Author: Randa Handler
Publication Date: September 14, 2013
Publisher: Independent ~ Premier Digital Publishing
Recommended Ages: 6+
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Unable to agree on their ideas about God and religious celebrations, four different ethnic tribes—Greeks, Chinese, Zulus, and Mayans—who live together harmoniously most of the year, combining aspects of each of their cultures to make their kingdom strong and prosperous, suddenly become divisive when religious holidays approach. During such times, they cannot agree on the timing or manner of religious traditions, and they each have their own god who looks and dresses as they do. When Niko, a young Greek boy, has several dreams of God, each tribe interprets the various details of his dreams according to its own view of God, further emphasizing the tribes’ differences in beliefs. Subsequently Niko is shunned for having created even more disharmony and for lying to the tribes, or so they think, as no one believes he dreamed of God. To clear up all the confusion and arrive at the truth, Niko begs God to manifest in one final dream. This time God shows him that the tribes’ beliefs are actually different expressions of the same god. Niko concludes that God is like colorless and formless iridescent light and the beliefs of all tribes about their gods are correct as these gods are like colors of the rainbow that derive from white light.
1. What is this book about? This book is about a boy named Niko, who lives in a place where there are four different groups of people: Greek, Mayan, Zulu, and Chinese. Each group believes that their God is the right one and they want everybody to celebrate their religious holidays. God comes to Niko in a dream and speaks to him. Each group asks what God looks like and Niko describes that God looks a little bit like each of the groups. So all the groups think God is theirs until God comes back and tells Niko that he appears to anybody and they will see him as they imagine him. Except God is really “colorless and formless”. Then the groups all agree on one holiday plus celebrate their own.
2. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? I liked the pictures because they look like paintings. There were lots of pictures and that was good.
3. What is your favorite part of the book? I liked when God keeps appearing to Niko in his dreams – that would be cool. I really liked how everybody figures out how to get along and agree about God at the end. I also liked the names of the kids: Niko, Totopa, Yeou, and Little Feather. It was cool because the names are from those cultures (Greek, Zulu, Chinese, and Mayan).
4. Is there anything you didn’t like about the book? I didn’t like the part where Niko’s friends won’t play with him anymore because they feel like he was causing trouble in the kingdom. That made me sad.
5. What is the main message of the book? I learned a bit about the different cultures and beliefs about God. The main message of the book is that there is no one group that is right about God. Everybody has to respect other people’s beliefs. God loves everybody the same.
6. Overall, what did you think about the book? The story was really good and I liked it. I liked that my Mom read it to me. I would rather someone read it to me than read it myself.
7. Who do you think would like this book? I think kids under the age of 10 would like this story.
Daughter Rating: ★★★★½
Daughter Rating: ★★★★½
My Thoughts: In our increasingly culturally diverse society, children are learning at any early age that children from different backgrounds may not only speak a different language, have different customs, eat different food, etc.; but, they also have different beliefs about God. The question is how to teach children to understand and respect that people from different cultures have belief systems that may differ from their own. The Boy Who Spoke to Godis a thought-provoking story exploring the question of which God is the right one.
The story takes place in a fictional setting where four cultures (Greek, Zulu, Mayan, and Chinese) peacefully co-exist and, in fact, prosper as they pool their resources and strengths. All is well until the New Year rolls around and “they couldn’t agree on which tribe had the right beliefs about God and religious celebrations.” Year after year, the people in the kingdom bicker, with each tribe holding fast that their way is the right way; until one day Niko, a young Greek boy, has a dream in which God speaks to him:
“Happiness has as many colors as the rainbow. All my children can find happiness when their beliefs and actions do not hurt others.”
Niko relays God’s message to the tribes who, each in turn, believe that Niko was visited by their God and that Niko’s dreams were proof of the existence of their own individual God. The discord between the tribes deepens and Niko is shunned as a troublemaker by everyone, including his friends.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when the King demands that Niko describe God after he receives another visit. Here is what happens:
Niko hesitated and finally said, “I begged him to appear again, but through a blinding beautiful white light he simply said, ‘Son, you’ve described me perfectly!'”
Oh! I just love that!
Upon further reflection Niko finally understands that God is colorless and he uses the analogy of each tribe representing one color of the rainbow which comes from the one bright white light (i.e., God). Finally, Niko and all of the villagers understand that there is only one God and they are able to reach consensus about how to celebrate under the one God (by having one common religious celebration: God’s Day) while continuing to celebrate their own unique beliefs. Oh, if only it were that simple!!! That being said, to be able to teach our children to both find common ground and celebrate diversity is so challenging, and this one little book certainly opened up a huge discussion among my children and myself.
The major themes in this book (i.e., cultural diversity, religion, tolerance) are quite complex for children (and even adults) to understand. However, I feel that the story – told in the style of a folktale – has an important underlying message. Importantly, the illustrations in the book, which I thought were fantastic, are essential to the story because they clearly depict the cultural differences among the tribes. All in all, the potential for some great discussions about these themes abound!
My Bottom Line: The Boy Who Spoke to Godis a modern day folktale about four culturally diverse tribes co-existing and prospering in one kingdom who fall into disharmony when they cannot agree on which tribes’ customs and belief are correct. Through the leadership of Niko, who is blessed with the ability to speak with God, the tribes learn that there is a way to celebrate one God while still having different beliefs and while practicing their own unique customs. I highly recommend this book to parents, teachers, and homeschoolers who want to open up a discussion with children about cultural and/or religious diversity. Ages 6+
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review. The author is also participating in Mother and Daughter’s Book Promotion Services. *
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