At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading Reflections: March 23

I sit here in my den on a still Saturday morning in suburban St. Louis.  My dog stares blankly out the window. There's a major front brewing and coming in from the Rockies with a load of snow. Another winter storm will hold us in its grip for a couple days. But the good news is, on the other side of that, spring is coming.

Nearly 2000 years ago, a band of dedicated yet crushed followers held together in the bowels of Jerusalem. Things looked bleak. It was Friday, and their leader--Savior and Lord--had been killed. But the good news that they didn't see was "Sunday is coming." It was a Sunday planned out from day one.

For all of us, Easter is coming. For those of us who are parents, who have responsibility for children, or who like to teach little ones, the question arises, "How do we teach our children the importance of Easter?" We look for something beyond bunnies but also need a resource that captures a grander story than just brief details of the first Resurrection Sunday. If you're looking for something along those lines, where do you go?

Thankfully, Mark Sutherland and Dunrobin Publishing have given a definitive answer with Mark's Why Do We Celebrate Easter? Now, keep in mind, there are quality Bible story books out there on the market; I was practically raised on the Arch Books series by Concordia Publishing House. Yet nearly every children's Easter story I've encountered limits itself to that weekend.

Mark widens the lens, and this is part of the magic of his book. He begins by asking the reader a question, "Do you ever wonder what Easter is all about?" It's less of a "let me tell you" and more of a "let's explore this together" feel that invites children into the story itself.

One great strength of the book is that Mark sets Jesus' resurrection as the grand culmination of a larger story. He moves briskly through the drama of biblical history: God created us, humans rebelled, Jesus was born, Jesus lived perfectly and ministered faithfully, Jesus died sacrificially. As a teacher in a Christian school, I've noted a fast slide by students into further biblical illiteracy. While students know isolated facts, they fail to grasp the wider biblical story of redemption. Mark's strategy doesn't reverse that instantly, but it is a fantastic corrective. Through this narrative strategy, Mark helps children see that this critical event of the Resurrection was part of God's intentions to intervene and save His people. Human rebellion required divine rescue. Divine rescue required both love and justice, and Jesus' death satisfied both. Yet sin has to be defeated, so Jesus had to break out of the tomb as well. Implicitly yet clearly, Mark's story helps children connect those dots.

As with any children's book, the question arises "How are the illustrations?" No worry. Julie Hammond  handles those with her artwork that complements the story and tone of the book. Her illustrations are drawn with soft colors that accentuate the feelings of hope that arise from the story. It's quite a gift to have an illustrator who assists in the storytelling, yet neither detracts from nor overpowers it. Julie finds that happy medium.

Easter is coming, so make sure you have this on hand for your own children or others you know. And perhaps you'll find yourself saying, "I never saw Easter that way before!"

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