Cheryl F. Coon is the author of Books to Grow With: A Guide to the Best Children's Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband and children in Portland, Ore.
If You Wanted to Find God, Where Would You Look? A Review of Children?s Books about God
The first time your child asks about God, you may find yourself struggling to explain what you believe. Fortunately, there are good children’s books in which authors have mused on the question and offered a wide variety of explanations which will feel comfortable to Jewish and interfaith families.
God In Between by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Sally Sweetland (Jewish Lights Publishing; 1998; for ages 4-8) offers interfaith families a gentle non-sectarian view: that God is within us and in the relationships we form with each other. To convey her message, Sasso, a rabbi and mother, creates a myth about a town with no roads and no windows. Accompanied by Sweetland’s impressionistic pastels, Sasso posits that the town sends its residents who have windows in their houses to look for God. Her made-up myth lacks the staying power of true myths and legends, but her gentle message is one that may resonate with many interfaith families.
“God is in the between,” said The Ones Who Could See Out Windows. In the between. In between us.”
If God In Between offers a somewhat abstract message, your young children may appreciate Pip and the Edge of Heaven by Elizabeth Liddle, illustrated by Lara Jones (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; 2003; for ages 3-7). Pip is a little boy who likes to ask questions but who doesn’t wait to hear the answers. Depicted in a childlike scrawl, Pip asks his mother every night at bedtime about God and heaven... but he usually provides his own answers! Pip and the Edge of Heaven offers a nice opportunity to turn your child’s question around and find out what he thinks about God.
Perhaps your child is a budding naturalist, in which case he or she may enjoy the explanations offered in In God's Kitchen by James Kavanagh, illustrated by John Belisle (Waterford Press; 2004; for ages 4-8). Loaded with facts about animals and illustrated in warm, comforting colors, this is a story that offers the image of God as a cook in the kitchen. Told in appealing Dr. Seuss style, In God's Kitchen focuses on and emphasizes the diversity of life on earth and the interrelatedness of all living things.
For families who want to consider God in a different way, Julius Lester and Joe Cepeda’s richly imagined and illustrated What A Truly Cool World (Scholastic Press; 1999; for ages 5-9) offers an African American God. The story is non-sectarian and the dialogue and characters are definitely contemporary, such as Shaniqua, the Angel in Charge of Everybody’s Business! God is delighted with what he has created until Shaniqua tells him: “I don’t want to hurt your feelings or nothing like that, but what you made looks kind of boring.”
With the assistance of Shaniqua and Bruce, God’s personal assistant, God goes on to add details that make the world even more colorful and appealing. It’s fun to see how cooperation--between God and humans--is required in order to make the world truly wonderful.
For the interfaith family, all of these books offer opportunities to open a conversation with a child about his or her view--and your view--of God. Together, these books offer a sense of God as comforting, creative, open-minded and working in cooperation with us to make the world a better place.