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Book Review: God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren

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Lisa Bergen has teamed once again with illustrator Laura J. Bryant for the latest in her God Gave Us… series of children’s picture books. The simple text and captivating illustrations clearly demonstrate why this series has sold over 1 million copies.

In God Gave Us Heaven readers familiar with the series will be reunited with Little Cub and her family: Papa, Mama and the twins. Those who enjoy this book will want to rush out for the titles in which the family is introduced, God Gave Us You – describing the blessing of Little Cub's arrival into the family, and God Gave Us Two – exploring the wonder of the twins arrival.

“Papa, what’s heav’n?” Little Cub queries her father as her family rises in the morning, the opening of the story. Readers follow the polar bear family through their daily tasks and are privy to the explanations Papa bear provides and the conversation that develops as more questions occur to Little Cub. While answering Little Cub’s questions Papa bear answers many of the queries similar to those your own little cubs may ask.

“When do we get to see heaven?”

“Will we eat in heaven?”

“Will we be angels?”

The questions seem never-ending as Papa and Little Cub prepare for and embark upon a fishing expedition. Papa bear is ever patient and loving as he answers his daughter’s questions, right up until bedtime. Some of the questions do not have clear biblical answers; not much is known about heaven when we examine the scriptures. Papa bear is never evasive, but speaks in terms that small children can understand. He tells Little Cub of heaven’s goodness, how it is filled with love and everything that we long for, most especially God.

And the most important question:

“How do we get there, Papa? To heaven, I mean.”

This launches Papa bear into a simple explanation of Jesus as the bridge to heaven, a mild children’s gospel that simply points to Jesus as the Way. However, the theology offered is somewhat soft, with Papa bear positing that all of their loved ones will be in heaven – a statement made before he shares about Jesus. Parents may want to clarify that this is the case only if all of these loved ones are believers.

Bryant’s illustrations are delightful. Providing a unifying thread through the often-divergent questions of Little Cub, the illustrations are among my favourites in Christian children’s literature. The bear family is adorable in their wintry home, the snow reflecting all the shades of the sky and sun. The soft, powdery pastel shades are enticing, rendering the bears huggable and the landscapes somewhat ethereal. Never before has the Arctic been depicted so appealingly

Dedicated to a little girl who went home to the Lord at the age of six, God Gave Us Heaven provides a gentle way to speak to children about death. Whether preparing for the passing of a loved one, after the death of a child or simply to meet a child's curiosity; this book clearly expresses God’s love and the riches of heaven, revealing that believers can look forward to a loving home as their final destination.

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