MY LITTLE ABC LITURGY BOOK. By Gaven M. Mize.
MY LITTLE ABC LITURGY BOOK. By Gaven M. Mize. Illustrated by Ryan W. Porter. Bangor: Grail Quest Books, 2017. 32 pages. $8.42.
My Little ABC Liturgy Book is exactly the kind of book its title tells you it is. