Name of Book: Mr. And Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen
Author: Nancy Wood
Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
Audience: Ages 5 and up suggested by publisher. I would suggest older adolescent – adult learners could use this book as well.
Summary: In this picture book, Mr. And Mrs. God are in the creation kitchen cooking and creating what will eventually become the Earth and all of its inhabitants. Things don’t go as smoothly as you might think.
Literary elements at work in the story: In this picture storybook we find God and Mrs. God hard at work in the Creation Kitchen working on their newest project. This picture storybook relies heavily on the relationship between the text by Nancy Wood and the illustrations by Timothy Ering. While the illustrations, in my opinion couldn’t stand alone in telling the story, they do a wonderful job amplifying the text. The ink and acrylic illustrations however, are very dark and minimal, utilizing line drawings more than anything else. The pages that describe God making the animals may be disturbing for small children – a jar of eyeballs in the foreground, boxes of dismembered hooves, legs and wings, another box containing bones etc. Overall, I think, the artistic style of the book is very somber and dark, especially for small children, which may be why it is recommended for ages 5 and up. The text does cover the “days” of creation, but not in a Biblical “on the first day” kind of way, but in a more fluid way, much like a chef preparing courses for a meal. It does cover the days of creation in the same order as scripture, and is told from both Mr. and Mrs. God’s perspective.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This book obviously addresses the issue of God’s gender by having a Mrs. God as well as a Mr. God. However, the way each character is portrayed and presented is very stereotypical – the text portrays Mrs. God as very meticulous in her creation habits, and that she is more concerned with creating creatures that look “beautiful”. Mr. God, on the other hand, seems to be a little on the befuddled side, making creatures that are, “enormous ghastly and hideous” in Mrs. God’s opinion, but finally coming up with a “masterpiece” when he makes a beautiful Blue Whale. If the book is going to have a male and female God then why not let Mrs. God make the roaring, snarling beasts, and let Mr. God make a hummingbird or a kitten? It seems that if the author wanted to push the envelope of our understanding of God, she took the easy way out. Also, while the characters of Mr. And Mrs. God are painted in a neutral grey color they have very white Anglo-Saxon facial features. Again, in my opinion, if the author is wanting to advocate for a feminine side to God then why not explore the race issue as well. It seems that the author wants to push the envelope and challenge the reader to think about God in a different light, and then pulls up short before she gets to the edge. Or maybe I am the one over thinking this.
Theological conversation partners: As an adult, there are a number of theological issues that I have with this book. I think some of these issues would be even bigger for a child who is just beginning to develop an understanding of who God is and how they are connected to God. First, Mr. AND Mrs. God??? I understand the modern day need to deal with the gender of God, but by portraying God this way we offer children a polytheistic view of God. If the author wanted to portray God as feminine then why not just do that? Making God a male and female, I think, makes it even more confusing for small children who are hearing people talk about the Trinity being three, yet God being one God. . Second, when Mr. God makes the dinosaurs, Mrs. God tells Mr. God that they are ugly, and after a while God begins to doubt his creation saying, “he wished he could take them back, but they had already made some baby monsters, and the baby monsters had made even more monsters.” Does God make mistakes? Scripture would tell us no, that God is sovereign and therefore God does not make mistakes. As I understand some of the ideas behind process theology, it is that God and therefore creation are always evolving and changing and therefore the dinosaurs are part of that evolving but are not a mistake. I don’t know too many five year old children that are into process theology, so to me I worry that they will hear this as God making mistakes. Third, the way the author deals with God making a mistake with the dinosaurs is to grab, “a red-hot coal from the oven and flung it down…KA-BOOM!” Yes, I know this is the author’s take on why dinosaurs are extinct, but to the concrete thinking mind of a child, this is God blowing up things that are flawed. How does this come across to the child who is already wondering about things like – what will happen if God gets angry with me? Am I a mistake in God’s eyes? Finally, Mr. And Mrs. God make humans as an afterthought, and set them on the earth and basically say, let’s sit back and see what happens to them. This portrays God as distant and removed from all of creation, as well as humans. This seems to be in direct contradiction to scripture and the creeds we confess in which God is actively involved in the lives of creation. In the jacket notes Ms. Wood states that she wanted this to be a “lighthearted look at creation…Mr. And Mrs. God are having FUN!” She never states that this was a Biblical or Christian look at creation. If, however, that is what you are wanting to use it for, I just find too many contradictions to our Christian theology. I think that this book could have merit when used in a number of discussions: creation, images of God, stereotypes concerning God. However, I would only use this book with older adolescents – adults. Ultimately I think that small children would be too easily confused by the language and images contained in the book for it to be useful in an educational setting.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What do you like best about the story of creation?
- What do you think happened to the dinosaurs?
- Have you ever made a mistake?
- Do you think God makes mistakes?
- How do you think God handles the mistakes that each of us makes?
- Is God a part of your daily life, or is God just sitting back watching what happens?
Older adolescents – adults
- What is your favorite part of the creation story?
- What images of God do you carry with you?
- How do you feel about God being portrayed as two individuals? As male AND female?
- What do you think the author hoped to accomplish with this book?
- How would you answer questions from a child concerning the language and images in this book?
This post was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Shasta Brown.