Chris Rader and Johnnie Coley. Yes, Dear, There Really Is a Devil. Concept Sketch Design by Erin McKay. Illustrations by Sonny Heston. Cleburne, Texas: Hopkins Publishing, 2015. See here to buy the book.
Yes, Dear, There Really Is a Devil is a Christian children’s book. It is about resisting the devil’s temptations and making good choices.
I am not a child, but I wanted to read this book. I was curious as to how a book would explain spiritual warfare to children, in a manner that they can understand. I think of the Denzel Washington character in the 1993 movie Philadelphia. Denzel Washington played a lawyer, and he asked people to explain things to him as if he were a four-year-old. I am one who like to intellectualize and nuance and complicate, maybe because that makes a subject more interesting to me. Sometimes, though, it helps when people can present something to us like we are four years old. That can eliminate a lot of clutter and give us the gist.
Each two pages of the book is set up like this: The left-hand page has a picture, and the right-hand page has a picture, a rhyme, and a Scripture. I was a little disappointed that there was not much of a story in the book, especially since many of the pictures seemed to be presenting some sort of story: there are two young people dressed in outback-clothes, and they are being pursued by a man (the devil), his snake, and his lion. The text did not tell a story, however, but just gave us concepts. That is not necessarily bad. The way that the book is set up can be useful in pedagogy: parents can perhaps invent their own story in sharing the book with their children, or they can talk with their children about the pictures, the rhyme, and the Scripture. The rhyme and the Scripture can also be useful for memorization. Still, a story would have been nice!
The illustrations are good. The artist’s presentation of the devil interested me. The devil in this book is not a red guy with horns, a pitchfork, and a tail. Rather, he looks like a regular guy. He wears fishing clothes, or he sits on a throne and looks at his cauldron. He is well-built and has a chiseled jaw. Sometimes, his facial expression is angry, and sometimes it is sly and plotting. On one occasion, his eyes are red.
Some of the illustrations were difficult for me to follow. Some kids are standing in line, and one looks unsuspecting, one looks sinister, and two look worried. What is going on there? When the devil is going fishing, spiritually speaking, he is trying to entrap a person who has hundreds of dollars in his shirt pocket, and a girl who is holding up a doll crying. Again, what is going on there? Is the girl being materialistic and nagging her Mom to buy her the doll? Did the boy steal those hundreds of dollars? If the picture wanted to show theft, it could have shown the boy actually stealing something by putting it in his pocket. Most of the pictures, though, were easy to follow: someone pushes someone else, or people are gossiping about someone, or a child defies his mother, or someone gives a gift to someone else.
The rhymes were pretty good. Overall, the message that they were trying to communicate was that we should make right choices, that God loves us, that the devil wants to disrupt our peace and joy, and that we can overcome the devil’s temptations by depending on God. These are good lessons. There were a few rhymes that inspired questions. One rhyme says: “There’s so much to do, many choices to make. Better make it good, because your soul is at stake.” Does that mean that we can damn ourselves to hell by making a bad decision? That’s not exactly once-saved-always-saved, is it?
Another rhyme went like this: “Now X-Ray your heart and always be real. We may fool others, but God knows the deal.” The Scripture that is quoted is Matthew 12:34b-35, which states (in the English Standard Version): “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his treasure brings forth evil.” The picture on the left-hand page shows people holding up pictures of a heart towards heaven. A lion does that, too, which is odd, considering that the lion is a villain throughout the book. I am a little unclear about how all these things fit together, but it certainly is thought-provoking.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash, in exchange for an honest review.