Back in February, I received a gift copy of the book Everything Tells Us about God by Katherine Bolger Hyde, from Ancient Faith Publishing. I was so excited to get it in the mail and open it with my little ones. And then, I was excited to review this children’s book, but several huge events (both good and bad) put a hold on all Homely Hours posts. But now that we are back, here, finally, is our review!
Everything Tells Us About God opens with “the world is like a giant puzzle God made to tell us about Himself the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every piece whispers one of His secrets — all we need to do is listen.” The rest of the book moves through the “puzzle pieces” of creation, from sun to wind to water to bread to rocks and on and on through schools and games and families, to finally “YOU. You have hands to serve God, a heart to love Him, lips to praise Him. . . God is talking to the world around you — through YOU!”
First of all, the illustrations by Livia Coloji are lovely — cheerful, bright and warm representations of the elements of daily life. Both of my children really enjoy looking at this book on their own, probably because the book has pictures of many of our normal activities — playing in water, eating, hide-and-seek, hiking, etc. The illustrations encourage attentiveness to ordinary things. While each page is simple, Coloji still includes interesting details that reward a closer look. And, the style of the illustrations harmonize well with the simple straightforwardness of the book.
With simplicity in mind, I love the clear, direct language in this book. Many times I am interested in a religious children book, but when I preview it on Amazon, I decide not to buy it because it uses cutesy or irreverent language when talking about God. Even though I believe that our Trinitarian God is personal and I remember that the Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father,” I don’t believe this gives us license to baby-talk about God. I worry that some of our religious children’s books are presumptuous in the name of making it “kid-friendly.” So, for that reason, I appreciate Hyde’s simple and direct language that is both warm and reverent.
In terms of content, of course, I love the message of the book: finding God in the ordinary elements of creation. I think it affirms what children already suspect: that the world is meaningful, personal and infused with specialness. One of the first things I was thankful for was the inclusion of baptism and the Eucharist at the beginning of the book. It situates the sacraments within the normal experiences of life. In this, I think that the book shows that these sacraments aren’t sacred things cut off from the rest of life, but the fullness of real life — elements of wholeness, true holiness.
(For our evangelical readers, this book is from an Orthodox press. My specific Anglican church would agree with the theology of the sacraments, but some of our more evangelical readers may take issue with the sentence that our sins are “washed away in the baptismal font.”)
If I have a critique, it’s small. I think that the puzzle metaphor could have been continued throughout the main section of the book — perhaps through a puzzle piece missing in each illustration or something like that. I came to the end of the book “Do you see God’s puzzle coming together?” and the first time I read it, I had totally forgotten the puzzle theme. But this is a small critique and doesn’t detract from my appreciation of the book’s intent.
Overall, this book affirms the main message that I want to communicate to my children: that the whole world is a sacrament; everything really does tell us about God. The sacraments we receive at church are just the beginning, the firstfruits, the supercharged “outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.” My children aren’t quite ready to read As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins, but they learn that “Christ plays in ten thousand places” in our backyard, in our kitchen, in our town, in our church, and in the books we read together, like this one.