(A) Ages 0-4, (B) Ages 4-8, (C) Ages 8-10, (D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, (F) Ages 15-18, (G) Ages 16 and up, Book Reviews, Christian, Nonfiction, Picture Books, Starred Reviews, The Good Book
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*Miracle Man by John Hendrix

A new “life of Jesus” picture book presents the Son of God as compelling and dynamic in word and deed.

*Miracle Man: the Story of Jesus by John Hendrix.  Abrams, 2016, 40 pages.miracle-man

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: all ages

The wildly popular Jesus Storybook Bible related the entire Bible narrative to the promised Son of God and his work.  This standard-size picture book, published by a traditional (i.e., secular) publishing house, takes a much narrower focus, but the impact is similar.  The result is beautiful, not just in style but in content.  In the “Author Note” John Hendrix identifies himself: “At a very young age, I fell in love with the Miracle Man.  To this day, merely reading his words in the simple clarity of the Gospel story can stir my soul.”  While he takes a few factual liberties with the text (the boy with the five loaves & two fishes, for example, is identified as a girl), he’s true to the spirit.  All dialogue is rendered by hand, often creatively integrating with the pictures.  Jesus is not quoted directly but in a very loose paraphrase that often incorporates deeper meaning.  After calming the storm, for instance, he says, “I am the son of the Living God who made the water and the winds.  Did you forget who was in your boat?”  Or, to the disciple who failed the water test: “Peter, have faith in my feet, not your own.”

The Miracle Man is also pictured in ragged clothes.  While this is likely an exaggeration (given the number of women in his entourage, his clothes were probably decent, though plain), I appreciate that he’s not in a pure white robe with a red sash–that is, not until he walks out of that tomb.  This is a man of the people, mingling, touching, preaching, healing.  Covenant children should enjoy seeing him “in a new way,” as the author says in his afterword, and I pray that children who don’t know him may begin a relationship through this book.

Cautions: None

Overall rating: 5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic value: 5
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3 Comments

  1. Robin Hamel says

    I read this book when it was donated to our Christian school, and I did like the style and format. I think it would really draw children into the story of Christ. I also read the endnotes from Hendrix and remember that he identified as a believer. However, the changes he made bothered me, and I thought them very unfortunate because they weren’t (quantitatively) a large portion of the book. But why change a boy to a girl when the Scripture was clear? (I looked up all the verses about it, and one or two said “child”, but another verse said “boy.”) Obviously if you simplify a story for children, it will be less precise, but some changes like the timing of events and girl-boy seemed unnecessary. Unfortunately, I can’t give other specific examples because we don’t have the book now.

    • Janie says

      Robin–I agree with you. In my review, I noted that Hendrix took some liberties with the text, but I believe he remained true to the basic meaning. In my interview he mentioned that a Christian artist has to work through a cultural lens if he hopes to reach a secular world. The decision to picture the child with the loaves and fishes as a girl might have been made in that spirit. It’s not something I would have felt needed doing, and I would not have made the same choices about rephrasing some of Jesus’ words. I do believe, however, that the book earned a star for its attempt to present Jesus to an assumed secular audience.

  2. Robin Hamel says

    Janie, thank you for your reply. I think we’re on the same page here. The artwork and format of Miracle Man create a very appealing and compelling picture book that would draw in young and adult readers, perhaps especially those less familiar with the Bible. It’s the kind of book that I would write corrections in, if I owned the book, and then I would read it aloud that way. Perhaps we can hope for a tweaked future edition. Thanks for your work!

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