Share
A- A A+
Free Email News
15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati

US $3.50
View Item
Please Nana … Who is God?
by Margaret Wieland

US $10.00
View Item
Please Nana … What is Death?
by Margaret Wieland

US $10.00
View Item
Refuting Compromise (updated & expanded)
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati

US $15.00
View Item
Beyond the Shadows: making sense of personal tragedy
by Dr Carl Wieland

US $10.00
View Item
Walking Through Shadows: A Testimony DVD
by Dr Carl Wieland

US $13.00
View Item

Teaching children about animal death

The Please Nana: What is death? book meets an important need

by

Illustrations by Caleb Salisbury

Published: 6 September 2012 (GMT+10)

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” says Proverbs 27:6, so with that in mind, I went to see my Christian friend Graham, the principal of a Christian school, who didn’t (and, sadly, still does not) share my ‘young-earth creation’ views. (Now semi-retired, Graham still teaches at Christian schools part-time.) With his long-age views, I was grieved that he was thus defrauding himself of key ministering opportunities to the children in his charge, and I was eager to do my utmost to rectify that.

“Graham, tell me, have any of the children in your care ever asked you, ‘Sir, why did my pet have to die?’

Graham answered that they had indeed. “What did you tell them?” I asked him.

“That animals have to die, that’s the way it is, always has been—the God-ordained natural order of things.” And then, evidently knowing where the conversation was heading, Graham said defensively, “The Bible only says there was no human death before the Fall,” and proceeded to cite favourably the writings of ‘day-age/progressive creationist’ Hugh Ross and others of the organization Reasons to Believe. (Which have been comprehensively rebutted in Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise.)

Young children exposed to their first-ever animal death, and distressed by it, intrinsically know that something isn’t right, though ignorant of the event in history which caused it.

I won’t go here into all the details of our ensuing discussion. Suffice to say, I was frustrated and sad—sad for Graham, and sad for those many youngsters in his sphere of influence. Not least because such long-age compromise is all so unnecessary (as well as destructive)—there’s a plethora of resources and freely-available information online which shows that true science supports a straightforward reading of the biblical account of origins. No death or suffering before Adam sinned, no carnivory before the Fall, all the animals were originally vegetarian. Young children exposed to their first-ever animal death, and distressed by it, intrinsically know that something isn’t right, though ignorant of the event in history which caused it.

Alas, as I ruefully reflected in the wake of my (unsuccessful) entreaties to Graham, although there is plenty of material suitable for adults on this topic, there wasn’t any children’s book that I knew of which directly addressed that point. Something that could help a child better understand the death of an animal, in the event that proper teaching from the adults in their life was absent or neglected.

Well, now there is one I know of. It’s called Please, Nana: What is Death?, by Margaret Wieland, beautifully (and, as we shall see, very strategically) illustrated by Caleb Salisbury. The book opens with:

A little girl stands quiet and still,

Her mind is all a-muddle:

Why does the pretty bird that flew

Lie lifeless in the puddle?

She then asks her ‘Nana’ that key question: “Why, Nana, why’d he die?”

Nana then says that the little bird died just as the little girl’s grandma had died, too. In other words, linking the issue of animal death and human death. And this logically enough leads to the little girl asking, “Please, Nana, what is death?”

A moment of truth for Nana—here’s a ministering opportunity if ever there was one. Wouldn’t it be easier to just give a ‘fob off’ answer? No, instead she realizes:

"I looked into those big brown eyes,

So fixed upon my face;

There may not be a better time

Or any better place."

So Nana boldly begins to answer, of course going back to the beginning of the true history of the world:

“There was a world long years ago,

Where nothing ever died;

A moment of truth for Nana—here’s a ministering opportunity if ever there was one.

No-one got sick or hurt themselves,

And no-one ever cried.”

