I wondered what picture book should I review for the new year. Should it be about wisdom, manners or. . . ? With all the struggle and uncertainty surrounding the beginning of 2012 I decided on Heaven Is for Real for Kids by Colton Burpo as told to his parents Todd and Sonja Burpo. The publisher is Thomas Nelson (2011).

The introduction to parents sets both the scene and tone of this most unusual book. It’s unusual because Colton, who is now twelve, is telling about his trip to Heaven when he was in the hospital at the age of four. His words are powerful and yet, have an innocence with delightful honesty. Wilson Ong’s illustrations capture this in a colorful and welcoming way, especially the first picture where a little boy is sitting on Jesus’ lap. Colton was the art supervisor as he made suggestions and additions to the artist’s work.

Bible verses parallel Colton’s story, giving it balance and yet, not distracting from the freshness of a child experiencing the presence of God. Colton tells of being brought a little chair when he wanted to sit and that his great-grandfather and older sister came rushing up to him and introduced themselves with a hug. He didn’t need any introduction to Gabriel or Michael and was impressed that Michael’s sword was as big as his dad. You will also smile at the way Colton talks about the animals. He doesn’t know how they got there but his favorites were the lions and Jesus’ white horse that he got to play with. Jesus told Colton that he had to go back because He wanted to answer his father’s prayer.

Rainbows, music and streets of gold were everywhere but the greatest sense was love. This love does leap from the pages and gives you a sense of peace and hope. Don’t skip the helpful questions and Colton’s answers about Heaven at the end.

Another picture book about Heaven is the classic Someday Heaven by Larry Libby.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is married and the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.”

She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.