Author: Marie-Helene Delval
Illustrator: Barbara Nascimbini
Audience: 4-8 years
Summary: How can we help children know God who is unseen, beyond space and time, beyond our highest thoughts? Marie-Helene Delval says that “the Bible does describe many ways that we can help children discover God in our world.” To prove her point she has selected 40 biblical images and matched them with illustrations and text. A number of the images are concrete nouns-rock, fortress, bread, water, spring, wind, fire, path; a number are abstract nouns-love, justice, beauty, wisdom, joy. Several images are roles that God takes-shepherd, king, healer, friend, and parent. Jesus is one of the 40 images: “Jesus came to us and so God has a face.” The author could have strengthened the book by giving scripture references for the images since these are theoretically drawn from the Bible. Several need documenting (tears, darkness, root, secret). Though the language is simple, the concepts of the text are not. The illustrations are rich in color, often exuberant, but do not always illuminate the image.
Literary elements at work in the story: Images of God is a book of metaphors, not a good choice for the concrete thinking that predominates in the early elementary years. Similes are more readily accessible. “God is bread” may be taken literally; “God is like bread to us” is within their grasp.
God’s actions do not equal God. God makes covenant does not compute in their minds to “God is covenant.”
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? While most of the images are gender neutral, masculine pronouns are used throughout for God. Except for the picture about bread, all of the children are light skinned, although it should be noted that these are not realistic pictures.
Theological Conversation Partners: Biblical language about God is full of metaphors. Rock, fortress, shield, a drink for a thirsty soul, a grieving mother, a betrayed husband-the list is almost endless. We must speak of God in similes and metaphors. In a sense, Jesus is the essential metaphor for God. When we answer the question, “What is God like?,” this is where we begin. Metaphors are the language of poetry and much of the Bible is poetry. It’s a great gift to help children think metaphorically and Images of God can make a contribution to this. It is a book for conversations over time not a book for reading in one sitting, and several images may be skipped. Conversation will be strengthened by finding some of the places in the Bible where these metaphors are used. And this may stimulate a search for further metaphors as you read the Bible. Psalms is a particularly rich source.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What do we know about God?
- How do we know this?
- What does Jesus tell or show us about God?
- The Bible uses many comparisons or images to tell us what God is like. (Choose one and explore it: What is light? What does it do for us? The Bible says, The Lord is my light (Ps. 27). How is God like light?)
- Can you think of something you see each day that helps you understand God?
- What is your favorite image for God?
Review prepared by guest blogger Virginia Thomas.