Library Thing Early Reader’s Review: The Marvelous Mustard Seed

I received The Marvelous Mustard Seed, written by Amy-Jill Levine and illustrated by Margaux Meganck, in the Library Thing Early Review program.  Flyaway Books sent me an advanced reader’s manuscript and a nice letter to go along with it.  I highly recommend joining Library Thing and their Early Reviewers’ program, if for no other reason than free books!

The art in The marvelous Mustard Seed is wonderful and very fitting for the content. There are more words on each page than some other more beautiful children’s books I’ve seen (I think of Erin E. Stead as the paragon of cutesie children’s book art, and of course David Wiesner’s books are often more show than tell) so the art and the story balance each other out nicely. Nothing is so eye catching as to be distracting. I did think that some of the words were oddly placed on the page, pulling the eye in strange directions and causing confusion for the reading experience, but it’s possible that that is a problem with the manuscript that will not be there by the official printing.

The story is very simple, but the commentary on the original parable that comes at the end of the book makes the experience of the book much richer. For this reason, I think this book could be suitable to a wider range of readers than it might otherwise be. The simple story and cute visuals would be perfect for very young children, between 2 and 5, and then older children who have longer attention spans might enjoy talking about the parable and answering the questions at the end. Even older children might enjoy reading the book to younger siblings.

My mom used to use books and stories to generate discussion at our dinner table when we were young. I could see this being an excellent way to bring an experience of discipleship into the everyday life of a family.

I am Christian, and I think of myself as religious, but I don’t like didactic stories, especially in children’s books.  I don’t have children of my own, but when I discuss God, faith, and the Bible with kids, I like to be the one making decisions on what to include or emphasize and how to explain those things.  I always worry a little when outsourcing that kind of power to children’s book writers.  Nonetheless, I like the way Levine worked the Kingdom of God into the story in a sweet way towards the end of the book, which again allows for richer successive readings. I thought between the gentle inclusion of God and the excellent questions at the end, this book managed to stay true to the Christian message while not crossing the line into uncomfortably preachy.

Glad to have this book. It’s a gem!

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