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What Is God? (What Is? Life Concepts Series) Hardcover – September 1, 1990

72 customer reviews

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What Is God? (What Is? Life Concepts Series) + I Wonder + What Do You Believe? (Big Questions)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a world increasingly torn by religious strife, the laudable motive behind this book is to try and answer the question "What is God?" and to give children a sense of universal brotherhood by celebrating similarities in differing religions. Boritzer starts off well, explaining some of the historical concepts of God, what the word religion means and how different religious groups worship. The book is at its best when talking about these concrete subjects. It's when the author starts drawing conclusions and forming definitions that he may get into trouble. In an attempt to tie the concepts together, Boritzer writes: "God is everything great and small! . . . If everything is God, God is the last leaf on a tree . . . God is an elephant crashing through the jungle . . . God is the hot wind in the desert," etc. This may be construed as pantheistic, and Boritzer risks foisting his own beliefs on readers. Overall, this is an intriguing idea. Marantz's daring, highly stylized illustrations are full of character, and they pick up on many of the text's nuances. All ages.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-- A provocative look at the concept of God that differs greatly from the Judeo-Christian idea of God as a person rather than as a vacuous feeling or entity. Major world religions are introduced in combination with the well-known teachers representing them (Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed), and whose words evolved into a library of Holy Books: the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Sutras, and the Vedas. Similarities are drawn among these faiths, showing common strands of truth and prayer as a universal tool of communication with God. Brief discussion is given to those believing in multiple gods as well as to those who experience religious persecution. Boritzer's attempt to synthesize and make accessible the many concepts of God results in the New Age concept/belief of pantheism. Marantz' Henrik Drescher-like illustrations are bold and bright watercolors, occupying full pages that face the poetic free-verse text. At times they serve a somewhat decorative purpose, but usually expand and elucidate elements in the narrative. The reasoning process used throughout may occasionally prove too abstract for many children, making this a picture book for older readers. It will be best utilized by religious-education teachers and parents. --Celia A. Huffman, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland

Copyright 1990 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 7
  • Series: What Is? Life Concepts Series
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books; Reissue edition (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0920668895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0920668894
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
As much as parents think they can totally direct their child's faith, the truth seems to be that each of us comes to our own understanding of who or what "God" is.
This book is a good opening for discussions of religion with children (who will eventually grow into adults, with their own experiences, choices, experiences). We can lay the foundation, express our beliefs and hopefully let our lives speak.
This is a very short, brightly illustrated book to have on the bookshelf for those times when a small child asks, What is God? or when you want to bring up the topic. The book answers the questions with "Maybe," which allows the children to share their own reflections.
It also talks very very briefly about different ways people pray, the great teachers, and the different religions of the world - Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and Buddhism plus a reference to other beliefs.
I like the page that talks about commonality among religions. It also touches on the arguments that happen when people disagree about God. It focuses a lot on prayer, and in the end it suggests ways to talk to God in a universalist way.
This book is not for atheists or fundamentalists of any denomination. Nor is it for anyone set with the belief that their belief is the only Way. It does not question the existence of God, although it does provide different interpretations of what God means, or could mean, to a variety of people. (Best book on this topic, though, is still Old Turtle.)
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock on January 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Over the years, people have asked me what books I recommend for children on the subject of God and religion, even requesting that I myself write children's books. Although I have read several good books on the subject over the years, other than "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" I have not been able to come up with any at the spur of the moment. That inspiring book, however, is not specifically about God and religion, and is also geared for an older audience.

For younger children, even as young as those who can understand full sentences, "What is God?" by Etan Boritzer is without a doubt the best children's book on the subject of God and religion that I have read to date. As is appropriate for young children, "What is God?" contains marvelously attractive illustrations by Robbie Marantz that may hold the attention of the wandering mind which is still too young to understand some of the heady but accessible concepts provided by Boritzer's fabulously inclusive text. The book is simply appealing from cover to cover, and the best surprise is that it is not at all preachy and would be useful for even the most ardent unbeliever to teach his or her children about what other people believe about God.

This book is so great, in fact, that I believe reading it to all the world's children would have an enormous impact on ending religious strife globally. "What is God?" does not teach children what to believe. It is not threatening to any parents, except for those who think that informing their children about other people's beliefs will somehow "poison" their minds. This book simply and matter-of-factly recites a wide variety of beliefs from around the world, including the simplistic and childish concept that God is an old man with a long white beard who lives in the sky.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Jan Roelofs on July 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book may not be for everyone-but it was perfect for me. As a Unitarian, I don't have a canned dogma to tell my kids when they ask spiritual questions. This book helped me a few yrs. ago with my older son and recently with my youngest. You have to be open minded and want to raise your kids to be that way, or you might actually be offended by this book's content. It presents God from many points of view, how people fight over God and how they percieve him (her), and lets the reader draw his/her own conclusions. Yes, it's a kid's book, but it's also helpful for adults. The beautiful drawings also were appreciated.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
Our daughter is of the age to wonder why. And because the God Question is about the thorniest we expect to face, we have been looking for a Good Explanation.

I started by relying on personal knowledge. Since I was old enough to question, I've been reading about religion and spirituality. You name it, I've probably read the basic texts. And, by profession, I sort of know how to tell a story.

So on Easter Sunday, when the little one asked about the egg roll, I saw an opportunity to explain about a more significant roll --- the rolling of the rock from Jesus' tomb.

Two sentences in, she walked away.

And I got it. Talking about God is like teaching a kid to swim. It's not a job for every parent; it's surely not advised for those parents who are, like us, still searching. So we started looking for a book.

And now we have one.

When the time comes, "What is God?" will be our First Responder.

It is short (32 pages), with a lovely water-color on the left hand page of each spread and three or four short paragraphs on the right.

It could not be more straightforward. On Page 1:

Maybe we can't really talk about God
Because maybe we can't see God
Or maybe we can't hear God
Or even taste or smell or touch God

Maybe we can only feel God
Like we can feel love
Or like we feel happy or sad.

From there, Etan Boritzer takes us back, to a brief history of belief, focusing on the image of God as "an old man, with a long white beard." Next time you're on an airplane, he suggests, look at the clouds: "You won't see that God there/Because no one has ever seen that God!"

Maybe, he proposes next, God is an "eternal mystery.
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