“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.
In her poetic picture book, “The Story of Us,” which releases this week with Beaming Books, award-winning author Mitali Perkins focuses on the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. Present at creation, these essentials “were for Us. We were for them,” Perkins writes. “Breath takers — Take the breeze! Thirst quenchers — Dance with rain! Soil Tillers — Play in mud! Fire builders — Tend the flames!”
So the first man and woman are seen in Kevin and Kristen Howdeshell’s thought-provoking illustrations, running, dancing, playing and working in the newly made world. But after rejecting their creator, the unnamed Adam and Eve must contend with a changed creation in which the elements, “Tornado. Flood. Earthquake. Inferno” rise against them.
“We clawed back,” Perkins writes. “Greed. Poison. Waste. Arson. At war — Them and Us.”
The result? Devastation. Until one day, Perkins writes, “Redeemer came — to change the mess, using Them to serve Us.” And so, Perkins’ poem takes an unexpected twist, revealing how God used fire, water, air and earth to heal, serve, save and restore the world.
Not your typical retelling of Genesis, Perkins’s story speaks to today’s environmental struggles and concerns with power and sensitivity while offering hope for a peaceful future.
Also, out this month, for younger children and those with shorter attention spans, “God’s Creation: Help Tell the Story” (ZonderKidz, 2022), offers big, bold illustrations and a text that invites children to be part of the story. Clapping, sliding hands over the pages, and tilting and shaking the book appears to help move the story along in this playfully illustrated story by artist Joanne Liu. With the surprising way that the illustrations unfold, the book is fun and engaging, recalling the goodness of creation before our fall from grace.
Another notable recent picture book release, “The Story of God with Us” (Wolfbane Books, 2021), begins with Genesis and points to a positive future. In it, authors Kenneth Padgett, a scholar-in-residence at his South Carolina church, and Shay Gregorie, an ordained minister, collaborate to tell a story that emphasizes God’s purpose in creation, “So He could dwell with us, and we with Him. Always and forever, world without end.”
This theme is repeated throughout the book, which recounts God’s faithful presence among his people – accompanying the Hebrews through their journey in the desert, residing with them through the building of the Temple, and finally appearing to the world through “the long-awaited royal Son of David, the Greatest-Great-Grandson of Abraham, the everlasting King, Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us.”
But the best is still to come, as Padgett and Gregorie write, “God will make the whole world into a new land, filled and flowing with His life and light!” When that day comes, God will once again dwell with us, “Always and forever, world without end!”
Even when the news is bleak, that is a promise we can hold onto. As each of these children’s picture books reveal, the same God who was present at the beginning of creation, promises to be with us until he restores it.
Author and educator Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reviews faith-affirming books from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast, Maine. Connect and find her books at meadowrue.com