Author: Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Illustrator: Margaux Meganck
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: May 17, 2017
Audience: Ages 5-10
Summary: This book places the three parables of loss in a modern context, making them simpler for children to understand. The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son are included. The text stresses the message that everyone has value.
Literary elements at work in the story: The narrative has simple sentences that are easy for children to understand. The text would be easy enough for early readers. The story is told in second person and never gives names to the characters, rather they are called, “the man, the woman, the brother.” When reading the book to a three-year-old, he was interested in counting the sheep and looking for the lost coin in each picture. Thus, the book has some added layers of education and engagement for children but the story itself would not be understood before early elementary school. In the letter included to parents and teachers, the authors of the story describe that they intended for an added layer of understanding to be achieved through these parables. In addition to the idea of repentance and forgiveness,inclusivity of all God’s people is highlighted. This exegesis is best demonstrated in the story of the prodigal son in which the older brother is upset when the younger brother returns because his father forgot to invite him to the party. The first two stories build upon the final narrative of the two sons and the authors weave them together in the end. This is an angle not typically approached so it is very effective, especially to children in an age where social exclusivity is so commonplace.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The illustrations are beautiful and highlight racial, cultural, and economic diversity. Each story is illustrated with a different race represented as well as various economic and cultural statuses. In each story the people or the neighbors ask why one sheep or one coin is so important and the lesson is taught that now the collection is complete. One element that could be a distraction is naming the coin as a drachma. While this may be historically accurate to the biblical parable, it seemed out of place when the rest of the text seems to be rooted in present day language. Furthermore, the book never mentions the Bible, God, or Jesus Christ, making the use of the drachma stand out even more.
Theological Conversation Partners: The letter to the readers created at the end of the story lays out discussion points beautifully and makes scriptural references to Lev. 19:18, Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Gal. 5:14) to discuss loving our neighbor as ourselves. For older children to open their Bibles and read the scriptural parables after reading this book would be beneficial. It would be a terrific text to use in Sunday School or Children’s Worship contexts. It would also be useful with youth groups—providing a modern twist on the telling of these parables for stories or skits such as in a Youth Sunday setting.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Which character in the stories do you most relate with and why?
- What do you think the sheep represents in this story? What do you think the coin represents in the story?
- Do you ever feel lost?
- What does it feel like to lose something and find it again?
- When have you taken something for granted?
- When have you ignored someone or forgotten to include them? How do you think they felt?
- What do you think Jesus intended when he first told these stories?
Thanks to Loren Tate Mitchell, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna and Associate Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Roanoke, VA, for writing this week’s book review.