Book Review: When God Made You

Book Review: When God Made You

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It’s both heartening and a source of pride that in a time when writers and editors are calling for more diverse books in children’s literature, an Orthodox writer and illustrator don’t just step up to the plate, they hit an out of the park home run.

It’s also a delight to see a book that bridges the gap between writer and reader in a way that creates a warm, cozy, safe space from the title page of the book to the author and illustrator biographies and dedications on the very last page.

Author Jane Meyer and artist Megan Elizabeth Gilbert have a wonderful magic when they make books together. When God Made You isn’t their first collaboration. They also did The Child’s Guide to the Divine Liturgy, also published by AFP. And the gentle, engaging words and pictures in both books can’t help but make a kid feel good – about themselves, and about their faith.

On the title page of When God Made You, the pair’s most recent book, the words, “What beautiful things was God thinking when He made YOU,” are surrounded by a list of Christian virtues, a prayer for the reader and a request for prayers from the reader. Instant connection – the reader feels drawn into the world of the book, welcomed and cherished.

The book introduces readers (because parents will definitely want to enjoy this too!) to different characters and describes the things that God sent each child when he made them. Makani, for instance, was sent “a whispering breeze filled with pungent scent,” among other delightful gifts, so he could explore. Alia had “three tear-shaped droplets” spooned onto her lips and was sent a “silken hair from a desert horse’s mane wound around a silver flute” (along with some other lovely items), and God told Alia to go and sing.

Each child gets not only whimsical, unusual gifts, but each is given traits and virtues that will aid him or her in the job God wants the individual to do. Each child is from a different part of the world – the deserts of Arabia, the cold, bright lands of Scandinavia, the British Isles, Africa, the deep, mystic desert of Australia, Greece, Holland, Afghanistan, Hawaii, Central and South America.

Whether the readers are actually from these countries or their ancestors came from them to somewhere else, everyone who reads this book will feel included and know without a doubt that when God created humans, he used a great deal of love and imagination and an entire pallet of colours to do so. They’ll also know that the reader is special and blessed and loved by God.

The illustrations are bright and full of movement without overwhelming the text or the message. Megan has a real talent in fitting her illustrations to the mood of the text and highlighting the message between the words in an engaging and active way. Her pictures reach out and draw the reader into the scene. The reader can feel the warmth of the sun on water, smell the desert air, and hear the footsteps of the people in the illustrations. The colours are bright but not overwhelming. They don’t pop off the page, but they are soft enough to blend beautifully with Jane’s gentle words.

At the end of the story, the two continue their message. The last page of the story is a page of children, all different colours, all different homelands and some on crutches and in wheelchairs, holding bowls of goldfish, walking dogs, standing on their heads, smiling, looking puzzled, being serious, being kids. The facing page is a reprise of the title page, but with a quote from John’s gospel encircling the phrase, “What beautiful things was God thinking when he made YOU?”

Turn the page and there’s even more all the way back to the biographies at the end of the book. But I’ll leave you to read the last few pages for yourself.

This is a book that will delight both child and adult for years. Its message is simple, but it’s delivered in a way that invites one back to enjoy it again and again.

When God Made You by Jane J. Meyer and Megan Elizabeth Gilbert Ancient Faith Publishers.
ISBN 978-1-936270-23-1

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About author
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Bev Cooke

Bev. Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. Her first love is writing for young adults, and she has three YA books on the market: Keeper of the Light, a historical fiction about St. Macrina the Elder in 2006. Royal Monastic, a biography of Mother Alexander (Princess Ileana of Romania), also published by Conciliar came out in 2008. Feral, an edgy mainstream novel was released by Orca Book Publishers in 2008. Her latest publication is a departure from her regular work - an Akathist to St. Mary of Egypt, published by Alexander Press in 2010, which was written partly as a response to the seventy missing women from downtown Vancouver's east side, and as a plea to St. Mary of Egypt to pray for those women, and the men and women who live on the streets.

Bev. and her husband live in Victoria, BC where they enjoy two seasons: wet and road construction. They have two adult children, two cats and attend All Saints of Alaska parish.

Bev's very out of date webpage is bevcooke.ca and her blog is http://bevnalabbeyscriptorium.wordpress.com/. It's a little more up to date than the webpage. Bev is planning to blog more and update her webpage very soon, so keep checking back to them and be sure to "Like" her FB page: Bev. Cooke, writer.