First thoughts about IS GOD REAL OR PRETEND? were that it looked just like the little books we got in Sunday School in the 1950s! I was concerned before I even began reading that it was conservative and dogmatic. I did not think it would do well out in the public forum because I was turned off by the appearance and expectation of the book; how dated it felt. I thought the comic book format we used in the 1960s might be better.
I opened the book and read it cover to cover and was pleasantly surprised that the information was marvelous and I loved the main character Franklin and all his great questions. I even liked that the book included Santa Claus! What a great resource this book was for adults to explain major world religion and answer some of those pesky questions adults get a bit queasy about answering. I liked that the book ended with information about the universe that Franklin could share in his school project.
So I shared the book with my 12 year old neighbor and her reply was favorable and she thought she knew a kid just like Franklin in her alternative program at school. She got a bit confused at one point so took out a piece of paper and made of chart of the different religions to simplify the information. She looked up Greek Mythology on the Internet and found a book in her library to follow up on the book’s introduction; she thought Franklin’s parents and Grandmother were very “cool” and great parents.
One of my young fellows I assist with reading found the word pages too long and too full. He could not remember what he read though he thought Franklin made the book interesting. My student felt that Franklin was kind of a NERD guy and was the sort who ignored kids similar to himself and got all the attention from the teacher. He thought Franklin was about the right age but too smart for most of the other kids in his class. He thought it would be more fun to follow through on trying out some of the “rules” for each faith, so we made a list and he was going to try on some of the tenets during the coming week and report back on his findings. I was pleased that with a little guidance and some explanation my student found some interest in the story. The words were too dense on each page and he did not like the illustrations at all – “Dorky!”
School Librarian Girl also read the book and thought it was a good reference book that her upper elementary kids would enjoy with adult assistance. She also thought the format/ page layouts of the book were not done correctly, “too dense”, for such a good reference story. Not enough illustrations, unhelpful placements of the pictures, and website links would have been helpful to interested children wanting to follow through. It was not preachy, but would be troublesome for some of the parents in her school district. The parents were a bit too brilliant for her “in crisis” children to find relevance. “A good reference book – needs adult assistance.”
All three of my readers had a terrible time with one of the illustrations in the story: “What is wrong with his arm?”
I personally liked in IS GOD REAL OR PRETEND?, the emphasis on religions as helping people to explain their world and to assist in making the world a better place.
Jennifer Horsman is quite a prolific writer and has a wide range of writing including romance novels, screen plays and children’s novels. I read one of her romance books when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and it took my mind right off the pain! I purchased my own copy of PLEASE DON’T EAT THE ANIMALS also by Horsman.