Now this brings a major challenge to the illustrator. How to portray Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?—a traditional ‘minefield’ for Christian artists. The risks of misrepresenting Eden are huge, not to mention the fact that the pre-Fall Adam and Eve were naked (which poses all sorts of difficult issues for post-Fall eyes, both young and old). The artist, Caleb Salisbury, solves the problem magnificently, introducing ‘Eden’ pictorially as if seen in the little girl’s mind, with a simple stylized black-and-white sketch, with Adam and Eve as stick figures:

Author Margaret Wieland then moves quickly into paraphrasing succinctly the Genesis 3 account, with the illustrator using his simple black-and-white medium to delightfully emphasize the “Don’t eat the fruit” command from God, and the “Bad snake” lurking behind the tree:

The next few pages take the reader further into this calamitous event early in the world’s history that would so impact people’s and animals’ lives thereafter. But we now arrive at another challenge for the artist. Committed to drawing Adam and Eve as stick figures, how can he now evoke in the reader’s sight the realisation of their nakedness? Well, speaking as a non-artist myself, I really think the p. 17 illustration absolutely ‘nails’ it (at right).

And so the story continues, with Nana arriving at this essential teaching point for the little girl (p. 20):

“Because of this all living things

Most certainly will die;

Yes, every kind of animal,

On land, in sea or sky.”

And not just animals, but people, also, now face death:

“And that means human beings too,

Yes, grandmas, you, and me;

That’s why we need to understand

Our early history.”

And, as you would surely expect, Nana concludes her answer to the little girl (p. 23) by referring to the hope we have through the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“And you and I and everyone,

Can live again if we

Believe and put our trust in Him,

And claim His love—it’s free.”

If what I’ve referred to above represented the entirety of the book, it would be a great book. But there’s more. The final eight pages of the book comprise twenty detailed end-notes (or ‘Nana Notes’ as the author has titled them) designed for older readers who want to explore further the many theological and other issues intrinsic to any discussion of the momentous account of the Garden of Eden and the Fall in the opening chapters of Genesis. Here’s just one as a sample—it’s Nana Note #11, re the ‘serpent’:

Was this ‘being’ just another creature that God had created on Day Five? Yes—and no—certainly the ‘serpent’ was in animal form, but the fact that it could speak in words clearly understood by Eve makes it very different from every other animal in existence at that time. The Bible states clearly that God made all things in heaven and earth in those six days (Exodus 20:11), so even the angels had to be created during that time (Colossians 1:16)—and it is likely that they were created in the first part of Day 1, just before the earth (Job 38:4&7). These created angels all remained true to their Creator right up to the very end of Day 6 of the Creation Week, when God pronounced everything He had made ‘very good’. But the Bible also indicates that somewhere after that point and before the temptation of Eve, there was a rebellion in Heaven led by a being high in the angelic hierarchy, whom we now call the devil or Satan. He is described in glowing terms (Ezekiel 28:11–19). He may well have been an amazingly beautiful being. Before Eve and then Adam made the choice to go against God, so had this ‘anointed cherub’ who, as it appears, also encouraged no less than a third of the hosts of angels to join with him in this mutiny (Revelation 12:4). So, yes, this serpent was a real animal but Satan gave him voice (Revelation 12:9). For more, see creation.com/who-was-the-serpent.

In short, I recommend this book not just for children, but adults, too. In fact, author Margaret Wieland prefaces the book with this note: “This is a book to be read to (with) children, not just given to them.” Now if I could only get my Christian teacher friend Graham to actually want to read it, not just for himself but out loud to his young charges …

The real ‘Nana’, and the real little girl who questioned her

Please Nana: What is Death? and the earlier book in the series, Please Nana: Who is God?, started out as a collection of poems by Margaret Wieland for sharing with her littlest neighbour/‘granddaughter’,1 Mary-Beth Bergmann, born in 2004. Mary-Beth would often ask Margaret searching questions. Margaret relates how ‘Why, Nana?’ became a regular feature of their conversations as a young Mary-Beth began to explore her world:

“And then, one fateful day, we saw a little bird misjudge a passing car and end up in a heap on the ground almost at our feet. It was our first shared experience of death and I decided I would create something to explain ‘death’ to her and its presence now in what was originally God’s wonderful and perfect creation.”

