Friday, January 25, 2008

The Light of the World

Even if your child has a Bible, a picture book that chronicles the life of Jesus - from birth to resurrection - can be helpful in giving him or her an overall view of what Christ's life was about. Enter The Light of the World by Newberry award medalist Katherine Paterson.

This beautiful book begins with a short note by the author (who is also a former missionary) explaining that in the beginning, God called for light, and there was light. Many years later, the prophet Isaiah knew humans were living in a dark world, but that God would soon be sending them a different sort Light. "This," the author says, "is the story of light coming into the world."

Paterson begins when an angel tells Mary she will bear God's child. We learn Mary is engaged to Joseph and that Mary's baby is born in a stable. We learn about the shepherds and the wise men, too. We also learn that Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Next, we see Jesus as a man of thirty. He's left his life as a carpenter and begins "the work for which he had been born. He showed God's love by healing those who were sick and making friends with those who had no friends. People came from far and wide to hear the good news of God's love for them."

We learn that Jesus chose twelve men to be his companions and disciples. Then we hear some of Jesus' stories, including the parables of the lost sheep and the farmer who uses seed to plant his crop. We see Jesus heal a lame man, and see him welcome small children to his side. We learn that some people were saying it was against the law for Jesus to call himself the Son of God. We see Jesus on the first Palm Sunday; we see him give the first communion, we see him go to the garden of Gethsemane, "brokenhearted because he know what was going to happen."

Soon, soliders arrive and take Jesus away while people cry out "Crucify him!" Jesus is hung on a cross. (The illustrations show three crosses in the distance; no detail can be seen.) When Jesus died, "darkness covered the earth. The light of the world had gone out." Jesus is buried and a great stone rolled over the opening of his tomb. Two days later, an angel approaches some "women who had loved Jesus." She tells them: "He has risen from the dead." We learn that Jesus' friends saw him many times after that, but "even after he went away to heaven, they knew his Spirit was always with them. The light had come into the world, and not even the darkness of death could overcome it." The author concludes:

"The light still shines through everyone who, like Jesus, lives the good news of God's loving kingdom."

What I Like: The illustrations by Francois Roca are gorgeous. They are warm in color, rich in detail, and reminiscent of many old master paintings of biblical scenes. I also appreciate Paterson's simple, down to earth retelling of Christ's life. We have a tendency to break up Jesus' life into books about Christmas and books about Easter, so it's refreshing to have a synopsis of his whole story in one book that can be read in a single sitting.

What I Dislike: Nowhere does the author say that Jesus was the Son of God. Instead, she has the angel say, "He will be great. Indeed, he will be called the Son of God." (Emphasis mine.) It's a subtle flaw, but an important one. Also, I would have liked a stronger acknowledgement that Christ lives even today.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: 4 - 8.

Publishing Info: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008; ISBN: 0545011728; hardback, $17.99.

Buy now from buy at for $12.23

Special Info: You may wish to take a peek at the author's website.


Anonymous said...

Great suggestion for those looking for gifts for little children. Thanks, Kristina.


L.Rickard said...

I have to say, I don't think the flaw is subtle. I also don't think it's accidental. This is the second children's book I have come across that, in the interest of 'politeness', alters the story of the bible with subtle changes that identify Jesus as a very wise and nice person but exclude or ignore his Divinity. People are entitled to their opinion, and if someone wants to re-interpret the orginal biblical narrative, they're are welcome to make that decision. However, any book touted as an accurate retelling of the story should, at the very least, make it clear that the original text has been added to, regardless of the reasons behind the addition. As it is, the title and descriptions are highly misleading, and frankly, I find that dishonest and offensive.