Some passages in the Bible are really easy to explain to your kids. Others.. not so much. Matthew 25:31-46, with its image of the last judgment and Jesus declaring that those who cared for one of the least of these His brothers, you did it to Him (Matt 25:40), can get really messy if not handled well. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Francis Chan decided to make it the focus of his latest kids’ book, Ronnie Wilson’s Gift.
Ronnie Wilson’s Gift tells the story of a young boy who, in response to learning why Jesus came to earth, decides to give Him his most prized possession—his baseball glove signed by his uncle (a professional baseball player). But as Ronnie tries to figure out a way to deliver his gift to heaven, he finds out that giving Jesus a present really happens by caring for those He loves in their time of need.
Chan does a very good job communicating this important message as we see Ronnie buy a man who has lost everything he owns in a fire something to eat, plays with his lonely next-door neighbor and gives a balloon to a little girl who’d just lost hers. These are very simple, relatable examples that help kids understand that generosity is a natural part of the Christian life. Generosity doesn’t have to be extravagant or earth-shattering; it can be as ordinary as buying a hot dog for someone who’s hungry.
Turning to the visuals, Jim Madsen’s illustrations are fantastic. While I enjoyed the technique used for Chan’s previous kids books (think Illustrator-chic meets flannel-graph), Madsen’s more classical style does an excellent job of communicating the story’s tone while still maintaining strong kid appeal.
The Big Red Tractor & The Little Village and Halfway Herbert were big hits with our eldest daughter and I hoped that she’d like Ronnie Wilson’s Gift just as much. I was not disappointed. We read the book twice the first night I gave it to her and she wanted to read it again the very next evening. What’s more important, though, is that she actually got the big idea—that generosity is a response to the grace that God showed us in Jesus, and that helping those in need is a way that we can worship Him. If you’re looking for a helpful book to add to your children’s library, you won’t go wrong by adding this one.
Title: Ronnie Wilson’s Gift
Author: Francis Chan (illustrated by Jim Madsen)
Publisher: David C. Cook (2011)