Published by IVP Kids on November 9, 2021
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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It's bedtime again, but Isaiah can't sleep. It seems he's got too many things on his mind: things he's worried about. So Mom helps Isaiah imagine what it would be like if each of his worries were a block that he could stash in his backpack. As Isaiah imagines hiking through the woods carrying his worry pack, he discovers the joy and relief of trusting Jesus with everything--especially those worries. This tender story written by Ruth Goring, paired with Pamela C. Rice's warm illustrations, will be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Also included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content. Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God!
Isaiah has a lot to worry about. His mom works hard but doesn’t make a lot of money. His dad lives by himself in another place. His sister has been rebellious and argues a lot with his mom. There are so many things he wishes he could fix. When he talks to his mom about his worry, she leads him on an imaginative exploration of grief, worry, and anxiety.
She starts off by asking Isaiah to envision himself in the woods and his worries like big blocks in a backpack that are really hard to carry. Tell me about the things you feel and see in the woods. Isaiah says that he sees animals. A squirrel. A deer and her fawn. Say you come into an open field now and Jesus is standing on the other side. What happens then?
The back and forth continues as the two imagine what it would be like to encounter Jesus with all your worries. Isaiah imagines Jesus turning all his worries into seeds and throwing all of them away, then talking to him about Isaiah’s favorite thing—animals! At the end of the conversation, Isaiah realizes that the seeds have turned into trees with good fruit on them.
Isaiah and the Worry Pack reads more like a transcribed and illustrated example of using guided imagery than it does a typical children’s book. It’s more of a counseling tool or vignette than a book you would actually read to your children. The story is rather wordy and doesn’t always make sense (why are the worries at first blocks but then seeds?), which lends it an air of authenticity of a child molding a story from an adult’s guided imagery but doesn’t necessarily make for the most cohesive storyline.
The theme is intriguing, but underdeveloped. Goring drops a lot on readers in the first few panels, showing us that Isaiah is dealing with some pretty significant worries. I would have liked to have seen these worries be validated before turning to the moral lesson. I’m also not entirely sure of the significance of the worries turning into fruit trees. It seems like it’s a theme of redemption and beauty from ashes, but Goring never draws it out explicitly. That’s a difficult theme to leave implicit, particularly if the audience is children whose very real worries have not yet been redeemed.
In the end, I appreciate what Isaiah and the Worry Pack is attempting, but it works better as a teaching tool for parents to lead their children in imaginative meditation than as a book to be read to children. It just doesn’t seem like a book I’d sit down and read with my kids unless I was trying to teach them this concept, and even then I see it as a better tool for the adult than the child.