The first time I heard ‘You Are Special’ was at my church, when a father sat his young boy on his knee at the front and read the story aloud. The whole church, young and old, were captivated – including a 16 year old me!
That’s right. Me – a greasy-haired, bass guitar-obsessed, radiohead-fanatic teenager – was utterly transfixed by this ‘children’s’ story. Why? Because when author’s get the story right, and the illustrators capture the mood, stories become irresistible. In fact it was so good that years later, while I was working as a children’s worker in Liverpool, I bought the book and passed it around the families in the church.
Max Lucado’s imagination has sprouted little wooden people he has called ‘Wimmicks’. The charming, heart-affirming tale tells the story of one Wimmick called Punchinello, who no one likes. They all spend their time either sticking gold stars or grey dots on each other, judging others on how they look and their talents. Punchinello is covered in grey dots, without a single gold star on his chipped and scuffed paintwork.
Punchinello visits the woodworker named Eli, who created the Wimmicks, and discovers that the grey dots and gold stars mean nothing to him. He loves Punchinello the way he is; after all he was the one who created him. And by talking with Eli every day, Punchinello can always remember he is loved and let the grey dots peel away into insignificance.
***Back to the review***
‘You Are Special’ manages to do something incredibly rare, it crosses all age barrier. For young children (3-6) the pencil drawings with warm, soft colours invite pointing and wonder. While the story is both simple enough to follow and interesting enough to ask those inquisitive questions only young children think of.
Older kids (7-10) will appreciate the masterful illustrations that tell the story as much as the words. While the story will connect, whatever level of knowledge they have. If they’ve never seen, heard or experienced our loving God, this book introduces them to the concept and doesn’t force faith, but plants the seed. If they’ve been to Sunday School every Sunday of their life, this book will do more than reinforce knowledge, it will nurture faith through a tangible metaphor for Christian living.
And as for the rest of us (business executives, next-door neighbours, circus performers, theology students and everyone in between), it will connect on a higher level. Often as adults we become experts at hiding our hurt, from people and from God. But this book opens the door to healing our negative self-image that drags us down.
Thinking aloud, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to a non-Christian friend whose had a rough day or taking it along to my small-group to do something out-of-the-ordinary and read them a children’s book. I would especially recommend this book as a gift to those who have been down-trodden by the world’s expectations … and to children, of course!
January 22nd, 2013 - Posted & Written by James Warwood