Published by B&H Kids on March 16, 2021
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Two quokkas, two snails, one strawberry patch . . . Suzy and Sam Snail live in the Land of Sadness, constantly working hard to feel loved. But their gloomy lives just might change when they meet two friendly quokkas who tell them all about the Creator and what life is like in the Land of Happiness. Will the Snails remain sad and empty? Or will they eagerly journey to a new land where grace, joy, and contentment grow instead? Join these four quirky friends in the strawberry patch, and let this parable-style story offer your family a powerful conversation starter and a celebration of God’s gift of grace.
The Quokkas, the Snails, and the Land of Happiness tells the story of two very different families. The Snail family has a sticker chart. Every time they do something good—help a neighbor, do a chore, or so on—a sticker goes on their chart. Fill the chart and get a toy. Sam and Suzy Snail kept thinking that the next sticker would bring happiness, but it never did.
But in the Quokka home, the sticker chart is always full. Kenton and Kailey Quokka never had to think about saying or doing enough right things to earn a sticker or a toy. They had chores, of course, and were expected to be kind and helpful—but not to fill a chart. When the Quokkas and the Snails meet in the strawberry patch, Kenton and Kailey show Suzy and Sam a brand-new way to live life.
This parable-like tale, told by Eric Geiger and his daughter Evie, clearly demonstrates for young readers the difference between working for salvation and being saved by God’s grace. It shows the emptiness of acquiring things and encourages kids to realize that doing good works will never be fulfilling by itself. It’s a whimsical look at God’s grace and its rather subversive use of a sticker chart is sure to upend many a sticker-chart household.
I’ve always had a problem with sticker charts for the very reason that it does encourage external rather than internal motivation. They have their place in some circumstance, like in charting an improvement or as a reminder that a task needs to be done, but I’ve never liked their use in manipulating children’s behaviors or being used as a punishment. Perhaps more so than a story about grace and works, the Geigers’ tale might cause parents to rethink their methods of child development and discipline.
My only concern with The Quokkas, the Snails, and the Land of Happiness is its false dichotomy that says following Jesus equals happiness. I get that it’s a children’s book, but that’s even more reason to be careful with our use of language. Can one experience sadness while knowing the Creator? Of course! Can one experience temporal happiness even not knowing him? Yes. It’s an unneeded division that takes away from the real distinction between the two families: one family is working for salvation while the other rests in the Creator’s grace.
The Quokka kids are also each stated to have some sort of disability, but they don’t let them keep them down! It’s an unnecessary addition to the book that’s supposed to show how the Quokkas can be happy even though their lives aren’t perfect. My fear is that the book portrays the Quokkas as too easily getting over their physical and mental disabilities, perhaps leaving a reader with similar disabilities believing that they too should be able to treat their struggles so lightly.
There is a case to be made that, in ultimate and objective terms, striving for one’s own salvation will always lead toward emptiness and sadness while knowing that God has saved us as a gift will always lead toward fulfillment and happiness. But that’s not usually how children (or most adults) think. The book’s focus is on the sticker chart, not the places the quokkas and the snails live. I wish the title and the naming of the two places would have reflected that. Maybe even just changing the word “happiness” to “joy” would satisfy my admittedly pedantic hang-up.
However, it is worth pointing out that this is a collaboration between Eric Geiger and his eleven-year-old daughter, Evie, and when I look at it through that lens—as an analogy of how an eleven-year-old chooses to express her salvation through grace—it becomes a small criticism indeed. The Quokkas, the Snails, and the Land of Happiness is a cute little parable from the mind of a child to a child about the mercy and grace of God.