I am grateful to Matthew Paul Turner for sending me a copy of his latest children’s book, I Am God’s Dream, as a thank you for my review of the children’s book by Rachel Held Evans, What Is God Like?, that he completed and published. I want to write at least a little about it. Having read a lot of children’s books, first as a child and then to my child, I am struck after reading Turner’s latest that most of those books are about something or someone else rather than about the child who is reading or hearing it. The words and illustrations in I Am God’s Dream on the other hand celebrate whoever the child is as someone valuable as an expression of God’s own creative activity. Even Jewish and Christian books for children that emphasize that they are God’s creation tend to be more focused (just like their adult equivalents) on conveying information about God, i.e. theology, to children, rather than fostering an understanding of who they are as a consequence of that information.
I did wonder at times whether some of the vocabulary might be too challenging for young readers. I love the word transcendence, for instance, but I tend to hesitate before using it even with adults since I’m not sure how clear a concept it is. Thus when I came across the word “transcend” in the book (and a few other words raised the same concern to a lesser extent) I feared it might go over the heads of the intended audience. But then I saw the video below featuring children reciting lines from the book with such joy, and also saw the delight expressed by a Baptist preschool that had read the book to children, and I was reassured. Indeed, more than that, I was challenged, as I’d hate to think that in my effort to convey important truths to children I underestimate them. This is a book that I think gets the balance just right – it tells children they are amazing, previous, and most importantly capable, and it trusts them to understand the message and know what to do about it. In an era in which there are lots of messages both explicit and implicit that demean, denigrate, and discourage children (as well as adults), books like this are at least metaphorically, but probably also literally, a Godsend.
I’ll be passing the book on to someone with one or more children the appropriate age so that I don’t miss the opportunity for others to benefit from the book. Thank you, Matthew, for writing it, Estrella Bascuñan for illustrating it, and Convergent (Penguin/Random House) for publishing it!
Now, here’s that video I mentioned…