No grandchildren yet, and my children are grownups now, yet I have always loved picture books and board books. The illustrations and the simple wording in the best children’s books can teach adults if we spend time with them.
Try it. Stop. Look at the pictures. Consider the words in the light of the picture on the page and think as a little child.
This is not a call to childishness. I am fifty-five, not a child. Yet there is a need, even at fifty-five, to examine the ideas at the very center of the web of my beliefs. When life began, when all I could hear was my mom’s voice, then learning started. After birth, Dad and Mom loved me, sang to me, and helped explain the world.
I was blessed in my parents, blessed in my grandparents. My Papaw and Granny and my Papaw and Nana would read to me, imagine with me, and walk with me telling me very old stories. I was then blessed in my teachers in Clendenin. One teacher saw I loved making small plays for kids and gave me a Scholastic book of plays and let me “direct” during lunch. God bless you, Mrs. Dyse (spelling?).
Yet despite all that goodness, I want truth more than comfort and so I must push past all that good feeling to see what is there. What did I hear, learn, and gain from those early lessons? Are they true, good, and beautiful? Do they endure?
So far, so good, and the best children’s books help do for children what the books my parents and early teachers gave me. I do not recall the books anymore, but they must have been good, because they left a residue of beauty and truth better than I am.
The simple book is the hardest to write as every work counts and there are no verbal tricks possible. The illustrations must move the store, a bit like a comic book, but without all the tricks that can work with grownups. The colors, shapes, and movement must be as simple as the words.
Simple is not stupid nor need it be ugly. Instead, simple in the best board books is like Shaker furniture: built to endure verbally, visually, and in the volume your child can hold many times.
From Eden to Bethlehem is this best sort of book.
There is theology embedded in the images, almost icons, and method to the words chosen. The author, Danielle Hitchen, is classically educated and brilliant, most evidently so in her uncanny ability to say in a few word what would take me many. She selects as well as she writes, picking the perfect phrase from Sacred Scripture to capture an animal. The illustrator, Jessica Blanchard, has the weight of conveying the glory of the words in pictures and she is up to the job. The pages are not busy, but full. The colors are not harsh or cheap, but rich.
This is a lovely book. Hitchens and Blanchard keep producing them and our School will keep using them. . . And I live in hope to be a grandparent who can sit and create deep patterns of truth, goodness, and beauty in my grandchildren the way my own grandparents, parents, and teachers did for me using these books.
Buy the books.
*I received a review copy of this book. I really did love it!