It’s that time of year again: the tulips in my flower bed are peeking out, the birds are building nests on my porch, and I’m trying to explain to my girls that, no, you can’t wear sleeveless taffeta dresses to the playground. How I love spring!
As I’ve been thinking about Easter books, one particular book has been in the forefront of my mind. Most of you probably know R.C. Sproul from his work at Ligonier Ministries. He preached and taught through his radio program as well as seemingly innumerable conferences, books, and videos for many years now. I’m sure that someone of his stature has turned as many people off as he has won over, and he may be especially irritating for some of you outside the Reformed camp. However, you need not be an R.C. Sproul groupie to appreciate his fantastic book for kids, The Prince’s Poison Cup.
Three things make this book an extraordinary Easter gift. First, it’s a great story. As the product description goes, “When young Ella gets sick and has to take yucky medicine, she wonders why something that will help her get well has to taste so bad. She puts the question to Grandpa, and he tells her the story of a great King and His subjects who enjoyed wonderful times together–until the people rebelled against the King and drank from a forbidden well. Suddenly, the beautiful water in the well made their hearts turn to stone, and stop loving the great King. They leave the beautiful park where they enjoyed fellowship with the King, and build a city called the City of Man. To reclaim His people, the King asks His Son, the Prince, to drink from well a in that city filled with horrid poison.” The reader knows the poison will kill the Prince; will his love for his Father and their people be enough to overcome his fear?
I’m sure you can see by now the second reason I love the book. It is not just a good story with a Christian moral. Rather, it’s actually an allegory for the story of Jesus’ work on the cross. Unlike many authors, R. C. Sproul hasn’t shied away from using the story as a teaching tool. He has actually included an afterward with questions and answers to open the story’s meaning to parents and children alike. I wish that the afterward had been a little simpler, but my guess is that it is fine for older kids. For the younger ones, you may need to explain the big ideas a little more simply–or if they’re like my kids, they will explain the story to you! I should add, too, that this back matter is what makes the book such a good gift in my opinion. Parents who aren’t clued in spiritually but who aren’t opposed to Christianity may find it a great way not only to teach their kids about Christ, but to learn about Him themselves.
Finally, you won’t do better than this book when it comes to illustrations. While I was browsing the kids sections of a bookstore this weekend, I was able to spot many Christian children’s book from a mile away–saccharine-sweet illustrations are stock and trade for Christian children’s publishing. But this book has a traditional feel without sacrificing any artistic quality. The illustrations are very detailed and yet metaphorical at the same time. Illustrator Justin Gerard was able to use patterns in light to portray the King, a unique and effective approach on the Biblical metaphor of God as light. I’d put it up against any secular kids’ book in heart-beat.
The Prince’s Poison Cup is perfect for young boys ages 4-8, but I think it will also appeal to many girls. Within publishing today, the consensus seems to be that girls will crossover to read boy’s books, but not vice versa. (This resonates when I imagine trying to get my nephews to read Fancy Nancy….) Another of Sproul’s books for kids, The Lightlings, is about some fairy-like creatures called lightlings and is probably intended to be for girls. But in my opinion, the story doesn’t hold together as well, though it is still better than many stories for kids today. If you have to pick one, though, I think The Prince’s Poison Cup book will serve both genders very well. And the fact that the Grandfather is telling the story to a girl will help it stretch as well.
I should also mention that Sproul recently released a new edition of his classic, The Priest’s Dirty Clothes, illustrated by Gerard, which many of you may be interested in as well.
Finally, if you’re interested in hearing R.C. Sproul talk about his inspiration for the book, or more about the theological points he hoped to convey in the story, click on over to Kevin Boling’s interview with him on sermon audio.
Teacher’s Note: I’m planning on letting my girls mix up a “poison” to drink soon and act out the story. While many people in school or church setting couldn’t do that, you could let them color a picture of a cup with lots of ugly colors–maybe letting them name all the things that they’d put in it? I also thought it would be interesting to make a timeline of the story and add the historical events represented underneath. Finding some way to make the theological content visual is always helpful, especially with some kids.
QUESTIONS: Any thoughts about this book for parents considering a purchase? Or R.C. Sproul’s other kids’ books? Do you have a favorite or one you don’t like?
Further Redeemed Reading: Easter Gifts 101: Bible stories and The Story of the Bible, Easter Gifts 101: Last Minute Warning! and Dear Reader… a post which lists some of the most popular Redeemed Reader series.