Published by New Growth Press on September 23, 2019
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
Buy on Amazon
Even young children want answers to the hard questions about God and suffering. In The Moon Is Always Round, seminary professor and author Jonathan Gibson uses the vivid imagery of the moon to explain to children how God’s goodness is always present, even when it might appear to be obscured by upsetting or difficult circumstances.
In this beautiful, two-color illustrated book, he allows readers to eavesdrop on the conversations he had with his young son in response to his sister’s death. Father and son share a simple liturgy together that reminds them that, just as the moon is always round despite its different phases, so also the goodness of God is always present throughout the different phases of life.
A section in the back of the book offers further biblical help for parents and caregivers in explaining God’s goodness to children. Jonathan Gibson reminds children of all ages that God’s goodness is present in the most difficult of times, even if we can’t always see it.
I feel the need to begin with a trigger warning. This is a book about child loss. I knew it was a book about God’s enduring goodness, even through difficult circumstances. I knew its central analogy was that the moon appears to be various shapes based on our perspective of it, but that The Moon is Always Round. I didn’t know it was about child loss.
I begin with this because it’s 2:30am on December 19th and I’m trying to clear my to-review shelf before the Christmas break and I was not at all emotionally prepared for this. My family hasn’t experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth, but many have. Nearly 1% of pregnancies result in a stillbirth. Some 10% result in miscarriage. If you haven’t experienced this, it’s likely that you know someone who has. For me, this loss comes in the form of disrupted adoptions, one of which was a biological sibling to my son. The pain of a child loved and taken is…it’s immense.
The Moon is Always Round doesn’t even pretend to try to address the unaddressable. When the question of why inevitably comes up, the answer is simply “I don’t know, but the moon is always round.” Translation: God is good, even when we can’t see it. Even when tragedy strikes. He didn’t create this. He didn’t do this. He mourns with us. And he is good.
I like that. There’s no explaining, no justifying, no patronizing. Just a deep breath and a choked sob and a mournful sigh and a resolved proclamation that God is bigger than my tragedy. My only concern is that this is such a weighty exposition of this topic. The difficult circumstances that children endure are—thankfully—not so tragic. In portraying upsetting or difficult circumstances in such extremes, it may have the unintended consequence of making children think that a situation must be at that level in order for it to apply. We have to be careful about not portraying the viewpoint of “your pain isn’t valid because someone else’s pain is worse.”
We do this as adults as well. I’ve done it in my own life. I’ve felt ashamed at my feelings over my own child loss because, in my circumstance, at least the lost child is still alive. There is a benefit to presenting everyday losses and upsetting things as things God cares about as well—that he is big enough to care for both.
But on the other hand, rarely does a children’s book dare to touch such a difficult topic and for that reason The Moon is Always Round stands out. I mean, I wouldn’t have cried for five minutes before writing this rambling now-almost-3am review if it had focused on the normal and everyday. This is a hard book. And that means you’ll want to evaluate whether or not it’s right for your child.
The Moon is Always Round is a beautiful tribute to a loved little girl. Jonathan Gibson’s love for his daughter flows through his words. I imagine this as being written out of catharsis, so to take this and make it public is very brave indeed. Joe Hox’s illustrations are magnificent, eye-catching, brilliant, and haunting. This is more than a children’s book. This is a book for adults as well. This is a book especially for those who have gone through child loss and begun to come through emotionally on the other side.
This might be an odd thing to do, but I want to share something that my wife wrote in response to our second adoption loss.
and Christmas can feel like the worst,
the worst of the year —
In the echo of the miracle of Mary’s womb
when your own body won’t hold
you want more than anything —
when you know that God can conceive a baby
and yet, and yet, and yet…
your body is empty,
your arms are empty, and your heart —
In the adoption
and the adoption
when you’ve placed your baby in the arms of someone else
or someone else has not placed their baby in yours —
when you know that God can put families
and yet, and yet, and yet…
In the foster placement that was a sure thing,
and in the one you knew would be temporary,
when you “should’ve known”
what you “got yourself into”
is your heart all wrapped up in that child
in their absence —
when you know that you know
that your God is a God
of second chances
but just this once
you wanted the chance on you —
(not them) —
and yet, and yet, and yet…
In the baby grown —
gone by choice,
or taken by injustice —
when it feels like the end of a story
you tried writing and shaping for years,
only to come to this end —
or your legs are tired
from running out to meet a prodigal
who’s not coming home
and this season
is filled with memories
you can’t reach,
you don’t know if you’ll ever return,
and even the memories themselves are different-colored now
there is Christmas for you.
you are welcome here.
you are beloved of a God who
a God whose baby was placed
in someone else’s arms,
who watched them raise him
with more second chances than they deserved,
a God who watched him die
and blackened the sky
and stormed the heavens
and murdered death itself to get him back,
hand-in-hand with you:
the child he lost,
for the child he was not willing to lose.
there is room for you
at the feet of a God who grieves,
who shatters no heart but his own,
who is restoring a broken world.
and if you have no room for any miracle
but the fact that you’re still breathing,
in a world so broken,
there is room for you too.
sit here with me.
Christmas isn’t all joy.
we can cry together.
the world Christmas was born in
wasn’t covered in lights,
was no stranger to mourning,
and knew nothing of miracles.
you may not, either,
And yet. And yet. God is good. And the moon is always round.