"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
September 12, 2012
Richly Illustrated Children's Books Speak Volumes
by Laurie Williams Sowby

In today’s world and today’s Church, children need to be exposed to people outside of their own locale, culture, and language. That can be a challenge, especially in heavily LDS-populated areas where interaction is largely with those very similar to us.

Books can help bridge the cultural gap. Two beautifully illustrated volumes from Deseret Book focus on belief in Jesus Christ and ways to follow his example.

I Believe in Jesus Too (2012, 30 pages in hardcover, $17.99), explores perspectives in the experience of Latter-day Saint children around the world. Basic practices such as church attendance, family home evening, prayer, singing and scripture reading, and baptism are depicted in a variety of settings that introduce 19 children from distinctly different backgrounds. A world map inside front and back covers pinpoints the location of each child’s country.

Young readers are introduced to the idea that church services can be held in an apartment building or grass hut as well as the well-recognized meetinghouse, and that baptism sometimes is done in an icy river or warm ocean as well as the baptismal font at the stake center. Various modes of getting to church include walking through a rain forest in Bolivia and riding the subway New York City.

The brief text is by seminary teacher Mark S. Nielsen, and the delightful illustrations are by Craig Stapley. The last page depicts a gaggle of smiling children looking up at the reader and says, “Children all over the world love Jesus, and He loves them. They believe in Jesus, and I believe in Jesus too.” And then it asks a question not only for children: “What about you?”

Simon Dewey’s classically-styled paintings illustrate I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus (2010, 20 pages in hardcover, $19.99). Simple text by Cynthia L. Dobson leaves ample room for study and discussion of the art that illustrates following the Savior’s example in word, deed, and character.

Although not as ethnically or culturally diverse as the book reviewed above, this book does include children from different backgrounds. (However, they all live in modern homes with LDS art prominently displayed.) Each right-hand page shows them carrying out a particular action demonstrated by the Savior in a scene on the left-hand page. For instance, a depiction of the Savior breaking bread is followed by a scene of older children taking the sacrament in a modern-day LDS chapel; the hand holding the water tray is black.

Perhaps my favorite two pages illustrate kindness toward those who are different from us. On the left-hand page, Jesus heals a man, while the right-hand page shows a Down syndrome boy and his older sister happily playing with a replica of Noah’s ark together.

This book (and others like it) would benefit from an additional page listing the titles of each work as well as a scriptural reference for the illustrations of events from the Savior’s ministry. Nevertheless, it’s a good, sturdy book to read with a child or grandchild.

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About Laurie Williams Sowby

Laurie Williams Sowby has been writing since second grade and getting paid for it since high school. Her byline ("all three names, please") has appeared on more than 6,000 freelance articles published in newspapers, magazines, and online.

A graduate of BYU and a writing instructor at Utah Valley University for many years, she proudly claims all five children and their spouses as college grads.

She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 in Chile, followed by Washington D.C. South, then Washington D.C. North, both times as young adult Institute teachers. They are currently serving in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs

During her years of missionary service, Laurie has continued to write about significant Church events, including the rededication of the Santiago Temple by President Hinckley and the groundbreaking for the Philadelphia Temple by President Eyring. She also was a Church Service Missionary, working as a news editor at Church Magazines, between full-time missions.

Laurie has traveled to all 50 states and at least 45 countries (so far). While home is American Fork, Utah, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have provided a comfortable second home.

Laurie is currently serving a fourth full-time mission with her husband in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs. The two previously served with a branch presidency at the Provo Missionary Training Center. The oldest of 18 grandchildren have been called to serve missions in New Hampshire and Brisbane, Australia.

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