Thank you, Elder Uchtdorf and Ben Sowards, for creating the first LDS children’s book that deserves to
transcend the LDS market.
Many of you will remember Elder Uchtdorf’s first General Conference talk as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve; he spoke of his appreciation for a Sister Ewig (‘Ewig’ can be translated as ‘eternal’) who introduced his family to the Restored Gospel in the difficult days of post-war Germany. In this book, he fleshes out that incident and manages, almost unbelievably, to tell his family’s harrowing tale in a way that is unflinching and yet appropriate for the youngest readers. We recently discussed (here) the difficulty of telling the story of the Saints sweetly, but sans saccharine. Elder Uchtdorf manages that: he sounds like your sweet grandpa in a sweater vest. When he tells you that Sister Ewig changed the lives of untold generations though a simple act of kindness, you know he’s sharing a profound experience with the Spirit. But he’s also telling a good story–good because it introduces children–gently–to world history and contextualizes a horror too large for adults to comprehend through the lens of one family’s experience.
Ben Sowards’ artwork is stunning: soft-focus yet realistic paintings evoke the grandest of tragedies (a refugee mother who cannot find her children) and the smallest of miracles (a family praying over the food that American Saints sent to struggling Germans).
There are other reasons to like this book: Elder Uchdorf’s emphasis that a woman–an elderly, single woman–was responsible for this far-reaching act, the presentation of some Germans as victims of the Nazis (whereas most children’s books only know of black hats and white hats), the lesson that God answers the prayers of people who are not LDS, and the subtle humor about loud children in church. This book is a wonderful way to introduce children to one of our new apostles and it will particularly resonate with children outside of the (Wasatch front, pioneer stock) LDS mainstream. I hope Deseret Book is able to make it available in many languages.
If you have an LDS child aged 5-9 on your Christmas list, Sister Eternal is an excellent choice. The lovely art, compelling narrative, and important historical context mean that this book deserves a wide audience–including the non-LDS audience.