Author: John Hendrix
Illustrator: John Hendrix
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Audience: 5 and up
Summary: Author/illustrator John Hendrix creates a biography of Jesus through the retelling of a series of his miracles, ending with his crucifixion and resurrection.
Literary elements at work in the story: Drawing from all four gospel accounts, Hendrix narrates the story of the life of Jesus but also allows Jesus to reveal himself to the reader through his own words. The dialogue itself becomes a part of the illustrations: Jesus speaks, and his words quite literally become part of the scene – as butterflies, as wooden scaffolding on a building, as lightning above the sea, as tree trunks. Jesus’ words, in all their bold energy, are in sharp contrast to the words of his disciples, which all appear constrained within speech bubbles.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? For Christians, a crucial part of Jesus’ story is his willingness to interact with people on the edges of the community. Hendrix includes a moving two-page spread of Jesus touching and healing a leper, while his disciples look on from a safe distance. Jesus later heals a boy who cannot walk, and he feeds a huge crowd of those who have come to hear him speak. Throughout the story these common and even marginalized people are set against those in the crowd whom the author describes as “powerful,” “angry,” and “rich taunters.” It is interesting that though Hendrix leaves out any mention of women in this life of Jesus “for the sake of brevity” (see end notes), he turns the little boy with the bread and fish in the story of the feeding of the multitude into a girl.
Theological Conversation Partners: Any biography of Jesus has a specific lens through which the author sees his or her subject. In this book, Hendrix reveals his understanding of Jesus’ essential nature through a series of miracles. Into a “dry and dusty land” comes this man who can do things that no one else can do. Everyone who comes in contact with him is changed: some are healed, some are inspired, some are angered, many are puzzled. The Gospel of John tells us that “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory …” (1:14) Hendrix takes this concept a step farther and shows Jesus’ words with physical heft and reality in the world. “Be still!” he says to the wind and the waves, and those words crackle across the page as lightning. Older children might enjoy perusing Hendrix’s use of dialogue as art. Even pre-literate children would gain much from hearing this story of Jesus’ life through the lens of miracles. It would also be an interesting conversation partner in a discussion about why the gospel writers included different stories in their accounts of Jesus’ life.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What are some things that Jesus did in this story that human beings can’t usually do?
- Why do you think that some people loved Jesus?
- Why do you think that some people hated Jesus?
- Look at the ways that the artist uses Jesus’ words as part of the pictures. What would it be like if your words could be seen like these?
- If you could only choose five stories from Jesus’ life to share with someone who had never heard of him, which ones would be the best to show who Jesus was?
This review was written by Beth Lyon-Suhring, Director of Christian Education at the St. Andrew Prebyterian Church in Suffolk, VA and a regular contributor to Storypath.