Author: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrator: Gary Kelley
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Audience: Ages 9-12
Summary: This is the story of a young girl who encountered many stumbling blocks along her life’s journey and a few removers of stumbling blocks, a few who let her praise the LORD with her life’s work. This is the story of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Literary Elements at Work: One of the most intriguing literary elements used throughout this book is the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt. There is a quote from Eleanor on each and every page of this book, including the front and back cover. And it turns out that Eleanor herself is quite a remarkable wordsmith! The two quotes Ms. Rappaport chooses to open and close story about this outstanding woman are perfectly delectable—“Do something everyday that scares you…We must cherish and honor the world ‘free’.” Caught between her two sentences is the oftentimes degrading and demanding figures that are prominent in Eleanor’s life—her mother and her mother-in-law. Along her journey however, while attending a French boarding school, Eleanor encounters a gifted teacher who challenges her to read, think for herself, and find important things to do. Reading, thinking, and finding important things to do will become the hallmark of this woman’s life. Another striking literary element illustrating the life of Eleanor Roosevelt is the beautiful and realistic paintings of Gary Kelley. Mr. Kelley uses mood coloring, period dress and staging, facial expression, and perspective to bring to life the challenges Eleanor encountered in her world as well as the challenges her world encountered in life! The pictures are gorgeous.
Scripture: Psalm 150-6; Matthew 18:1-7
Theology: The underlying theme for our church’s VBS this year was: Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150:6) I have been pondering this verse over and over in my mind and find that I am increasingly struck by the word “let.” It makes me think that sometimes we do not “Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!” Rather, sometimes we become stumbling blocks.
Recently, Dr. Rebecca Davis noted in a reflection, “Have you noticed that the disciples tend to fuss? They fuss about the children coming to see Jesus. They fuss that there’s not enough food to feed the 5,000. This time they are fussing about who is the most important in the kingdom of heaven. Surely it would be one of them. After all, they gave up everything and followed Jesus. They went behind him, were sent ahead of him, surely the place of privilege would be theirs. They should have known Jesus better than that – they were, after all, the ones who supposedly knew him best.”
Additionally, I would add to Dr. Davis’ reflection: Have you noticed that the disciples are always trying to send someone away? They want to send away the children coming to see Jesus. (messy, loud, wiggly, giggly children) They want to send away the 5,000 (dusty, tired, poor, some sick, some demoniacs, hungry, some men, some women, and some children). They want to send away the Samaritan woman (a woman, a good Jew could not even look at a woman in public; a Samaritan, better said, a heretic), and on and on and on….
Again, Dr. Davis notes, “Jesus turned their understanding of privilege and power upside down. He put a child in the middle of a group of recognized leaders and indicated quite clearly that the greatest in God’s kingdom was the least in the world’s kingdom. A child in Jesus’ time was nothing more than a piece of property. Children had no rights, no status, no power. They could even be placed on the side of the road and left as garbage if the father didn’t want them. It was the legalized practice called exposing. Jesus was quite clear, that practice was not acceptable in God’s kingdom. In a rare sanction Jesus warns disciples not to put a stumbling block in the way of a child. If we do, we’d be better off dead – harsh words from a loving Savior but consistent with his commitment to the ‘least of these.’”
As well, I would add that Jesus continues to encourage his disciples to “Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! —children (messy, loud, wiggly, giggly children), the 5,000 (dusty, tired, poor, some sick, some demoniacs, hungry, some men, some women, and some children), the Samaritan woman (a woman, a good Jew could not even look at a woman in public; a Samaritan, better said, a heretic), and on and on and on… “Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!”
Faith Talk Questions:
This book is fun to read in two voices. Find someone to serve as a narrator and someone to serve as the voice of Eleanor. Practice reading the story together. Invite the children in your neighborhood or Sunday school or your friends’ children or your children’s cousins over and have a dramatic reading. After the reading, the children can act out the parts. Some of the more prominent parts are Eleanor, her mother, her father, her teacher, Franklin, Americans in need, and soldiers. In the story Eleanor’s mother calls her “ugly” and “granny” in front of other people. Ask the children what names they have been called. Notice I said “ask the children what names they have been called” as if I know they have been called names. They have been. Ask the children what names they have called other children. Again, they have. Tell the children the names you have been called. Tell the children the names you have called others. Write a prayer of confession together. In the story, Eleanor says that her teacher, “…shocked me into thinking.” Ask the children, “What does she mean?” Tell the children about a time when you were shocked into thinking. Eleanor discovers during her lifetime that there are people in the world who suffer. Who? How do they suffer? What does she do? Who are the people in our world who suffer? How do they suffer? What can we do? How can we and our children “let everything that has breath praise the LORD!”? Eleanor says to “do something everyday that scares you.” What scares you?
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Kim Lee
Filed under: Biography/Memoir, Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Faith Questions For...., Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary, Young Children, Younger Elementary | Tagged: Eleanor Roosevelt, Gifts, stumbling block | Leave a Comment »