justine Simmons, co-host of MTVs Run’s House, released her first book this month. Unfortunately, God, Can You Hear Me? confuses me.

In a letter to the parents, Simmons explains how important to is for children to learn they can turn to God with any problem. "Though we [as parents] do the best we can," Simmons writes, "sometimes our answers aren't good enough to calm our children's fears or steer them in the right direction." Yet each of the dozen problems included in the book aren't answered by God or God's word. Hence, my confusion.

Each two-page spread covers a difficult situation a child might face: One child wants a baby brother or sister because she's lonely. Another has a disabled friend and wonders if she did something wrong, and that's why she's disabled. Another child lives with one parent and feels different from kids who live with two. One child complains that other kids make fun of his skin color. Another wonders if Grandma, who recently died, is gone forever. Another wonders if Mommy and Daddy, who argue, still love each other. One child wants to be thinner. Another child wonders if Mommy still loves him even though she raises her voice at him. Another child's dog ran away, and he wonders if the critter is okay. Another has parents of different skin colors and this makes her feel out of place. Another child complains she can't have cool, expensive clothes. And one child has a stepfamily and wonders if he'll ever fit in.

The author attempts to answer these difficulties not with scripture, but with what is mostly modern thinking. For example, when talking about Grandma's death, Simmons writes: "Grandma is no longer with us, but if you cherish the memories of the time you spent together, you will always keep her alive in your heart."

What I Liked: The illustrations by Robert Papp are terrific. They depict children of many ethnic backgrounds in many situations. At first glance, they are so detailed, they look like photographs.

What I Dislike: Given that the author's purpose is to teach children to take their problems, concerns, and questions to the Lord, I think God's word ought to at least be mentioned - but it's not. And while it's true that trying to address these childhood concerns would be challenging, I find a few of the answers Simmons gives a little too pat. I'm especially concerned with the question about Mommy and Daddy arguing. Simmons replies that "they still love each other," but, sadly, this may not always be true. And if a child's parents are headed for divorce, yet a book presenting itself as providing answers from God tells them otherwise, how will this affect the child's future relationship with the Lord?

Overall Rating: Poor.

Age Appeal: 3 -8

Publishing Info: HarperCollins, 2007; ISBN: 0061153974; hardback, $16.99

Buy Now at Amazon for $11.55.

Special Info: Check out an online portfolio of illustrator Robert Papp's work.

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