Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
What is Heaven Like? by Richard R. Eng is a very, very, very special children's book. Initially, when we went through it and noticed its wordiness, a small error (in the capitalization of one word), and complexity, we averaged giving it a 9.2/10 rating. However, after rereading and rethinking this book, we had to boost the score. It really is something unique and special.
It's really difficult to describe what makes this book so extraordinary for a children's book, but we'll give it our best shot. First of all, the art is beautiful. The illustrations are very well-done. They're bright and eye-catching. The human characters look great, falling under the uncanny valley and in the sweet spot between that and cartoons.
Where this book really shines is in its message, especially for its very specific target audience. This was a book that was made for Sunday schools, youth groups, and Christian households. It accomplishes its task superbly.
See, normally when we see a wordy children's book like this, we consider the short attention spans of the children. However, in a Sunday school or youth group environment, children often consume information from a text like this and answer a worksheet testing them on what they learned. This book is perfect for that, even supplying a few questions at the end that Sunday school teachers can use.
This book explores many of the stranger, lesser acknowledged questions that children (and adults) have about Heaven. What will it be like? Will we sing all the time? Will we work all the time? Will we be bored?
What's very interesting about this book is that it presents the answers the way Jesus might present them, in the form of a physical situation familiar to the people he's talking to. The dad in this situation takes his son, Jessie, out to the lake to fish. Many of us can relate to the experience of fishing, hunting, or hiking with our parents on a cold, foggy morning. This makes Jessie think about existential things like where we go after this life and if it'll be nearly as enjoyable.
One of the first things he thinks about is if Heaven will be foggy like the foggy river, but his dad eases his mind and tells him that there aren't bad things in Heaven, only good. So, logically, why would God make it hard to see there? Second, Jessie ponders the Bible verses that talk about all the singing in Heaven and whether or not he'll actually enjoy that. His dad tells him that there's more to it than just singing, it's like a calling. When we love something like a sport, a hobby, a toy, or a person, we want to talk about them all the time because it's important and fascinating to us.
Similarly, Jessie worries that there'll be work like chores in Heaven, but his dad has him think about his dream job. Jessie imagines being an astronaut helping in the colonization of Mars. His dad tells him that that dream is unique to him and that God must've put it on his heart—it's something he WANTS to do, DESIRES to do, and ENJOYS doing. It's something he was, in theory, MADE for. His dad tells him that we are made by God to accomplish certain tasks on Earth, and that we'll have a very special task in Heaven that was made just for us.
A very interesting part of this book considers what the fish see. The dad says that the fish are made to see in the green, murky water, but that the light above the water is blinding to them because they're not used to it. Similarly, human beings on Earth live in relative darkness, not fully grasping or understanding what is above, not fully comprehending how great it is up there.
This is a phenomenal Christian children's book, especially if your kids have some patience, introspection, and existential curiosity.
Check it out on Amazon!