Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review - Don't Blame the Mud

Don't Blame the Mud
by Marty Machowski
illustrated by Craig MacIntosh
Date: 2019
Publisher: New Growth Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 33
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

For young readers and families, Don’t Blame the Mud paints a vivid and accurate picture of sin and God’s plan of redemption. Written by best-selling children’s author Marty Machowski, this beautifully illustrated picture book teaches children how to recognize the lure of temptation and the truth that bad choices lead to bad consequences.

One day, Max takes the muddy path along the creek home, disregarding his mother’s reminder to keep his school clothes clean. After crashing into a mud puddle, he tries to hide his mistake and discovers the stain of his sin goes deeper than the mud he can wash away. In this lovable, relatable, and heartwarming tale, Max learns his heart needs to be cleaned, and Jesus is the only one who can wash away his sin.

By clearly articulating the gospel, Don’t Blame the Mud helps parents create an environment of confession so kids can own up to their own mistakes—in the freedom of Christ—rather than place the blame elsewhere. Parents, teachers, and caretakers can help children identify with the real-life draw of temptation and the real-life consequences of sin, understanding the value of God’s salvation through the cross. Instead of teaching kids how to deal with a problem, Machowski uncovers the real issue of sin and provides a gospel answer.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Let me start out by saying that I'm not a Christian, and therefore am not the audience for this book. But I am interested in religion and trying to understand why people believe what they believe. I've read a few Christian picture books, and have enjoyed some more than others. This book, however, is one of the weaker ones I've read, combining a potentially confusing message with uneven illustrations and a trite plot.

Max gets muddy on his way home from school, even though his mom told him not to. So he tries to hide the evidence. It doesn't work, and he's forced to confess (and shower). But he still doesn't feel clean. It isn't until he asks God to forgive him for his sin that everything is hunky-dory.

As a non-Christian, I was confused for much of the book. It repeatedly talks about sin as going your own way and not God's way. What does that even mean? In this book, it appears to mean unquestioning obedience of your parents... which to me seems like an idea ripe for abuse. How many children have come to harm after an adult told them that what they were being subjected to was "God's way"?

The story itself is so bland and ridiculous, it will probably only appeal to very young children. Max is young enough to try to blame getting dirty on the mud itself, and yet in some of the illustrations, he almost looks like a teenager! So I'm not entirely sure what age group this book is aimed at. I'm guessing it's aimed at younger children, because there are a few pages at the back that are intended for parents. They, too, don't seem to know who their audience is. There are instructions on further brainwashing your children, but there is a lot of information that I would've thought Christian adults would already know (e.g., Jesus never had a bad thought in his life, we're all dirty sinners, getting nailed to a cross magically absolves everyone else of personal responsibility). Unless this is intended to be a conversion tool for the entire family, it doesn't make a lot of sense to put all those basics in there.

I tried to keep an open mind when I went into this, and until around the 3/4 mark I thought it was just a mediocre children's story about a kid trying to weasel his way out of trouble. It's the last 1/4 of the book that's going to narrow its audience. Unlike some of the other Christian titles I've read which were based on Bible stories, this seems to be little more than a tool to gain children's unquestioning obedience. But I don't even know how well it would work for that, since the overall message is kind of muddy (pun intended). How are you supposed to know what's your way and what's God's way? The only answer I get from reading this book is that if it's something you want to do, it must be wrong. That doesn't seem like a very healthy message at all.

But, like I said, I'm not the audience for this. Your mileage may vary.

Thank you to NetGalley and New Growth Press for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.67 out of 5

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