Our family is always on the prowl for edifying reading for our young children, so we were excited to learn about a new series by Jackie Chirco Cogswell designed for early readers transitioning to chapter books. A Heart Ready to Fly! is the first in the GiggleHeart Adventures series and is written in the first-person from the perspective of a vivacious eight year old, Sophia Rose Giggleheart.
Sophia and her younger brother Luke need to take a flight without parental supervision, and encounter a number of odd characters during their journey home. Even stranger is the dream that Sophia has while in the air, one that reveals biblical truths about the condition of the human heart and the need for personal salvation and regeneration even when we come from Christian families.
Told in a light-hearted, humorous tone, areas of difficulty that children often struggle with are probed and explored. Sibling disagreements, judging based upon appearances, and esteeming oneself better than others are all tackled in a candid, child-like way. The path of salvation is also shared in informal, light-hearted terms and explanations, though God’s work in drawing and enlivening the hearts of unbelievers so that they may believe seems to be missing. I’m not certain if this is due to the simplicity of the presentation, or if Cogswell is writing from an Armenian perspective that leaves salvation nearly entirely in the hands of the personal choices of those who aren’t yet saved.
In Sophia’s dream, the teacher that draws her into understanding spiritual truths is an angel named Frank – a clumsy fellow with allergies that result in copious amounts of sneezing and… messiness. While Frank’s sneezing on everyone and everything provides some hearty laughs for my six-year-old, I’m not entirely comfortable with depicting angels as being subject to bodily illnesses. Because the Bible depicts our final home as a place free of suffering, pain, and sickness, and angels are beings of spirit, this isn’t a depiction that I’m fond of – fictional or not.
Those disclaimers aside, A Heart Ready to Fly! is an excellent format for young readers. The sturdy hardcover binding, large font size, short chapter lengths, and playful pencil drawings by illustrator Shelley Johannes all add to the title’s ease of use for seven to 10 year-olds.