A Relatable Story for Children Feeling Lonely (Book Review)

Clark, Jane V. (ed). Tori Comes Out of Her Shell: When You Are Lonely. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 32 pages.

Have you ever been to an event where you did not really know anyone? Did you just dive into conversation with those people or did you stand there, feeling awkward and lonely in the midst of a crowd of people? I know for me, it usually has been the latter. As a youth pastor, I have seen and heard this is sometimes the same case for youth. Whether it is moving to a new house and school or being around a bunch of people you do not know or are not friends with, the feeling of loneliness can set in for youth, both younger and older. What counsel can one give to a child who is faced with such a circumstance? The sought-after words of wisdom may be contained in the story Tori Comes Out of Her Shell: When You Are Lonely, another addition in the “Good News for Little Hearts” series.

An Inviting and Relatable Story

Edited by Jayne V. Clark and illustrated by Joe Hox, Tori Comes Out of Her Shell invites the child to relate to the experience of Tori Turtle. As the turtle family moves from one meadow to the next, Tori finds herself at a new school with no friends. Although her brothers have already made friends, she has not. Spending much of the day by herself, Tori decides to hide inside her shell. That only lasts until her teacher, Miss Minnick, comes over to encourage her to not feel so lonely and to let her know Jesus is with her, giving her a verse card from the Great Book. Knowing the fear of embarrassment before others, Miss Minnick relates to Tori and shares how when she was a student in school, she had an embarrassing moment herself. Later on, Tori Turtle meets Gertie Gecko who struggles with some of the same things and they quickly become friends, both finding out God is with them when they are lonely and becoming friends in the process.

Encouraging Counsel

Tori Comes Out of Her Shell is a relatable story for children who are experiencing loneliness. For parents who are struggling what to say or how to help their kids through such a time, the section in the back of the book entitled “Helping Your Child with Loneliness” will give them great counsel. The Back Pocket Bible Verses in the very back of the book can be cut-out and given to the children who need that reminder from the story. If you know or parent a child dealing with feelings of loneliness, especially facing this issue at school, then offer them the encouragement by reading them Tori Comes Out of Her Shell: When You Are Lonely.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Go-To Counsel for Children with the “Wantsies” (Book Review)

Powlison, David (ed). Gus Loses His Grip: When You Want Something Too Much. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 32 pages.

My toddler nephew loves his snacks. In our home’s pantry, he will find his way to the door, alerting us to the fact he wants a treat. The problem is not too much after his first snack bag, he is up and at it again. One is not enough; he wants more. When he doesn’t get it, his want quickly turns into a command with his foot-stomping the floor. At that moment, what is there to say? What lesson can help him see why maybe having just one more snack is not a good idea? After reading Gus Loses His Grip: When You Want Something Too Much, I can say the words said and lessons learned can be found in this book.

A Gripping Tale

Edited by the late David Powlison and illustrated by the artistic Joe Hox, this tale features Gus Raccoon and the grips sweets have on him. The rule of no sweets in the bedroom is broken by Gus (and eaten all in one night). While his Papa reads the Easter story, Gus’s focus is on the treats in his Easter gift. When his family shops at the market, Mr. Hogster is kind enough to allow Gus and his friend to sample his treats. Gus cannot help himself and stuffs his cheeks and paws full. Upon leaving the market, Papa reaches for Gus’s paw and his son’s problem is found out as the sweets fall to the ground. This leads to a conversation between Gus and Papa, who can relate, about always wanting more. Gus learns that even good gifts can become an issue when they are sought after and loved too much, having a grip on him.

A Go-To Guide

Gus Loses His Grip is go-to counsel for parenting and helping young children to think through what has a hold on their hearts. The section in the back entitled “Helping Your Child with the ‘I Wantsies’” equips parents in dealing with the issue, and the Back Pocket Bible Verses will encourage the kids with this particular truth of Scripture. Whether it is a toddler asking for more food or a preschool and elementary child wanting more and more time playing games and watching videos, this book will helps kids see how problems can arise, namely that whatever it is that has a grip on the child rather than the child having a grip on it. If you are a parent who wants your young child to not be controlled by things but compelled by the love of Christ, then Gus Loses His Grip: When You Want Something Too Much edited by David Powlison is a good place to start.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Moving Counsel for Children Facing Sadness (Book Review)

Welch, Edward T (ed). Henry Says Goodbye: When You Are Sad. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 32 pages.

