Thursday, January 01, 2015

It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

So, I've been a little dissatisfied with the book selections from BookSneeze lately.* This is the company that gives me free books in exchange for reviews. I sent a strenuous denouncement after I saw Suicide Pact - Andrew Napolitano's partisan political screed listed. Apparently, it counts because he claims everything he says is the way God wants the world to work; I simply was asking, if they're not going to stick to strictly religious topics, could they please include good books in the selection - like Shrink, by my friend, Tim Suttle or even the new Rob Bell book (although apparently a book by a pastor about relationships isn't Christian enough to get the Zondervan imprint). Anyway, they don't seem to have been taking my advice - so I got a children's book this time. As the father of a two-year-old, I feel it an appropriate thing for me to review.

It Will Be Okay is a cute book about a seed and a fox who learn God can make beautiful things out of scary situations. The illustrations by Natalia Moore are whimsical and endearing. The story wanders a bit, but my daughter was enraptured the whole time, even though the word count per page is a bit above her normal tolerance level. Unlikely partners, a fox and a seed, become good friends and go through struggles together - ultimate discovering that the benevolent farmer had unimaginably good things planned all along.

I like the theme of friendship that develops - we don't see enough emphasis on our necessary interconnectedness in Christian media today. The notion of using a seed to illustrate the beautiful, unexpected things God can grow in us despite our circumstances is clever and inventive. The drawings evoke the right emotions - sympathy with the characters and proper personification. I suppose kids need the metaphor to be plainly spelled out in the end, but I'd prefer to teach my daughter early to begin picking up on such things.

The biggest drawback for me - and I'm still debating whether to put this on my daughter's shelf or to donate it to the nursery at our nearest Baptist church - is the implication that everything in life is orchestrated by God. The seed goes through a scary ordeal, separated from his best friend, Fox, and planted in the dark, lonely ground, but all the while God has great things in store.

I have no doubt God leads us through challenging circumstances to help us grow, but I categorically reject the notion that "everything happens for a reason." God doesn't lead us into fear, hurt, or loneliness. God is with us in dark times, but God does not lead us there. God leads us out. God's redemptive provision is evident in the book, but it's secondary to a needless narrative frame of "God's plan." Without proper distinction between the bad things in our lives and God's plan of restoration, I can't fully recommend this book.

There are plenty of ways it could have been organized to appeal to a broader theological spectrum (my Wesleyan beliefs are not some minor outlier), but if you can get over the notion that your child will think "everything happens for a reason," then there's a lot to like about It Will Be Okay.

*Note: They've realized how terrible that name was and changed it to BookLook, but no one ever specifically told me that, so I'm sticking with the terrible old name.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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