“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” begins the ancient account of creation in Genesis. While there are countless children’s Bibles and picture books out there about how life began – and how our relationship with God, the earth and one another became sour – three new stories uniquely approach this familiar subject and ease children’s fears about the future.
In her poetic picture book, The Story of Us, out this week from Beaming Books, award-winning author Mitali Perkins focuses on the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. These characteristics that existed at creation “were for Us. We were for them,” writes Perkins. “Breathtaking – mark the breeze! Thirst Quencher – Dance with the Rain! Tillers – Play in the Mud! Firebuilders – tend the flames!”
So, in thought-provoking illustrations by Kevin and Kristen Howdeshell, the first man and woman can be seen running, dancing, playing and working in the newly created world. But after rejecting their creator, the nameless Adam and Eve must contend with an altered creation in which the elements “Tornado. Flood. Earthquake. Inferno” rise up against them.
“We fought back,” writes Perkins. “Greed. Poison. Waste. Arson. In war – you and us.”
The result? Devastation. Until one day Perkins writes: “The Redeemer came – to change the chaos, using them to minister to us.” And so Perkins’ poem takes an unexpected turn and reveals God’s use of fire, water, air and earth to heal, serve, save and restore the world.
Not your typical Genesis retelling, the Perkins story speaks to today’s environmental struggles and concerns with vigor and sensitivity while offering hope for a peaceful future.
Also coming this month is God’s Creation: Help Tell the Story (ZonderKidz, 2022) for younger children and those with shorter attention spans, featuring big, bold illustrations and text that invites children to be part of the story. In this playfully illustrated story by artist Joanne Liu, clapping, sliding hands down the pages, tilting and shaking the book seems to help the story progress. With the surprising way the illustrations unfold, the book is fun and engaging, evoking the goodness of creation before we fell from grace.
Another notable picture book publication, The Story of God with Us (Wolfbane Books, 2021), begins with Genesis and points to a bright future. In it, authors Kenneth Padgett, a fellow at his South Carolina church, and Shay Gregorie, an ordained minister, collaborate to tell a story that emphasizes God’s purpose in creation: “So he could dwell with us and we with him . Always and forever, world without end.”
This theme is repeated throughout the book, which tells of God’s faithful presence among his people—accompanying the Hebrews on their journey into the desert, dwelling with them in the building of the temple, and finally appearing to the world through “the long-sought royal son David, the great-great-grandson of Abraham the everlasting King, Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.”
But the best is yet to come, as Padgett and Gregorie write: “God will make the whole world a new land, filled and flowing with His life and light!” When that day comes, God will dwell with us again: “Forever and ever , world without end!”
Even if the news is grim, that’s a promise we can stand by. As each of these children’s picture books reveals, the same God who was present at the beginning of creation promises to be with us until he restores it.
Author and educator Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reviews affirmative books in a small house in the great woods of Midcoast, Maine. Connect and find her books on Meadrue.com
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