One of the toughest situations for children to understand may be when they face the death of someone who is dear. Whether it is a person or a pet, the news of a passing brings great sadness to a child. It is in those moments parents or other adults may wonder how they can approach this subject in a way that speaks the truth while also considering the child’s age. They may not have to look any further than the next book in the “Good News for Little Hearts” series. Henry Says Goodbye: When You Are Sad tells a story with both conviction and comfort.

A Moving Story

Edited by Edward T. Welch and illustrated by Joe Hox, Henry Says Goodbye is a moving story about Henry Hedgehog and his pet lady bug, Lila. He cherishes his pet, taking her to school, and introducing her to all his friends. He enjoys the times of fun together and caring for her. Then, one day Lila the lady bug is not feeling well. Henry heads off to school and upon returning home later that day, Henry’s mother shares Lila has died. He takes the news hard. His dad shares with Henry he too went through the loss of a pet and his father encouraged him to share his feelings of loss with God and others, reminding him of the comforting truth in the Good Book that God keeps a record of tears. After facing questions and dealing with grief and anger, Henry finds comfort from this biblical truth as he is comforted by family and friends.

Fitting and Faithful Counsel for Children

Henry Says Goodbye is fitting and faithful counsel for children when they feel sadness, particularly over the loss of someone or something. The animal characters in the story make the story fitting and engaging for the children the book is aimed to reach. The Back Pocket Bible Verse cut-outs move kids beyond the page to apply the truths learned from the story into their own life. Parents are also helped with a section in the back titled “Helping Your Child with Sadness”. Whether you are a parent, guardian, or youth leader, if you want to help younger elementary children learn how to handle sadness and loss in a way that deals with feelings and offers wise counsel, then make the move and buy Henry Says Goodbye.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Nightly Reminder of God’s Goodness for Kids (Book Review)

Gibson, Jonathan. The Moon Is Always Round. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2019. 32 pages.

I recently lost my last living grandparent. Since I teach my niece each week a Bible lesson at my home, I thought the news of his death would be a fitting time to talk to her about suffering and the character of God. However, as I began to prepare, I pondered: How do you teach a four-year-old about God’s goodness in the midst of suffering and death? I found the answer in Jonathan Gibson’s The Moon Is Always Round.

A Story from a Child’s Perspective

Written with the profoundness of a seminary professor and with the heart of a father, Gibson uses an analogy of the moon to teach children on the character of God. With wonderfully-done illustrations by Joe Hox, the story is written from the perspective of a young boy who looks at the sky and sometimes the moon appears round and other nights it does not. His dad reminds him whether the moon appears that way or not, the truth is “The moon is always round.” When the boy’s family celebrates with an expected baby sister on the way, the moon is round. When the parents grieve the death of their stillborn child, the father reminds the boy “The moon is always round”. At the funeral, the father speaks to family and friends and says, “The moon is always round.” Looking to his son, he asks, “What does that mean?” The young boy answers, “God is always good.”

A Book Built on Biblical Truth

This story is more than just a lesson. It is a story born out of the author’s own loss of a stillborn child, Leila Judith Grace, at 39 weeks. There is a page at the back of the book, “The Story Behind This Book”, which shares the true story in greater detail. The closing pages as well contain ideas for using the book as a springboard to teach lessons for children, including a segment for learning about Good Friday. The very last page of the book features a catechism on the moon leading to the goodness of God.

A Nightly Reminder of God’s Goodness in Suffering

The Moon Is Always Round by Jonathan Gibson is a book built on biblical truth and thoughtfully delivered to reach young children with the reminder that just as the moon is always round even when it may not appear so, God is always good, even when suffering and bad times may make that hard to see. If you are a parent who is dealing with loss, whether that be a miscarriage or the loss of an elderly family member, and are struggling with how to explain to your 3-to-6-year-old suffering and death in relation to the character of God, then you need The Moon Is Always Round. Teach kids of the goodness of God in the midst of bad times. This book will serve as a nightly reminder to young children of the goodness of God even in times of sadness and suffering.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Bible for Girls to Dig Into and Color (Book Review)

I have a friend who loves reading the Bible and enjoys meditating on what they read. Once they have reflected on the biblical text, they find drawing helps them process what they have read and engrains the Bible passage further into their memory. While this practice is not my personal forte, I have noticed in teaching children, too, that using different avenues to help Christians meditate and reflect on Scripture can be beneficial. That brings us to the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls.

