The Big Wide Welcome is another in a series of picture books that take a well-known Bible story and adds a contemporary context. In this case the story is taken from James’ letter to the early church. In James 2 the early church is chastised for showing favoritism, particularly toward the wealthy in relation to the poor among them.
In the first pages, children are invited to consider how they “play favorites.” What is your favorite snack, stuffie or toy? A child is offered so many choices as a positive experience. But what if we choose favorites among people? An illustration shows a child left out of the circle of play. Children know the feeling, whether they are in or out.
The colorful artwork becomes muted as the story transitions to what it might have been like for the early church. In a church-type setting people are offered the front seat or the back row as they enter the building depending on their wealth and status. The story transitions again to a contemporary playground setting showing differences of skin color, physical abilities, or language.
And then it connects to Jesus, James’s own brother. Jesus’ message is one of love. The book reminds readers that Jesus talked to everyone because Jesus chose love. Jesus loves us not because of our grades in school or our sports ability or good behavior. He loves us because he made us! The closing scene features a church sanctuary and a playground where all sorts of people are welcomed and interact with each other.
This book is a good addition for any school, church, or family faith formation collection. Might all the places and spaces of our lives, beyond the walls of our church sanctuaries, truly offer a big, wide welcome for a Our children might be the ones to lead the way. For ages 3-10. (Thegoodbook.com)