Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Heaven is for Real for Kids

Millions of adult readers purchased the New York Times bestseller Heaven is for Real - the story of a three year old boy named Colton and his trip to heaven. And now there is a picture book version, Heaven is for Real for Kids. Written by Colton Burpo with input from Colton's parents, Todd and Sonja Burpo, the book features illustrations by Wilson Ong - who apparently had to get Colton's approval for every image, to ensure accuracy.

The picture book begins by explaining that one day Colton got sick and went to the hospital. There, he closed his eyes - and when he opened them, he was with Jesus. Then the book switches to "Colton's voice" - although parents may wish to note the story was not specifically dictated by Colton.

First, there's a description of Jesus: He really loves children, his eyes sparkle, and he has a bright smile. The accompanying picture shows Jesus with a gold crown, a purple sash, and wounds on his hands.

Colton then says Heaven has beautiful music and lots of colors, including rainbows "everywhere you look." The streets are gold and the gates are made of pearl. "There is no sun, but it never gets dark in heaven because the light of God is so bright." Everyone is happy.

Colton says that while in Heaven he met John the Baptist, King David, Samson, Peter, John, and Mary (Jesus' mother). He also met his grandfather (who died before Colton was born), and a sister who his mother miscarried. There are tons of children in heaven, and lots of angels. Michael and Gabriel "are as tall as giants" and Michael's sword "is covered in flames and is really powerful." Angels sing praises to God, "deliver messages," and "protect people on earth." The people in heaven are depicted with wings and halos, and in the notes following the story, Colton is quoted as saying, "You get to choose if you want to walk or fly." There are lots of animals in heaven, too - animals we'd recognize from earth. Jesus also has a large white horse with a rainbow colored mane.

Colton also sees God's throne. God the Father is "HUGE." Jesus sits to his right and the Holy Spirit is nearby. "A little chair was brought in for me, and I sat by God the Holy Spirit. I was praying for my dad because I knew he was really worried about me." Jesus finally says, "'Colton, you have to go back now. I am answering your dad's prayer.' Then I woke up, and was in my hospital bed again." The book ends:

"I will never, ever forget my trip to heaven...Jesus really, really loves children. And Jesus really, really loves you!"

What I Like: I can find nothing in this book that contradicts the Bible and I like that biblical quotes are included throughout.
What I Dislike: I felt cautious about introducing this book to my children. They were excited about it, to be sure. My 6 year old's eyes were as wide as saucers when I told her the little boy in the book says everything in the book is true. But I also didn't feel comfortable saying that this book presented an accurate picture of heaven. It may very well - but then again, it may not. There is plenty of information in it that's extra-biblical (that is, it includes details not included in the Bible). It's one thing for adults to read this account and use critical thinking and prayer to decide if it is accurate, but is a child looking at a picture book old enough to do this? In the end, I decided the book was a good launch pad for discussing what the Bible says about heaven, and how we might determine whether Colton really experienced heaven or not.
Overall Rating: This is a tough one to rate, but if you can accept that the account is an accurate one, I'd give it a "Very Good" rating.
Age Appeal: 4 to 8. Younger kids may like it, too, but I don't think they will have the maturity to discuss the accuracy of the account.

Publishing Info: Thomas Nelson; 2011; ISBN: 978-1400318704; hardback, 32 pgs., $14.99.

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