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Notable Books | Four Christian picture books

The Donkey That No One Could Ride

Before his triumphant Palm Sunday entrance, Jesus tells His disciples to fetch a never-ridden colt. This tale, illustrated in a retro style reminiscent of the old Davy and Goliath TV show, imagines the donkey to be "young, weak, and small, so weak he could carry nothing at all." Everyone mocks the donkey. Finally his owner sends him away, and that is when the disciples come for him. When Jesus speaks to him, the donkey protests that he is no good, but Jesus says, "My help is enough; It's all that you need. It's all you require in life to succeed." And so the donkey carries Jesus into Jerusalem and remembers long after, "The King used a donkey-young, weak, and small."

The Merchant and the Thief

Zacharias' colorfully illustrated tale is based on an Indian folktale. It begins with a rich merchant and a poorer fruit seller, both with lovely families, who live in a crowded village. The fruit seller wishes he could do more for his family. As that desire grows, he begins to steal, a little at first, and then more and more. When he hears that the rich man is going on a trip, he plots to rob him of his jewels. The rich man sees through the fruit seller and thwarts the plot. As the story comes to an end, the rich man tells the fruit peddler how Jesus is a treasure greater than jewels and how "anyone can have this treasure ... even you."

The Night the Angel Came

After the Korean War, thousands of babies were born of Korean mothers and American GI fathers. This picture book tells the story of Mary, one of those children. "Because of my American father, I looked different. ... In Korea, people thought different was bad." Her mother decides to save Mary from a life of rejection, sending her to America to be adopted into another family. Martin (the niece of the real-life Mary) centers the story on a nighttime vision of a bright light that Mary takes to be an angel. It reminds her that God will watch over her-even though her world has been turned upside down. "My heart seemed to hear the words, 'Don't be afraid. I am with you.'"

Under the Baobab Tree

Lovely watercolor illustrations accompany this simple story about the centrality of a baobab tree to a church and an African village. Moyo and his little sister Japera wake up and begin walking to a nearby village. They see interesting things-animals around a watering hole and a giant termite mound. They hold hands as they walk. At one point Japera "sings praises to her heavenly Father" and skips alongside her brother. Illustrations depict activities that take place under the tree. The story's refrain, "But who will gather today under the baobab tree?" gets an answer as the children reach the tree: "Here there are no windows or doors. No church bell or steeple. No organ or flowers. Just a cross and a Bible, a pastor and songs, voices and prayers."

Spotlight

Associated Press photo

Parents and teachers who want students to know about key figures in church history, especially the Reformation, will be interested in Simonetta Carr's series of Christian Biographies for Young Readers (Reformation Heritage Books). Each well-illustrated volume is devoted to one individual-John Owen, John Calvin (above), Athanasius, Augustine. Carr conveys the challenges they faced and how God used them at particular times.

Reformation Heroes by Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke (Reformation Heritage Books, 2009) collects in one volume short biographies of Reformation figures. Some names are well-known-Wycliffe and Zwingli, for instance-and others, like Jan Laski and William Teellink, are not. Each short biography offers details about the subject's life and insights into the doctrinal debates of which he was a part.

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