The Marvelous Maker – April Graney (illus. Monica Garofalo)

The Marvelous Maker April Graney
The Marvelous Maker: A Creation and Redemption Parable by April Graney
Published by B&H Kids on September 8, 2020
Genres: Children's, Bible Stories
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The Marvelous Maker is a creation redemption parable that tells the story of creation, fall, sacrifice, and redemption. This rhyming retelling uncovers how the Maker fabulously creates a universe for His glory and for His children to enjoy. Everything is perfect and good until the Tricky Tempter enters the scene and tempts the Maker’s children, which brings a horrible darkness to creation and allows the Tempter to take the children captive. The Maker sees His children’s hardened hearts and their suffering and chooses to rescue them despite the cost. He sacrifices His life to bring healing to His children.
Their relationship restored, the Maker then trains the children to fight against the Tricky Tempter. The children’s hearts and eyes are opened as they realize that the Maker is good, and they choose to follow, love, and praise Him.
Each of The Marvelous Maker’s forty lines is based on Scripture, encapsulating the message of the gospel and sharing it with readers in a picture-book format that is poetic but powerful.    

A parable has been defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Jesus often taught in parables: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” and then he would use an earthly metaphor to make sense of this unseen Kingdom. By that definition and despite its claims, The Marvelous Maker is not a parable. It’s a forgivable offense, to be sure, but I’m nitpicking with a purpose.

Properly, The Marvelous Maker is more of an allegory. It’s a retelling of redemptive history from creation to redemption in a world that mirrors our own but is not identical to it. Think of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The difference from those volumes and this is those stories stood on their own, telling their own story while weaving in the allegory to speak truth. The Marvelous Maker is just a simplification of the redemption narrative.

After Creation, God makes two people: Adamus and Genevieve. The story follows their fall as per the Genesis storyline. Where the story diverges from history is that redemption follows all within one generation. When Adamus and Genevieve cry out for redemption, the Maker incarnates himself and dies on a cross, coming back to life and redeeming them of their sin.

Now, if you don’t think too deeply, you may not see the problem with this. It’s for kids. It’s the redemption story. Move on. But, as a pastor, I find it deeply, deeply important that we share the Gospel story with our little ones in the right way and The Marvelous Maker fails in two major ways:

First, it is too close to the biblical story without being the biblical story. Kids are notorious for their questions. They’re trying to figure out the world, how it works, and what separates reality from fiction. Adamus and Genevieve? This isn’t the biblical story. It’s an allegory of it. But it’s so close to the real thing that it blurs the lines of fiction and non-fiction. If the story of Adamus and Genevieve isn’t real, then how do we know the story of Adam and Eve is? By not differentiating itself from the biblical narrative, The Marvelous Maker fails to be a faithful retelling of history and also fails at being its own story.

Second, this allegorical retelling eliminates Jesus. I get that this was done for simplicity, the same reason the arc of redemptive history was truncated into a generation, but the issue is again faithfulness to the Gospel narrative. This universe appears to lack any concept of Trinitarian theology and falls into the modalistic heresy of patripassianism. Big theology words, I know. It matters that God is a Trinity, and not just one being perceived by humans in three roles. It matters that it is the Son who dies and not the Father. This simplification of the Gospel has led to a doctrine considered to be historical heresy for seventeen hundred years.

So, no, I can’t recommend The Marvelous Maker. And I’m really surprised it got by B&H Publishing’s editorial staff. B&H is an imprint of Lifeway, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which takes their doctrine seriously. April Graney didn’t think too deeply when writing this. The publisher didn’t think too hard about publishing it. And given that the book has near-universally five-star ratings, reviewers haven’t thought too hard in their critiques about it. Theology matters and if this was some minor doctrine or debated doctrine, I’d let it go, but this strikes at the very heart of the Gospel.

However, as an addendum, I do have to point out that the illustrations are absolutely captivating. Monica Garofalo provides a stunning canvas for this story. Even though I dislike the story and, you know, believe it to be heretical, I’m keeping the book around just so my pre-literate children can look at and enjoy the pictures. It’s just unfortunate that such talent is wasted on an otherwise ill-conceived book.