A Bible for Girls By and With Design

Published by Zondervan (HarperCollins), this Bible contains art for 500 verses or introductions spread throughout the Bible. Each of these designs is ready-to-color pictures drawn by various artists who each brought their own style. As “The Letter to the Editor” makes clear at the beginning of this edition of the Bible, these pictures are not meant to take away from the study of Scripture the Christian needs to be diligent in doing. Moreover, the point of the drawings is to encourage the memorization of that Scripture. From the cover to the style of the drawings, you will notice the features have been specially formatted for girls. That is by design.

A Space for Words Too

Yet, coloring and drawing are not for everyone to process and reflect on Scripture. As I mentioned, I am not someone prone to draw or color. I tend to be someone who writes. That’s what I appreciate about this Bible too. Where the margins are not filled with drawings to color, there are lines to write on. The mixture of ready-to-color pictures and writing lines allows for girls with different learning styles to benefit from this beautiful Bible.

Dig Into and Color

If you want to encourage an 8-to-12-year-old girl to dig into the Word, then consider getting her the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls as a gift. If you know a girl who loves art, then take advantage of this creative resource and hand them this beautiful Bible to dig into and color!

I received a copy of the NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls from Zondervan (HarperCollins Christian Publishing) for this review. This post is sponsored by Zondervan.

Teaching Preschoolers the Promises of God (Book Review)

Lyell, Jennifer. The Promises of God: Storybook Bible: The Story of God’s Unstoppable Love. B&H Kids, Nashville, TN. 2019. 320 pages.

Over the course of this last year, I have started taking one day out of the week to teach my 4-year old niece and 2-year old nephew about God and the Bible. One observation I have made from these times is kids sometimes absorb more than we think. In the interactions I have had with my niece, in particular, she has communicated the truths we have learned, even without me initiating those topics in conversations. I have come to the realization that we as children’s ministry workers as well as parents and grandparents need to be intentional with these young hearts and teach them the storyline of Scripture so they can come to know the God who reveals Himself in it. It is with this same passion Jennifer Lyell has written The Promises of God Storybook Bible: The Story of God’s Unstoppable Love.

The Promise of God in the Stories of the Bible

With striking illustrations by Thanos Tsilis, The Promises of God Storybook Bible shows preschoolers a visual on stories of the Bible while teaching them the promises of God. It goes beyond just sharing well-worn and often-told stories, though. Lyell weaves the stories of Scripture with the thread of God’s promises. She shares a note to grown-ups before diving into 52 promises found in the Bible, 24 coming from the Old Testament and 28 coming from the New Testament. Each story opens up with the main point or promise before telling the narrative as it is found in Scripture. At the close of each story, the Bible reference is attached so the readers can know where to find the promise in Scripture. Each promise is a quick read, ranging from 2-6 pages, and concludes with a list of 3 or 4 questions for the kids to reflect on from the reading.

The Promises of God for Preschool Children

The book delivers on its promise as Lyell highlights the promises of God throughout each story she covers. Along the way, she introduces kids to big words like “covenant” (Lyell 42), “sin” and “sacrifice” (Lyell 48), and “sovereign” (Lyell 77), being sure to define and describe these terms in a way that preschoolers can grasp. While her full-time job is as the director of book publishing and merchandising at LifeWay, the parent or teacher reading this book to children will notice the experience Lyell has had as a preschool teacher at her church. This book deals faithfully with the character of God while formatting the content in such a way to engage preschool children.

The Selection of Stories

With much helpful content in teaching preschoolers about the person of God, the minor issue I found in the book did not have to do with what was in the book but what was missing out of it. After spending most of the Old Testament portion of the promises of God in Genesis through Joshua, the book jumps to the book of Isaiah and soon thereafter to the New Testament. While I understand an author cannot fit all of the stories pertaining to the promises of God in Scripture, I was curious why there was not more attention given to some of the Messianic prophecies and promises of the Old Testament that were then fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. With the greatest and most central promise focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ, I found this to be wanting in a passage like Exodus 11-12 and the blood of the lamb. Nevertheless, the book still does an exceptional job at teaching preschoolers about the promises of God.

