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Book Review: Keoni’s Big Question by Patti B. Ogden

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In Keoni’s Big Question debut children’s author Patti B. Ogden tackles one of the weighty spiritual questions that young children often struggle with, “Can anyone see God?” Whether phrased in this way, or in a plethora of other questions and statements; young children often wonder about the lack of God’s physical, touchable body here with us. This lack of a physical presence can be disconcerting, and at times faith-rattling for young ones but Keoni is determined to find an answer.

Asking his question of parents, pastor and Sunday school teacher, Keoni is not satisfied until a conversation with an elderly fisherman friend points to the proof of God’s existence in God’s masterwork – His creation. The revelation of this truth occurs on a peaceful fishing trip; surrounded by the majesty of nature Keoni is instantaneously reassured and rejoices in his newfound surety.

Patti Ogden is an experienced Sunday school teacher who has been effectively conveying spiritual lessons on a level that children resonate with. In Keoni’s Big Question she draws from the sermons of early 20th century evangelist and faith healer William M. Branham to illustrate the universal search for truth and meaning. Being unfamiliar with Branham’s ministry I did some rapid internet research and discovered some major doctrinal differences between his teachings and our family’s beliefs. That being said, the insights and answers provided in this title hold true to biblical statements concerning the evidence of God found throughout creation and His people, and should be acceptable within all major denominational bents.

Keoni’s Big Question is the first in Ogden’s new MessageKids series of faith-based picture books for children. Two more strikingly illustrated additions – Shamgar and the Ox Goad and Momma, Am I Pretty? – are on the drawing board and slated for release later this year. Based upon the first installment the series has great promise, filled with relevant and necessary spiritual lessons and fulfilling illustrations.

Mary Manning provides charming watercolour paintings featuring memorable visual characters. The old fisherman’s hooked nose, flowing white beard and traditional fishing gear mark him as slightly odd yet comforting. Keoni is nearly Astro-boyesque with his clean delineated lines and sharply pointed cow-licks, adorable. With the fishing trip rendered largely in soft, natural shades of green and brown there is enough scene shifting through Keoni’s recollections, revelation and trip home to avoid a sense of unending repetition.

My oldest daughter, now five, shares Keoni’s question – though she states it differently. Life in a physical world so often leads us to look for physical answers, and thankfully God has provided them, though not always in the way we expect. This is a title that I will be re-reading with my children to reassure them of God’s existence and to remind them of the ways He makes himself known to us.

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