Sunday, February 21, 2016

God and Edwina

Dinosaur books are everywhere. Like most, Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She was Extinct by Mo Willems is fun and plays with the ridiculous idea of having a dinosaur as a friend. However, this book offers an additional and intriguing possibility for consideration.  
Edwina is kind and helpful so she’s popular and well-loved by all but one. Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie is determined to tell everyone that dinosaurs are extinct. 
His peers argue, “What about Edwina?” Then they list her acts of love and service. 
Reginald hopes that once they are convinced that dinosaurs are extinct, then Edwina will disappear. Reginald tries fliers and protests but no one listens, except for Edwina, who attentively listens to Reginald’s persuasive arguments. How does she respond? She’s shocked! 
But also she just doesn’t care, and neither does Reginald once he is won over by Edwina’s goodness and generosity.

Tweens and teens will enjoy picture books more than you might suspect though you don’t want to offer these too often. There is a quiet, nostalgia in older children to remember the delights of their younger selves and the comforts and discoveries of picture books. I’m suggesting that you tap into those feelings and consider the important questions and situations that picture books can offer.
Just under the surface, this Mo Willems book presents questions of God’s existence and how to relate to those who are passionate atheists. Furthermore, the evidence of Edwina’s existence can easily be applied to evidence of God’s nature.
Should the question of God’s existence be up for consideration in theological conversations or lessons with children? Absolutely! They hear these arguments in school and in social media and sometimes feel quite alone in their faith.
In fact, exposure to thoughtful responses may lead to a more solid foundation in their faith as they grapple with arguments like Reginald’s. Helping older children and youth frame their own personal responses is a way faith families can help prepare them for their inevitable confusions and doubts in adulthood.  
For this book, be sure to focus on the kindness and goodness of Edwina and connect these with God’s nature and the positive influence God has on humans – complicated stuff but today’s youth are surprisingly good at considering various arguments and different points of view.
Focus especially on how Edwina listens attentively to Reginald. Sometimes listening is all that is needed to diffuse a passionate and uncomfortable argument. Also, consider Reginald’s motives. Is he most interested in being right or being heard and included? Are their children in your faith community who have similar inclinations?
I especially love how Edwina ends with a sense that she doesn’t have to understand. I think that this kind of humility, particularly when it comes to existential questions, is crucial, what God hopes for, and often the least hurtful response. Too often arguments over beliefs cause damage in faith communities. We don’t have to understand all the mysteries in order to enjoy the delights and goodness of our faith in God.
Picture Book: Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Exist
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audible