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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: Love Letters from God - Bible Stories for a Girl's Heart

Love Letters from God - Bible Stories for a Girl's Heart by Glenys Nellist is everything a person might look for in a book to read their kids. It's beautifully illustrated by Rachel Clowes, has simple messages, and kids love to lift the flaps in books. How this book appears to vary from the other books in the Love Letters from God series is slightly troubling though. The other books feature stories from the most popular people of the Bible like Noah and David, and some we might not be as familiar with like Nathan. The difference is how the women of the Bible are sometimes depicted between the other books stories gets a little different treatment.


Summary: In this heart-warming picture book designed for girls, author Glenys Nellist tells the inspiring stories of incredible women in the Bible. With beautiful illustrations by Rachel Clowes and sweet lift-the-flap envelopes, each story delivers a special message for children to open as they read their own personal love letters from God. Full of warmth and love, this picture book will fill girls' hearts with the wonder of the Lord. The stories of Eve, Miriam, Hannah, Mary, and many more will delight children and remind them of the bond they can share with God, just like the women of the Bible.
 By page 9 girl's have already been reminded twice that God can still use you despite bad choices. The love letter from God on page 5 states
"So remember this - even if you make some bad choices, like Eve did, talk to me about, I will cover you with my love and forgiveness, just like I covered Eve. You are good."
 People could argue Adam gets the same treatment in the other book, Love Letters From God - Bible Stories, but unlike the girl's version, he is mentioned as a unit with Eve. The photo on the front of Love Letters from God: Bible Stories even shows them both together unlike on the girl's version where it is just Eve.  On page 8,
"Rahab was ready for a new start. She had made some bad choices. Was it too late for her to change, or could this God save her?" 
We all know Rahab was "the oldest profession", and we all can agree that is NOT  a part of the story to share with the reading group of 4-8, but I was a curious enough kid to ask what bad choices Rahab had made. No one who was responsible would have told me what those choices were because I was too young to know. In this case, it was better to omit than to lead to questions you can't answer yet. Plus this book mentions Esther, and we all know how Esther had to compete against other women to replace King Herod's first wife.  So as responsible adults we omit that when sharing the story with kids. If you don't want to omit a piece then it's better to wait to share the story of Rahab and Esther when kids are older and understand. The stories make more sense when all the information is there.

Then there are stories like Deborah and Hannah in the Bible, which have special lessons to learn like Nellist writes about, but unlike Esther, they're side characters to the major ones like Barak and Samuel. Plus, the author doesn't say once Hannah birthed Samuel that he will go on to make bad choices. Also, the way Deborah's story is told in the book presents the author at odds with herself on how she wants to depict Deborah. On page 10 Nellist describes Deborah as the leader of her army,
"And calmly and confidently she sent for Barak, the leader of her army." Nellist writes on page 11, "Barak assembled his army and began to march towards Mount Tabor." And, "As Barak marched out with his army, God overturned all those strong, iron chariots, and the Israelites won." 
One moment Deborah is mentioned as the leader and the next it is Barak. Of course, we can gather that Barak has the highest position of the army, but either he was the leader or not. Simply, the words speak for themselves in this case.

A few of the stories don't quite capture the gist of the women's trials because you have to leave out details to keep it age appropriate. The stories encounter a lot less to grapple with as you continue the book. The stories of Martha, the Widows Mite, Mary, and more don't include topics that someone might need from the story to understand the complete emotions of the event. Rahab, Esther, and Eve always had such complex situations that as a kid it was more overwhelming to take in what they were experiencing in their stories. Many women of the bible are never even referred to by name, and instead, have to be identified by their situations.

The biggest focus should be what a child could take away from the read. Two of the biggest character stories focus on making mistakes. The next biggest focus on characters who weren't central to the biblical story. Others are of unnamed women. How could a child be inspired? Who would be inspired by characters with no names and side roles?

This book was provided by Handlebar Publishing in exchange for a review.

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