What Better Promise to Share

I would be remiss if I did not mention the person this book is dedicated to, in part. In the “Words of Gratitude” section at the end of her book, Lyell dedicates the book to the loving memory of Job Wilson Kemp, a 4-year old boy who lost his life but is now with Jesus. Lyell had the opportunity to teach him as a 3-year old and his questions about the Bible and God stayed with Lyell. The one Job asked questions about is now the one who Job is with in heaven. He is another example that kids are not too young to learn and that they need to hear the message of God’s faithfulness. Case in point, this is a great Bible storybook to use for anyone who has a preschooler in their life. If you are a preschool teacher at your church and you are looking for a resource that can assist you in teaching the Bible in a way that preschoolers understand, then check out The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell. If you are a parent of a preschooler and are wanting them to come to know God, then get a copy of this book and read it aloud for family devotionals. If you are a grandparent and are wanting to pass on the hope of God to the next generation, then pick up a copy and pass it along to your preschool grandchild as a gift. What better promise could you share!

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Publishers in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

A Conversation Starter for Building Bridges (Book Review)

Morrison, Latasha. Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. Waterbrook, Colorado Springs, CO. 2019. 256 pages.

As we look out onto the cultural landscape, there seems to be much to discourage us. We live in a divided nation. Sound bites and tweets from politicians sow the seed of discord. Even worse, our churches seem to still be one of the most segregated gathering in our country. Rather than showing how the gospel has the power to bring together different ethnicities together in worship, too often worship gatherings reveal we are more bound to our cultural comfortability than we care to admit. For the sake of the gospel, this needs to change. In a divided culture, the church needs to put forth the power of the gospel and unite to build bridges rather than building walls. That is what Latasha Morrison attempts to do in her book Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation.

A Passion Put on Paper

As a black woman, Latasha has come face-to-face with what she writes about in the book. She opens up the book, admitting at one point she was ignorant of her own history and how serving as the only black on a church staff made her more aware of some of the issues and problems we currently face. Her heart broke as she saw the church “wasn’t the credible witness for racial reconciliation” (Morrison 5) and how acknowledgment and action toward building bridges needed to be done. Born out of this passion was the ministry of Be The Bridge, the purpose and content which has now been put into this book. The book itself is divvied up into three parts (Part 1: The Bridge to Lament, Part 2: The Bridge to Confession and Forgiveness, Part 3: The Bridge to Restorative Reconciliation). Within each of these sections, you will find chapters that close with a prayer and discussion questions while a liturgy caps off each section as a whole.

A Biblical Matter

There is much good to be found within the pages of this book. The section on lament in part 1 was especially helpful to me as a white male who desires to know how I can be there for my black brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those from other ethnicities as well. Far from arguing whether this matter is biblical, Latasha points to the Bible in recognizing various ethnic groups in the worship of Jesus Christ when He returns. She also wonderfully displays the gospel (Morrison 106), the only true hope we have for reconciliation with God and man.

Wanted: Greater Clarity and Further Thought

Yet, with all the good to be found, there are some areas where greater clarity was needed, or further thought should have been considered. For instance, within the same topic of conversation, Morrison uses the terms racism and colorism. Unsure if there is a distinction, it seems, based on the context surrounding this discussion, one was used when referring to when one color is looking at their same color with a prejudiced attitude. Even after reading the whole argument, I am still not exactly sure, however, if or what the distinction is. As well, while I agree with some of what the author states on systemic racism, the quote on page 116, “ask for forgiveness in participation in racism or structural privilege” is a statement I would tweak as I am unsure I would use the same type of language when addressing structural privilege (which, to be clear, I have no problem it being addressed). Sin does need to be confessed if there is racism, but it gets a little trickier in the conversation on structural privilege. I do believe some need to confess and ask for forgiveness as they have willingly participated in structural privilege to the neglect of considering and caring for minorities. Yet, for those who have been merely ignorant, I am not sure that I would frame it that same way. That said, I am not sure what is put forth on page 116 should be directed on the broad level it is.

An area where further thought could have been presented was on the note about reparations (chapter 8). Morrison uses the Old Testament’s teaching on restitution as a case for reparations. While I appreciate her taking us to Scripture to make her argument, my struggle is if the term reparations is the best fit then or if restitution needs to be the terminology used here to be consistent with Scripture. Additionally, dealing with the personal versus corporate concepts here would have been helpful to think through because in considering this argument from the Old Testament we need to be sure we are understanding in its proper context as well as the context of the Bible as a whole. Honestly, this is an area I struggle to fully grasp what it needs to look like and even in determining how to understand this argument, observing whether this is a requirement for the pursuit of racial reconciliation.

