4 out of 4 stars
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I was raised Christian, and among the hard-to-swallow things I learned was this tricky tidbit: if you do something good expecting something good in return, you really aren't doing something good at all. It's a bitter pill to swallow and a hard thing to accept. Who doesn't love to receive a thank you or even a simple smile in exchange for kindness?
It's with that bit of personal history that I can absolutely understand what Rose faces in God, Can You See Me?. Written by Sheri Jones, the book tells the story of a child who turns a simple gift from her mother - freshly baked sticky rolls - into a blessing for people around town. Rose bumps into a few people, each facing challenges of their own, and spends a little time with them before giving them one of her sticky rolls. But then, when she's run out of them and decides to sit down in the center of town, no one returns the favor. No one comes up to her and says hello, or has a little chat with her. No one offers her delicious baked goods or gifts of any sort. Instead, after a morning of giving and kindness, she's ignored... until a mysterious man sits next to her, someone who somehow knows everything she's done that day.
Yes, I realize that the end of that plot summary almost sounds like the beginning of a horror movie, but I promise it's not. Instead, God, Can You See Me? is a relatable tale of doing good deeds for other people, then feeling disappointed when no one does the same for you. Her acts of helping an older woman carry and put away groceries and reminding an adopted boy who was feeling lonely that he was special because he was made in God's image are wonderful enough without the baked goods, after all. Rose's loneliness in the middle of town with so many busy people around has to make her feel like she's only special and worth attention when she's going out of her way to help people, something that's very relatable and dangerously depressing.
But then the stranger comes by, and he does what Rose did for the adopted boy: he tells her that she's special, that she's one of God's children, and that He sees everything she's doing. That recognition and approval are all Rose ever wanted, and the reminder that God is watching the good deeds people do can also be recognition enough for readers everywhere.
The writing of the book is incredibly smooth and simple. The book would quite easily function as an early reader book as it has little to no "big words" in it. There's a fair amount of repetition as well, and the images clearly depict what's written on the page. I didn't see any errors at all, and the text is very clear as it's all placed over white backgrounds.
As for the images, they're terrific as well. The art is super cute and the characters are all very emotive. I particularly appreciated that the pages were full of life: when Rose sits in town, there's a man in the background taking photos of birds, a woman carrying books, and more. When she's talking to the jogger, someone who's barely even visible is checking their mailbox. It would be easy to make a game of listing all of the things in each picture to incorporate additional education. I reviewed a physical copy of the book, and the images are large and sharp enough that they're easy to see from a great distance.
Overall, I really enjoyed God, Can You See Me? Aside from the potential of teaching kids it's okay to go all around town on their own, I have nothing negative to say about it at all. My rating of the book is 4 out of 4 stars, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to teach their children about doing good deeds. It's especially great for Christian children who will appreciate knowing God sees the good things they do, not just the bad. However, due to the religious aspects of the book, I wouldn't recommend it for families who are strictly atheist.
God, can you see me?
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