I AM GOD’S DREAM, AND OTHER BOOKS BY MATTHEW PAUL TURNER

Brace yourself, because this is the blog piece where I talk about God. I realize this could be received by you in all sorts of different ways, depending on your relationship with, and even conception, of God—be it strong, relatively weak, apathetic, or non-existent. All, by the way, are welcomed and celebrated here at Writers’ Rumpus.

As a progressive Christian and Sunday school teacher, I am usually on the lookout for faith-based children’s books that cast a wide, inclusive net for today’s kids. Ones that empower them, and celebrate their being part of a larger, divine plan.

 I discovered Matthew Paul Turner’s picture books pretty early on in his publication journey, when my oldest child (who is now 9) was just a wee one. Since then, I have gradually collected almost all of them, as they have come out. They are spiritual books that I can share with my kids and feel completely proud of the message contained within them.

Matthew’s latest book, published just last month, is called I Am God’s Dream. It is my favorite so far (or at least in the top two). With the colorful and stunningly inclusive illustrations of Spanish illustrator and concept artist Estrella Bascunan, I Am God’s Dream takes the reader inside the world and mind of an unabashedly imperfect little girl with big, wild hair and a big, wild heart.

Like the rest of Matthew’s picture books, the language is rhythmic, lyrical and rhyming. You could probably sing your way through it, if you had some good musical accompaniment. This musicality highlights the pure joy of this girl’s thoughtful refrains. Some of my favorite lines are the following:

Loved just as I am,
I’m a star in God’s sight.

I’m delightful
and smart.
I am God’s
work of art.

I will live
every moment
with all of my heart.

Can you handle it?? I’ll admit, I can’t sometimes! Matthew’s books have been known to make my eyes misty as I am reading them to my kids. And on one occasion during the pandemic, I even locked myself inside my closet with one of his books, some chips, and dark chocolate. Because I really needed to read his words to myself!

Dramatic re-enactment of my closet read
Illustrated page from I Am God’s Dream

The rest of Matthew’s picture book collection is just as exquisite, each exploring a slightly different facet of the wonder and mystery of God:

When God Made Light

Matthew takes the famous story of God creating light from the darkness, and puts a child-centric spin on it, where the child reading the book is the light. It is written in the second person, as a powerful declaration to the child reading it. The illustrations dazzle and illuminate, following two sisters from morning to afternoon to night. Remember I mentioned earlier that I had two favorite books of Matthew’s? This is my other favorite.

When God Made You

This could be considered a companion book to When God Made Light, both of which are written in the powerful second-person voice, and feature the same female character illustrated beautifully by David Catrow (and her adorable baby sister, and scruffy, sweet dog). It celebrates the intimately close and unconditionally loving relationship of the young reader with God.

When I Pray for You

All of a mother’s hopes and dreams for her daughter are poured into this book, by way of things she prays for, as her daughter grows from an infant in her arms, into a young woman navigating life’s adventures. Sound like an emotional whopper? It is for parents—bring tissues! Your kids will delight in its fun narrative and whimsical illustrations by Kimberly Barnes.

When God Made the World

This is for parents who are looking for a different kind of creation book—one that marries God’s overarching plan and divine oversight with the wonders and complexity of science as we know it in the present day. Science and nature-loving children will relish the vivid, lyrical descriptions of our planet’s biodiversity, and the vast galaxies beyond that.

What Is God Like?

Now a New York Times bestseller, this one-of-a-kind picture book is the brainchild of Matthew and his friend Rachel Held Evans, who tragically passed away from illness prior to its publication in 2020. Evans was known for her New York Times bestselling books that explore faith, doubt, and the spiritual journey, such as Inspired, Searching for Sunday, and A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

This story does not preach to young children—instead, it considers God in both abstract and concrete ways. That God is both felt within and seen in the world around us. God is likened to a river, a gardener, and the wind; and God is referred to in the pronouns of “he”, “she”, and “they”. Vibrant and thought-provoking illustrations by Ying Hui Tan show a diversity of races, genders, family structures, and experiences. This is truly a book for, and about, everyone interested in exploring a divine love.

All the Colors of Christmas

Matthew’s clever rhymes paired with rich illustrations by Gillian Gamble evoke all the feelings of the Christmas season, as the reader explores the different colors associated with the holiday. Christmas is red, green, gold, blue, white, brown and, as a finale:

Christmas is YOU! It’s your own unique hue.

I will not spoil the ending lines any more than that–just know that they are beautiful and worth waiting for!

Matthew’s picture books focus on the most important part of a child’s relationship with God—the self-affirming, unconditionally loving part. It is the meat with none of the fillers. If you are someone who enjoys reading books about God and spirituality with kids, I invite you to explore this collection. If you are someone who does not, I strongly encourage you to explore it and then decide for yourself. It may just surprise you!

From Matthew’s website www.matthewpaulturner.com:

Matthew’s storied writing career started nearly 20 years ago, and he has published a book every year. Called “one of Christianity’s fresh voices” by Publisher’s Weekly, Matthew’s other notable works include Our Great Big American GodChurchedCoffeehouse Gospel and The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Additionally, Matthew is an accomplished photographer and journalist. He traveled all over the world documenting National Geographic’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman”. For the past decade, Matthew has also traveled extensively with World Vision to places such as Tacloban, Philippines; Entebbe, Uganda; Cochabamba, Bolivia; Gyumri, Armenia; and other locations documenting the vast effects of poverty and the humanitarian efforts of the non-profit. His writing has appeared in outlets that include the Washington Post, National Geographic, USA Today and Daily Beast.

13 comments

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Kelly! I was inspired by those nineties infomercials where they have the person struggling with something, and its all in black and white. Lol!

      Like

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