And:

“When it came to selecting a title for these books ‘Please, Nana’ won hands down. Without Mary-Beth and the little bird they would doubtless never have been written.”

More at www.pleasenana.com

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. As it says at www.pleasenana.com, “They [Mary-Beth and her ‘Nana’] are not blood relatives though just as close as if they were.” Return to text.

Creation.com reaches millions of people each year–many of these aren't believers in our Creator and Savior Jesus Christ. How will we keep reaching them without your support? Please consider a small gift today. Support this site

Comments closed
Article closed for commenting.
Only available for 14 days from appearance on front page.
Readers’ comments
Jack C., Australia, 6 September 2012

Beautiful.

A. S., United Kingdom, 6 September 2012

Thank you, David Catchpoole, for this article as I have been wondering what this book was like for sometime. I have now been persuaded to purchase it for my church bookstall.

Marie A., Canada, 6 September 2012

They are beautiful, we have both of them and I am ordering more to give away! Thanks "Nana"!

Timothy K., Australia, 6 September 2012

Excellent! : )

Douglas J. B., United States, 6 September 2012

“And then, one fateful day, we saw a little bird misjudge a passing car and end up in a heap on the ground almost at our feet. It was our first shared experience of death and I decided I would create something to explain ‘death’ to her and its presence now in what was originally God’s wonderful and perfect creation.”

“When it came to selecting a title for these books ‘Please, Nana’ won hands down. Without Mary-Beth and the little bird they would doubtless never have been written.”

...

"A sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father's will."

P. G., United States, 6 September 2012

Hi Dr. Catchpoole,

It's heartbreaking to hear about people such as Graham professing Christ while denying his word. Christ truly said that if they don't believe Moses then they will not believe if one went to them from the dead. They don't "believe on" Jesus when he spoke of the flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the coming judgement.

What God do they believe and profess? If it's not God whose infallible word is the Bible it must be a thing of their own creation - an idol. Though CMI and other creation ministries hold the position that you can be a Christian and not believe what Jesus stated in the Bible about creation, I have not been able to see that as a logically tenable position.

Perhaps these pastors and teachers who have elevated man's word above God's Word would be more motivated to search the scriptures if they understood that they are destined for a lake of eternal fire? Doubtless few want to hear that and consider that not all who profess Christ and do works in his name will be accepted by him in the judgement - but that is what the scripture says.

I don't intend to belabor the point, but when Jesus said that it were better to have a mill stone hanged around your neck and be drowned in the sea than to offend one his little ones, it seems particularly applicable to instructors teaching those who have the faith of a child that the Bible is a book of fairy tales.

The best resource, and the one Graham and others should be reading and believing, is the Bible. We must not be daily hanging our faith on each new "scientific discovery" to determine if the Bible is trustworthy. I owe much to scientists and ministers at CMI who have reinforced this perspective for me - it's not just a young earth issue, but a biblical inerrancy issue.

Best regards,

P.G.

David Catchpoole responds

Dear P.G.

Thanks for speaking from the heart. I'd like to comment from my own personal experience on this sentence you wrote:

"Though CMI and other creation ministries hold the position that you can be a Christian and not believe what Jesus stated in the Bible about creation, I have not been able to see that as a logically tenable position."

For my first 12 years as a Christian, I was a hybrid Jesus-disciple/old-earther/theistic-evolutionist. Nevertheless, I would still say today that I was at that time a Christian. An inconsistent Christian, but one pledged to be a follower of Christ nonetheless, with its attendant promise of salvation. But you are absolutely correct when you say that it was not a logically tenable position. It was 'logically unsustainable'. Thankfully I heard the wake-up call when it came.

Comments closed
Article closed for commenting.
Only available for 14 days from appearance on front page.
Copied to clipboard
8817
Product added to cart.
Click store to checkout.
In your shopping cart

Remove All Products in Cart
Go to store and Checkout
Go to store
Total price does not include shipping costs. Prices subject to change in accordance with your country’s store.