A quick glance at the dark content of many books marketed to kids and teens today may drive you to your local Christian bookstore to find a better alternative. Most of us probably assume because a book is sold by a Christian bookstore it is automatically a great book for our kids to read. Unfortunately, bookstores don’t have the staff or time to vet every book they sell. Often they depend upon publishers known to specialize in religious books to do some sort of vetting before agreeing to publish a “Christian” book.
After a couple of years of reviewing Christian books, I will tell you it is important to be very aware of the content of Christian books marketed to children and teens. Most are perfectly fine and as good or better than secular alternatives. A few teach a theology so far removed from mainstream Christianity as to be almost unrecognizable as Christian by most. A larger number are okay, but can be confusing to small children or introduce topics at potentially inappropriate ages.
The book I was recently given to review, God Gave Us Angels, by Lisa Bergren is an example of the latter. The premise is simple. A parent polar bear is trying to explain angels to his child polar bear. Nothing in the book is particularly wrong or unbiblical exactly, but the book left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I gave the book to my teen daughter, who works with children a lot, to read as well. She came away with the same feeling.
Basically, it turns out we both had the same issues. First there is a short section on “scary” angels. These are the angels with flaming swords mentioned in the Bible. They are indeed mentioned in the Bible, but I am not sure it is necessary to paint such a vivid picture for the children who are often reading picture books at very young ages.
The other problem I have with the book is my personal preference. I see over and over children who have confused Bible stories as just another genre of fictional literature. Personally, I believe stories told in the Bible are mainly historical in nature. Angels for example are real beings in God’s Kingdom. While I don’t have a problem with polar bears explaining biblical principles, I do think it is confusing for obviously fictional bears to talk about how they will be in Heaven and see angels. (Sorry to those who think all dogs go to Heaven!) If the author had made a more concrete separation between the fictional polar bears and the real life experience of angels, I would have liked this book a lot more.
Having said that, I believe a parent reading the book to a child can explain the difference between fact and fiction and can even use this book as a learning tool to teach the difference. The illustrations are lovely and it is a part of a larger series (I haven’t read any other books in the series.) For very young or easily frightened children, I would just skip the part about the angels with flaming swords (some children might actually love that part.) All in all, it is definitely better than some books marketed to children – both religiously and in the secular domain. It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s a slightly better than average picture book for young children.
A copy of this book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review.