A Conversation Starter for Building Bridges

At the end of the day, you are not likely to agree with everything laid out in this book. I cannot say I do. Yet, Latasha Morrison is just fine with that. Her desire is to work toward unity, not uniformity. That’s the same desire I have! The way forward to unity is through listening to one another and learning from each other. That is what you’ll exactly get in this book. In order to build the bridge in these conversations, you must be the bridge by connecting in relationships. If you want to find a conversation starter that will encourage you to build bridges, not walls, in the pursuit of racial reconciliation, then check out Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison.

I received this book for free from WalterBrook & Multnomah as a member of their launch team program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Not an Easy—But an Essential—Read (Book Review)

Miller, Anne Marie. Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2019. 208 pages.

My heart has been grieved and my anger has been kindled as I have heard report after report of sexual abuse by clergy and church leaders. The very people you would figure you should be able to trust take advantage of and abuse it. Moreover, when victims of this abuse come forward, too often they are not believed or they are silenced. At the time when the church community ought to be coming around in support of the victim, they shame them and isolate them. As an associate pastor overseeing youth and family ministries, I don’t want this to be the response of me or of the congregation I serve as a pastor. I want to provide care and support to the victims and survivors of abuse. Thanks to Anne Marie Miller in her new book, Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors, I am now learning to do just that.

A Book of Experience and to Educate

Anne Marie Miller, the author of the book, does not write this book as a distant learner. For her, this matter is personal. That is because she has experienced sexual abuse by a pastor. She opens up the book by sharing her story of childhood clergy sexual abuse (chapter 1). She has walked in the very shoes and faced the experiences many survivors face. Yet, not only is Miller a survivor; she is also a diligent student of understanding the trauma of abuse as she has studied evidenced-based approaches to healing (Miller 14). While she does admit she isn’t an expert in the field, her experience and educational background make her an ideal guide in the discussion. She knows the areas supporters need to be aware of such as the different types of abuse (chapter 2), who the perpetrators are (chapter 3), and understanding the survivors and victims while also understanding the place and role of supporters (chapters 4-5). After guiding readers through these areas, Anne Miller devotes the final chapters of the books to guide supporters on helping survivors (chapter 6), training them on sexual abuse prevention and response (chapter 7), and finishing with a final word of hope (Conclusion). The 3 appendices in the back of the book further equip supporters in understanding trauma and its effects and defining key legal terms involved in this discussion.

Not an Easy (But an Essential) Read

To be honest, Healing Together is not an easy read. In it, your heart will break and be angered by the abuse Anne Marie Miller suffered in and by the church. You will hear about the horror that comes with experiencing sexual abuse. However, even though it is not an easy read, it is an essential read. In a culture where the church has not responded well (as Miller’s story and the SBC’s response reveals), this type of book gives Christians a guide for caring for sexual abuse survivors. While readers, I being among them, may struggle or disagree with some stances in the book (for example, the role of the church or of biblical counseling in the healing process) (Miller 92), this book does lay out the issues supporters of sexual abuse survivors need to consider as they care for those they love. Even when there is disagreement, what Miller puts forth should cause her readers to think through the matters presented. They will also appreciate the honesty from Miller as she admits “church” is something she is still working on herself, and understandably so (Miller 14). The goal in all of this is that by understanding and coming alongside the abused, the love of Christ would be shown to the world (Miller 87). If you are someone whose heart breaks for survivors of sexual abuse, especially within the church, and you want to consider ways you can care for and come alongside them in the healing process, then take a look at Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors by Anne Marie Miller. Let survivors of sexual abuse know they are not alone!

I received this book from Zondervan on behalf of the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Teaching Kids to See with a Grateful Heart (Book Review)

Surette, Janet. Scarlett’s Spectacles: A Cheerful Choice for a Happy Heart. B&H Kids, Nashville, TN. 2019. 24 pages.

As someone who wears glasses, I know well the difference a set of lenses can make to my vision. I need my eyeglasses so I can see clearly. Something similar can be said when it comes to how we view life. Depending on what lenses we use, we may either look at life with a grumbling or grateful attitude. I think this is especially important to consider when it comes to teaching kids and encouraging them to see life with the right set of lenses. Janet Surette gives us just that in her new children’s book, Scarlett’s Spectacles: A Cheerful Choice for a Happy Heart.

