Religion Around the World – Sonja Hagander, Matthew Maruggi, Megan Borgert-Spaniol, and Chester Bentley

Religion Around the World: A Curious Kid's Guide to the World's Great Faiths by Sonja Hagander, Matthew Maruggi, Megan Borgert-Spaniol, Chester Bentley
Published by Beaming Books on August 16, 2022
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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A captivating exploration of world religions, from the perspective of a curious kid.

Religion around the World: A Curious Kid's Guide to the World's Great Faiths explores the world's major faiths, making the traditions, beliefs, practices, and history of each accessible to kids ages 8-12. This visually compelling book presents each religion as a rich tradition that has served as a force for human connection and good in the world. Colorful illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, and other infographics, along with clear, age-appropriate text, make this an appealing book for browsing, research, and learning.
Curious Kids' Guides present cool and surprising information about Christian and other religions' history and beliefs in an entertaining, visually engaging way.

Understanding religion isn’t always easy. Most religious systems focus on having their children learn their system and really don’t encourage learning about other worldviews, or, if so, within the context and confines of comparison against the preferred religion. I’m a Christian pastor and I believe that Christianity has the best answers to the questions religion asks. But I also think we do our children an injustice if we don’t share with them how other religions seek to answer these same questions or only teach them other religious systems for the purposes of apologetics and evangelism.

Religion Around the World is a neutral and unbiased guide to the five largest religions written by Christians who have experience in interfaith relationships. Sonja Hagander is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She’s the pastoral heart of this book  Matthew Maruggi is an Associate Professor of Religion at Augsburg University where he teaches ethics of world religions and interfaith studies. He’s the academic head. Megan Borgert-Spaniol is the children’s author to put it all in terms accessible for the elementary age. Capping off the creative team is Chester Bentley, the illustrator who does a great job with the book’s design and bringing elements of various religions to life.

The book begins by asking the question “What is religion?” Religion Around the World says that brings all religions together is the questions they ask about creation, ethics, the purpose of life, the problem of suffering, and the nature of the afterlife. Religions all have rituals and practices, sacred places or objects, ethics, and role models or leaders. While religion is often a private practice, people’s religion often affect how they live and how they seek to orient their society and culture.

Religion Around the World focuses on the top five largest religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each religion is covered in eight pages that goes through the history, practices, and values of each religion in a neutral manner. While aimed at children, the book is simple and informative for people of all ages. It’s an easy, quick primer that taught me some things that I’d forgotten or never knew. The “My Faith in My Words” section invites young people to talk about their faith and is probably the highlight of each section.

After this, there are short sections devoted to other notable traditions: Shamanism, Native American Spirituality, Sikhism, Taoism, and Secular Humanism. A final section discusses interfaith families, interviewing people who come from mixed-faith backgrounds. For example, Jehan is “Muslic” (her father is Muslim; her mother is Catholic). She grew up attending both a mosque and a church and later chose to be baptized as a Christian.

Religion Around the World will probably be seen as too ecumenical for some, but I appreciate its emphasis on unity and interfaith connection. We all have to live in a multicultural and multifaith society and understanding our places of unity helps develop understanding and grace in our areas of difference. This book teaches young readers that other religions—and their practitioners—aren’t to be feared or shunned but to be welcomed and understood.