Book Review: Grandpa's Box, by Starr Meade
Synopsis: Set in suburban, twenty-first century America, and yet ambitiously covering all of history in its scope, Grandpa's Box, by Starr Meade, is a book that speaks to children from a venue that they understand, and tells them what they most urgently need to hear. This is, as the subtitle suggests, simply a retelling of the biblical story; which only means that there is nothing new or innovative in the essential content of its message, just in the mode of its delivery. It is nothing but the overarching storyline of the bible, put into simple and coherent terms, and given a context which emphasizes its all-encompassing importance for covenant children today. In short, it not only tells the story of the bible to the children of the church: it makes them a part of that story as well.
In Deuteronomy chapter six, God gives his Church instructions to be teaching their children his Word, day in and day out, in every conceivable context. In light of this commandment, it is probably no coincidence that children are wired to enjoy hearing stories, and that the bible itself is laid out as one vast epic tale. The best and most natural introduction to the great theological truths of the bible comes from a recounting of the great and marvelous things that God has done to reveal himself and show his sovereign power and faithful mercy. And apart from an understanding of the unity and coherence of God's great redemptive acts in history, an understanding of the creeds, confessions, and catechisms is bound to be disconnected and abstruse. What our children need (and no doubt ourselves as well), to understand the significance of the precious truths of systematic theology, is the story-field from which those truths have been gleaned, and an awareness of their own place in that story. And the good news is that this sort of learning lacks the laboriousness of systematic indoctrination (which also has its place, by the way). In fact, children will probably not be inclined to view this sort of method as learning at all, at least not in the way that studying math in school is learning; but even while they are being entertained, they will be learning something far more eternally-significant and life-shaping than they could acquire in any math class.
So what is â€œGrandpa's boxâ€? It is simply an old chest which the title character of the book has filled over the years with wood carvings, each of which conveys some significant aspect of a bible story. Using his box for illustrations, this grandpa, gifted as a story-teller and well-grounded in the basic message of the bible, retells to his grandchildren the story of the bible from the Garden in Eden to the New Jerusalem. Capitalizing on the children's interests, Grandpa is able to give them a fresh perspective on many of the bible stories they have heard all of their lives, by casting them all into the perspective of a monumental battle fought by God for his chosen people, whom their archenemy, the Serpent, is constantly threatening through temptation, persecution, discouragement, and so on. As each battle unfolds, it appears over and over again that, even when Satan appears to have a certain victory, God had already anticipated his wicked designs, and had in fact planned to use those very things to bring about his great and lasting victory, through the war-Hero and King that he promised from the beginning to send.
Starr Meade's â€œGrandpaâ€ is a figure who admirably illustrates the intent of God's command in Deuteronomy 6. He is someone that all parents could learn to emulate, in their own way. If any parents are willing to learn from his example, a good place to start would be to buy this book for their own children (or grandchildren), and either read it to them, or else be ready to discuss each story with them as they read it to themselves.