By Karen Kiefer, illustrated by Kathy De Wit. Paraclete Press, 2019. 32 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $12.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Drawing God is a wonderful invitation for children (and adults) to consider metaphors that help us understand aspects of the Divine, and how artistic expression can help us explore and share these understandings. Inspired by the artwork she sees at a museum, a girl wants to draw something “beyond spectacular,” and decides to draw God. She begins by coloring a bright yellow sunshine because God is light, but her friends don’t understand. She tries again and again, but the children at her school keep seeing her pictures literally. After praying for help, she comes to an inner peace based on her confidence that her own pictures were faithful to her vision, and that’s enough. But then something “beyond spectacular” happens: all of the children begin to draw God, and every picture is different. The book’s illustrations focus on the intensity of the child’s pictures, while backgrounds fade into mere outline and silhouette. Illustrator Kathy De Wit captures both the seriousness and joy with which the child in the story works on her project.
This book talks very explicitly about God and prayer, and the notes in the back use the language of the New and Old Testaments and Christian denominations (although Christ is not mentioned); at the same time, it is very open-ended and compatible with a variety of ways of experiencing the Spirit. It also ties in well with some specifically Quaker experiences; for example, our artist sees God as light and love, and she sits quietly and listens to the whispers of her mind and heart while discerning what to draw. Also, God is not given a gender.
I think this would be a great book to share with children to spark discussion of where and how we experience the Divine, and what sorts of metaphors help us envision how the Spirit touches us. The notes at the back of the book include a number of suggestions for kicking off discussions and art projects. This could be wonderful to use in either the family or the First-day school classroom. It would also work well with all ages or multigenerational First-day school, since the story is accessible for preschoolers, while the concept is of importance (and delight!) for all of us. It is a good resource even for groups who are unable to meet in person, as the book and the resulting art projects could all be shared online.
Anne Nydam is a member of Wellesley Meeting in Massachusetts, where she teaches First-day school (when it is in session). A former middle-school art teacher, she now works as an author and artist.