Title of Book: Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love
Author: Brennan Manning and John Blasé
Illustrator: Nicole Tadgell
Publisher and Publication date: Tommy Nelson (a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.), 2011
ISBN number: 978-1-4003-1713-4
Audience: Ages 4 – 8
Summary: Childless couple, Willie Juan and Ana, share much of their lives with the neighborhood children. One evening Willie Juan asks a question ‘What do you think Abba will ask you in heaven?’ The conversations that follow, while eating Ana’s homemade sopapillas, help the children to understand that they are smack-dab in the middle of God’s love and that all the good gifts in their life are from God.
Literary elements at work in the story: This story starts off acknowledging that ‘smack-dab’ is fun term to use and say. It gives its definition as ‘precisely in the center’ and then throughout the story has a repetitive use of the term ‘smack-dab’. The book drives the term home by reminding us that ultimately we are smack-dab in the middle of God’s love for us. Reading the book aloud and encouraging the audience to say ‘Smack-dab” with the reader each time it appears, would be a fun way to involve the audience in participating.
Presentation of gender/race/culture/economic status/age/disabilities/etc: All ages and genders are represented in the illustrations in the story. The setting is in a small, modest Mexican village but many races are also represented by a variety of skin tones and hair colors and textures. The story has a strong sense of community and sharing with ones neighbor. The story introduces Hispanic culture in a way that explains the terms to those who may be new to them.
Theological conversation partners: John 3:16-17, Romans 8:39, James 1:17, Heidelberg Catechism Question 1. The story also has a conversational style that allows the reader to imagine their own questions and responses to Willie Juan.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What do you think Abba will ask you when you get to heaven? (Willie Juan’s question)
- What will you ask God when you get to heaven?
- If you’re smack-dab in the middle of God’s love, what is smack-dab in the middle of your love?
- What are some things should be smack-dab in the middle of your love?
- What might it look like to love God?
- What are some good gifts that you have been given from God?
- What are some ways that you can share your gifts from God?
- Who are the Willie Juan’s and Ana’s in your life?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Lisa McClennan