A Story of Spectacles

With colorful illustrations by Shane Crampton, Scarlett’s Spectacles features a young girl named Scarlett and her mother, who teaches Scarlett each day there is a choice to make between a glad or grumbly pair of glasses to see life through. As Scarlett considers her mother’s words, Scarlett’s attitude begins to change. As she puts on the glad pair of glasses, tasks such as cleaning her room and times where her siblings may get more treats than her are not seen as places to whine about what she has to do or what she doesn’t get; rather, with the attitude of gratitude, she is happy to have a room to live in and glad she gets treats as well as her siblings too. Seeing now with a clear vision, she tosses out her grumbly pair of glasses for her glad spectacles. The book ends with a reminder from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything.

Seeing with a Grateful Heart

Scarlett’s Spectacles: A Cheerful Choice for a Happy Heart by Janet Surette provides parents with a resource to give both their children and them a biblical perspective on life and to be glad even for the mundane and everyday tasks. While the book could have been more strategic in laying out the gospel, which is what produces the power to gain a glad attitude over a grumbly one, kids, as they go about their days, will see why they should do so with an attitude of gratitude. If you are a parent of a 4-to-8-year-old who has an attitude problem or if you want to teach your child why and how they can be grateful, then get this book and put on this biblical set of lenses that will teach your kid (and you) to see with a grateful heart!

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Teaching Kids about Being Friends (Book Review)

Goodgame, Randall. Are We Still Friends?. B&H Kids, Nashville, TN. 2019. 64 pages.

There are life lessons parents would do well to teach their kids at an early age. There may be few more important than lessons on friendship. As I have talked with parents of older youth in the church, I have noticed the common theme of the need to teach the youth how the Christian faith informs their friendships. Yet, this is not merely a matter for older youth. From an early age, kids would do well to learn what it means to be a friend and how to treat friends. They now can in Are We Still Friends? by Randall Goodgame.

A Story of Trust and Forgiveness

Illustrated by Cory Jones Are We Still Friends? is the latest addition in “A Slugs & Bugs Story” library. The story uses the principle of Ephesians 4:32 and follows Doug and Sparky as they gather with others for a picnic day. Sparky has brought along Flavor-Blasted Pizza Chips to snack on, which happen to also be a favorite treat of Doug’s. When Sparky gets pulled into a rematch of a picnic game, Doug is left alone with the bag of chips. Tempted to take a bite, he reasons he’ll only try one chip. Before Doug knows it, the bag is gone. When Sparky realizes his chips are gone, Doug lies to cover his wrongful actions before finally confessing to what he did. The story ends with a lesson that friendship is best built on trust and forgiveness.

An Engaging Lesson for Kids

Randall Goodgame does an exceptional job teaching kids about being a friend and he writes in a way that engages children on their age level and understanding. The book does not merely tell about what it means to be a friend but shows how to be one through the message of a story. The use of rhyme makes the reading of the book catchy for children’s listening ears. This is good because the topics of trust and forgiveness are crucial elements of friendship that kids need to learn and know. By taking kids through this book, they will see how sin can hurt friendships and how the gospel informs them.

A Little More Detail

With so much commendable content for parents and guardians to teach their children about friendship, there was one aspect the story did not address, even briefly. For a book that touches on themes of both trust (real friendships need it) and forgiveness (real friendships offer it), it would have been helpful to include in the story that as forgiveness is offered, trust may need to be rebuilt in some ways. An ideal place for the author to have addressed this would have been after one of the other characters offered Sparky a new bag of pizza chips. Instead of just stating in the story that they feasted on the chips, the story could have had Doug facing consequences and, while forgiven, not getting to partake in the feast. It is possible, however, that scene in the story was meant to portray grace, which I would have no issue with. If that was the case, though, I wish it would have been made clearer. Either way, a little more detail could have been added to that portion of the story.

Start with This Book

In the end, Are We Still Friends? by Randall Goodgame provides parents with an engaging resource for their children to learn what it means to be a friend and how the Christian faith informs their friendships. Because the target audience of the book is 4-to-8-year-olds, this book is preparation for kids as they develop and deepen friendships in their youth and as they get older. If you are a parent who wants to encourage and equip your child what it looks like to be a friend and how to treat friends, then start with this book!

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.