|Robb's Rambling Reviews||
What is God? Etan Boritzer tackles this very bold question in a very unassuming work. Without being condescending or didactic, Boritzer delivers a masterful lesson on world religions; a lesson intended for children, a lesson which many adults need to hear as well. By wrapping his story around the themes of tolerance, respect, and diversity, he makes his point time and time again, that it is our differences which actually make us similar. Boritzer includes many of the world’s major religions including Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu, their prophets and teachers, and their holy books as well. Again, he makes the point that as different as these people and books are, they have more similarities than differences. In discussing prayer, Boritzer reinforces his theme in that by praying, we all seek the same thing: A way to speak directly to God. The author even touches on freedom of religion, and speaking to others about your own religion. As I said, a remarkable lesson in a small package.
Robbie Marantz’s artwork is a perfect companion for Boritzer’s prose. Her use of color to emphasize the text highlight the work, but don’t detract from his simple wording. Cool, calm blue hues, warm sunny yellows, and brash reds and oranges help in creating a mood for Boritzer’s work. The artist’s composition goes further by banding the wording in tranquil and peaceful colors, while creating artwork which accentuates the story, never putting itself in center stage.
Although Marantz’s work is peaceful and subdued, it succeeds extremely well in doing its job of reinforcing the text. Her illustrations of holy books, places of prayer, and religious icons flow seamlessly on the partnering page of the text. People without freedom of religion look sad and dejected. Young people discussing religion share sandwiches on park benches. The beautiful watercolors are stories of their own, but when coupled with the sweet text, the story seems to flow effortlessly.
I decided to re-write my response to this title in the wake of the tragic events which occurred last week in New Zealand. When will senseless carnage such as this cease? Not until we heed words such as these and take them to heart. Our planet continues to shrink as technology brings us closer together, however our understanding and tolerance for each other has not. It is imperative that our young people are taught values such as Etan Boritzer demonstrates. Having been raised by parents who taught me to explore and embrace other cultures and philosophies, it is almost incomprehensible that humans can be unkind to other humans, but the amount of hatred fueled by religion and politics continues to astound me. As Boritzer shows, we are all humans, we all have beliefs which have more in common with each other than they have differences. Perhaps the intended audience for the book should be enlarged from children to human. Because, until adults learn these values, we have little hope in them teaching their children anything different than the status quo.
Boritzer does a splendid job in creating a simple, yet precise, work on a very broad, challenging topic. His use of direct, unassuming text makes his work easy to understand and accessible at any age. Beginning readers will have no problems understanding the message, nor will adults as they read along. His theme of treating others the way you wish to be treated, of tolerance and respect for others is timeless and meaningful. Without being preachy or religious, What is God? should be in every home, library, and classroom. I truly believe it would begin to make a difference.
Citation: Boritzer, E. (1990). What is God? Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books.