This past week my family packed the car and drove two hours up the Maine coast to visit my uncle for the Fourth of July. Just before leaving, my 13-year-old son, Asher, spotted Mitali Perkins’ new middle grade novel, Hope in the Valley, on my desk.
Growing up, I struggled to read and did not have access to many books. Ironically, for a short time my mom worked at a public library. When I was about nine, she brought me with her, and I signed up for a program to win prizes by reading books. I chose a story by Beatrix Potter – probably because it was short, but also because I loved animals and wished they could talk.
Easter began with a misunderstanding. Driving to church this past Sunday in the gray-morning dark, I discovered an empty parking lot and vacant building. Wishing I’d checked to see if the sunrise service was in-person or online, I drove on, seeking a quiet place to pray and reflect. A few miles more, and I spotted a banner, advertising an ecumenical gathering at a local park.
When it comes to reading the Christmas story in the Bible, the Gospel writer Luke gets most the attention. Like a film director, he vividly captures poor Mary giving birth in a stable as shepherds watch their flocks and a band of angels fills the Bethlehem sky, announcing the good news. But to me, the neighboring book of John best answers the mystery of who Jesus is and why he came.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could edit our lives the way we edit stories?” I recently asked one of my children while driving to school. “That way we could delete or change parts of our lives that we’d rather forget or that didn’t work out the way we hoped.”
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” so begins the ancient record of creation in Genesis. While children’s Bibles and picture books abound about how life began – and how our relationship with God, the earth and each other went bad – three new narratives cleverly approach this familiar topic in unique ways easing children’s anxiety about the future.