Author: Leo & Dianne Dillon
Illustrator: Leo & Diane Dillon
Publisher: Blue Sky Press(October 1, 1998)
Audience: ages 6 and up
Summary: The timeless passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 serves as the text for this book and has been a source of inspiration, hope, and comfort for millions of people around the world. Words written more than two thousand years ago, yet they encompass the full range of contemporary human emotion and experience, from the wonders of birth to the unanswered questions of death. Scores of generations have quoted these verses at weddings, funerals, graduations, birth celebrations, and religious ceremonies and they have also been popularized in songs, books, theatre, and motion pictures. The text for this book is taken from the King James Version and is accompanied by a variety of illustrations from around the world.
Literary elements at work in the story: The text comes straight from the Bible and the illustrations serve to portray the celebration of the seasons of human existence – the mysterious ebb and flow of happiness and pain that is ultimately beyond our control.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Here is where the illustrations provide the real treasure of this book. At the back of the book, as an intro to the history of each of the illustrations used in the book, the author notes, “the timeless words from Ecclesiastes remind us that there are things in life that all people share, regardless of our diverse beliefs and cultures. Our way of illustrating this was to present unique styles of art from around the world, each one depicting a single phrase of text.” The art selected comes from 15 different countries and depicts a wide variety of styles making this a collection of cultures that transcends time and space to bring the words of Ecclesiastes to life.
Theological Conversation Partners: Ecclesiastes attracts extreme reactions. For several hundred years, Jewish scholars fiercely debated whether the book should even be included in the Bible. Yet American novelist Thomas Wolfe said of it, “Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound,” and the poet Tennyson called Ecclesiastes “the greatest poem of ancient or modern times.” The book is a collection of proverbs that explore the human condition and how life should be lived while asking the same question over and over again, “What is the point of life?” The passage in Ecclesiastes 3 serves as a poetic litany of the ups and downs of the human existence without offering any answers to the question posed at the beginning of the book. But while the question of “what is the point” is left unanswered, the question of “who is in control” is clear and sure. “I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time….I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done that which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-15) To recognize that God is in ultimate control is profound for us as Christians today and the words of Ecclesiastes 3 serve to remind us that while human life will be full of ups and downs, we can take comfort in knowing that God was, is, and always will be our God who cares for us, celebrates with us, mourns with us and loves us through all that life has to offer.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Read together the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. What is your favorite line? What line is the hardest to understand? Talk together about the many things that are described in this passage.
- The author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t offer answers to the many human conditions described. How would you answer the overarching question of the book, ‘What is the point of life?”
- How do you know that God is with you in good times and bad times? What do you say to God when life is going well? What do you say to God when life is tough?
This review is written by regular contributor Krista Lovell.