How High is Heaven? – Linsey Davis

How High is Heaven by Linsey Davis, Lucy Fleming
Also by this author: The World Is Awake for Little Ones: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings
Published by Zonderkidz on February 15, 2022
Genres: Children's
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four-stars

Children ask A LOT of questions when it comes to heaven, particularly when they’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. In this uplifting, imaginative picture book, How High Is Heaven inspires hope and comfort in readers young and old, that heaven can be experienced here and now and is open for us all. 
Bestselling author and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis invites children to explore age-appropriate questions about heaven. Kids (and their parents) can celebrate that, thanks to God’s grace, heaven is a place we can look forward to while finding moments of heaven here on earth.  
How High Is Heaven is the perfect books for parents and grandparents to read aloud and provides an uplifting message for kids ages 4-8, delivering: 
Read-aloud, lyrical rhymes  Whimsical, engaging illustrations by Lucy Fleming Answers to children’s questions about heaven… and a safe place to ask them  Comfort to those who have lost a loved one Look for additional inspirational children’s picture books and audio products from award-winning author Linsey Davis: 
The World Is Awake, A Celebration of Everyday Blessings One Big Heart, A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different Stay This Way Forever The Linsey Davis Children’s Audio Collection The Smallest Spot of a Dot 

Death is a difficult thing to introduce to children. We weren’t made for death, so understanding it is really an impossibility. Heaven is similar, except that it is what we were made for, but an experience we’ve never had. As such, we have the tendency to soften death. She passed. He went to be with the Lord. They’re in a better place. As adults, we know (or at least think we know) what we mean by these code-worded concepts. Children don’t. Is heaven a place like any other place? Can we go there? How do you get to heaven? And, as the title suggests How High is Heaven?

Linsey Davis offers young readers a thoughtful, simple story of a young child whose grandma has gone to Heaven. How do I get to Heaven? There’s someone I’d like to see. My grandma lives there, and every day she’s watching over me. We see the child imagine how one might get to Heaven—build a staircase, create wings and fly, bounce high on a trampoline, take off in a hot air balloon. Every panel is beautifully and colorfully illustrated and fits the liminal space between reality and imagination that the book is going for.

Midway through, the child and his family get on a plane and they think This is it! but then they just land in Tucson. (And Tucson, dear reader, is not Heaven.) After this, the book pivots toward what Heaven is and how to get there. It’s not about how far you travel, or not just the things that you do. It’s all about faith and the grace of God that brings this gift to you.

If I had to be picky (and I am), I would say that I would have liked to have seen a panel or two where the family was sad. It’s perhaps implied, but I think a more overt representation of the sadness of loss would be helpful to kids who have experienced that loss and have been given How High is Heaven? as a means of processing that grief. I also think the Gospel message could have been a bit clearer. The book presents heaven as a reward for belief and action, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that terminology. Further, the book then ends with a panel saying that until he gets to heaven, he’ll enjoy heaven on earth. Adults may understand this concept as metaphorical, but I’m not so certain that children will. I wish there had been more clarity of concept.

In terms of illustration, I want to say something about representation. Every character in this book is Black. While it’s not uncommon for children’s books to have an all-white cast, the reverse is rarely true and if so, it tends to be a book about slavery or racial issues. Not here. This is just a book about a young Black kid trying to understand what heaven is. Just existing. Just being. Just a part of the story where the color of his skin isn’t central to the storyline. We need more stories illustrated like this.

From a textual perspective, I found the sentence structure to be a bit clunky in parts when read to myself, but reading out loud to my kids smoothed out those parts by shortening or elongating syllables. I’ve seen a few reviews that criticize the book’s flow and I’d be willing to bet they didn’t read the book aloud. You may find it to be a problem, you may not. I didn’t.

Overall, my curmudgeonly pickiness aside, I would still read How High is Heaven? to my kids, but I would do it in the context of having other conversations with them about the book, about death, about heaven, and everything in between.

four-stars