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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Church USA

Yes, please judge this book by its cover!

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It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s especially true with book covers. One of the more challenging aspects of publishing a storybook Bible — or any book — is creating a cover that draws readers — in this case, children — into the book. As we developed The Peace Table, we wanted a title and cover image that appealed to children and conveyed the beliefs and values embedded in the book.

Once we settled on the book’s title, we invited three artists to submit illustrations depicting their interpretation of our concept of a peace table. Ultimately, the Shine team chose Erin Bennett Banks’ submission for the cover. She provided this description along with her illustration.

“Jesus is sitting at the table, surrounded by a diverse group — children, a baby, men, women, different ethnicities and cultures. The people are all engaging with Jesus, while making connections to one another. They are holding hands, embracing, helping one another. There is an open Bible on the table, pulling the characters together and sparking conversation. Jesus is central to the scene, and the energy is joyful, radiant and loving. The open Bible is an invitation for readers to open this Bible storybook and explore the stories.”

We could not have asked for more! Birds, butterflies, a curious hedgehog and a playful frog seem to join in the conversation around the table. The bright colors and circular motion draw the eye into the relationships between Jesus, the people and nature. Notice the hands — showing, holding, protecting, embracing.

With all these touches, Erin’s thoughtful depiction weaves together Anabaptist values that are foundational for the Shine curriculum: Jesus as the center of our faith, the importance of community and God’s desire for peace and wholeness for all creation.

Jesus. Jesus is central to our faith and understanding of God. God sent Jesus into the world to show us how to live as God’s people. We want children to be inspired to love Jesus and follow his teachings. Of the 140 stories in The Peace Table, 62 are about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and teachings. The varied depictions of Jesus help children understand that he is “God with us” at all times and in all places.

Community. Faith is not only a personal connection to God; it grows within community. We want children to learn from one another and from the adults who care for them about how to faithfully follow God. The prompts alongside each story serve as gateways for children, teachers, parents and caregivers to share their experiences and ideas, as they read and reflect together.

Peace. The biblical concept of shalom, or peace, is integral to the Shine curriculum. This is not a passive peace or a feeling. The word shalom conveys wholeness —wholeness in relationships that bring healing where there is separation or hurt. This active peacemaking, nurtured by God’s transforming love, can change the world! We believe that giving children stories and tools that inspire peacemaking is essential for healing today’s hurting world. The peace paths woven throughout The Peace Table provide children with inspiration and practical ways to live into God’s shalom.

If this reminds you of Shine’s tagline, “Love Jesus, grow in faith, change the world,” it should! Every curriculum product Shine creates builds upon these foundational Anabaptist principles. The Peace Table is no exception. It is our desire that the stories and beautiful illustrations in the storybook Bible help teachers, parents and caregivers share these beliefs and values with their children.

So, yes, please judge this book by its beautiful cover! Banks’ illustration speaks a thousand words about a peace-filled world, in which Jesus embraces us and welcomes us to the table of God’s love. Open its pages with a child, and together, learn and grow to be God’s peacemakers who can change the world.

Joan Daggett

Project Director

Shine: Living in God’s Light

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