Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review - An Unexpected Hero: A Bible Story About Rahab

An Unexpected Hero: A Bible Story About Rahab (Called and Courageous Girls)
by Rachel Spier Weaver & Anna Haggard
illustrated by Eric Elwell
Date: 2019
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Have Faith That God Will Help You Do Great Things

Rahab is an adventurous young girl who enjoys playing with her siblings in the big, bustling city of Jericho. As she grows up, she makes a lot of bad choices, then desperately wants to change her life. Does God have a special plan for Rahab?

When two Israelite spies come to Rahab's door, she bravely offers them a place to hide. Then God gives her a great idea to help them escape and the spies agree to protect Rahab and her family once Israel takes over Jericho. And when that day finally comes, God keeps His promise to Rahab because of her faithfulness and courage, even making her a great-great-great-great-great-grandmother to Jesus.

With God's help, you can be just like Rahab—called and courageous.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I normally wouldn't pick up a picture book like this, as I don't have a lot of interest in Bible stories or Christian literature in general. But the cover kind of drew me in, and I thought it might be interesting to read about a historical heroine. I'd never heard of Rahab or her story, so I went into this one completely ignorant... and I think my experience serves to highlight a few problems with this book.

To begin with, the book assumes the reader has knowledge of the story. That's probably not a good assumption to make, especially with a children's book. I'm guessing Rahab was a prostitute or something, given the euphemisms used, and the vague authors' note at the back. But most of that is pretty much glossed over in favour of the story about the two Israelite spies. Rahab spots them outside the city walls and immediately says, "They look like Israelites." Apparently, everyone in Jericho knows who these Israelites are, and the reader is supposed to know, too. They have a god who performs miracles, so naturally He's the talk of the town.

Now, the next part of the story is where it gets tricky for me. The two Israelite spies appear at Rahab's door and basically tell her that they're there to scout out the land in preparation for taking it over. Rahab thinks this is hunky-dory and decides to help them hide. Now, I don't know about you, but that seems like kind of a treasonous act to me. If some colonial power shows up at your doorstep and tells you they're going to take over, why would you help them? I mean, maybe there's a reason, but this book doesn't explain it. Later, the book talks about Rahab needing to choose between the "evil king" or the "people of God". Unfortunately, this is the first mention of the king of Jericho being evil. Was he? I don't know. I don't know if all kids reading this book would know, either.

Anyway, Rahab decides to stand with the Israelites, and makes a risky deal with the spies. When the Israelites invade, she and her family will be spared.

The Israelites come and make a bunch of noise that knocks down the walls (never mind the supposedly evil king; the city has some infrastructure problems if a bunch of shouting guys with horns can cause their walls to collapse). I was not a fan of this part of the book. I don't know what the final version will be like, but the ARC has three repeating spreads of the walls falling into rubble with the words CRACK!! POP!! BOOM!! on each one, each in a different font. (It's almost like the book decided it wanted to be a graphic novel for a moment.) Rahab and her family somehow aren't crushed by all the falling masonry and her spy friends rescue them.

The next part of the book reads as pretty ridiculous to non-believers:

Because of her courage, God made Rahab a part of the greatest story on Earth: She became the great-great-great-great-great-grandmother to Jesus.

I don't know how you get made the ancestor to someone who won't be born for over a hundred years. That's just... My mind ties in knots just thinking about the logistics. Did God have this starting line-up of ancestors for Jesus ready to go? Did He swap them in or out based on their actions or faith? This part just seems kind of silly, and it serves to further distance the book from less religious readers.

The ARC is very rough, with certain blocks of text being repeated on some pages (as if the layout artist couldn't decide where the words should go). I'm also not sure if that collapse sequence is going to be three spreads long in the final version, or if that was more experimentation. The illustrations, however, are fairly nice. I can't really complain about those.

Overall, this book is a little too reliant on previous knowledge of the Bible and a Christian worldview to be appealing to more secular audiences. That's a shame, since it's always nice to read stories about women who lived in the past.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harvest House Publishers for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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