While this may seem too dull or repetitive, if you've ever helped a student with Bible verse memorization, or any memorization for that matter, you will quickly realize the advantage to having this format in a book. The pages alternate between offering practice repeating (with greater length) the material to be mastered and pages offering lessons and examples for reinforcement and understanding. I volunteered with our church's AWANA program and helped many children memorize verses. This book is excellent in concept and I was excited to get my hands on it. The pictures are colorful but not so detailed or bold that they are greatly distracting from the text. The author took care to present the Gospel message in a child-sized nutshell on the page which emphasizes the name of Christ. Some people may take issue theologically with the final sentence, "If you ask Him, He will forgive your sins and live in your heart!" based on the fact that Jesus is God and is omnipresent, or the fact that the word picture this presents to very concrete and literal-minded children conjures up the idea of a tiny Jesus-man trying to squish into our chest. Odds are, if you've been exposed to any Christian culture, you've heard the phrase before. Hopefully, parents of the Christian faith can take the time to explain to children, as appropriate, what this means in regards to believing in and loving the Lord Jesus as explained in the Gospels, making a life decision to recognize and respect Him as the Lord and Savior, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
If the former potential issue didn't make you bat an eyelash, this next concern I have may or may not. I strive to be thorough in my reviews and tend to have a critical eye. I want to give you all the information I wish I would have prior to purchasing a book. The premise of the book, according to the back cover is at least in part, "to build meaningful connections between God's Word and a child's everyday life," but I am concerned that this book could encourage taking Scripture out of context for interpretation. Now, this is a risk that happens any time we examine a single verse. We need to read God's Word entirely so that we can use our knowledge of different portions of Scripture to help us discern the meaning and application of the text we happen to be focusing on. So, why bother bringing it up now? Because I feel the spread of pages following the phrase "I can do everything" are done without enough consideration. The words state, "Everything? Everything. Nothing is too big or too hard or too scary." The author's lack of clarity here can easily imply that we can do anything, whether or not God agrees with it. Whether or not it is good for us. Whether or not we are permitted to by the authorities governing us. I know this is a simple book for children.
I am not trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but I think it is a BIG DEAL if we give our kids the misconception early on that believing in Jesus can allow them above-human abilities or gifts that can be used for personal desire or gain without being reigned in by the sovereignty of God. We do not want to take a lesson on Bible memorization and accidentally plant a seed that will bear fruit of disappointment and discouragement later in a child's life. Too many people set their hopes on riches, or a life with less stress or better health, assuming that they aren't obeying God well enough, aren't giving enough, aren't praying enough, aren't .... good enough to be receiving these great promised blessings. In reality, not every blessing in the Bible is meant for us today. Some of the blessings were to specific people in specific times and they've been fulfilled. Other blessings are applicable today, but it takes discernment and sound teaching. Google search the words "Philippians 4:13 misinterpreted" and you should come up with at least a couple of good articles which explain how the verse is truly explaining that God will give us the strength to endure whatever comes into our life, and to complete whatever tasks He has ordained for us to pursue. It is, in the end, much more a promise that God will be with us and provide for us during this present lifetime, than a magic formula or chant that can keep us out of hard times or pave the way for any worldly dreams we may have, no matter how noble they may seem in our eyes.
Here's the thing, if you're taking the time to help a child to memorize Scripture, go the extra mile, and lay a foundation in their lives that will not be an inch deep and a mile wide, which will crumble when life gets hard and hectic later in life, creating a great opportunity for doubt. Many kids are raised Christian and choose to walk away from the faith when they become adults. I believe part of this is because the kids didn't have right theology or right understanding of the concepts which were taught to them in good faith, so when they saw how hard things were as adults and it seemed like God wasn't answering their prayers, they came to the conclusion that, "This Christian thing just doesn't WORK for me." That conclusion could possibly have been prevented if they had a better understanding of how our relationship to the Lord works.
I think the author may have realized the true meaning of Philippians 4:13, as the back cover states, "Nothing is too hard for me when God is on my side! He will give me strength to do all the things I need to do every day," however, I see it as a disappointment that she failed to transfer the deeper meaning and parameters into the text of her book. Some of the other pages were absolutely beautiful and inspiring. I don't have anything personal against the author, and am not trying to imply she's directly leading children astray in her creation of this book, but I hope that these comments can be taken into consideration for people who choose to use this book. Have a conversation with your child about what it means, and doesn't mean, to be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Perhaps if they make a second printing the wording of that single page could be adjusted, then we'd have a book I could wholeheartedly recommend without reserve. It is a beautiful work and nothing, nor anyone (except for Jesus!) is perfect after all.
***In the interest of full-disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I am not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.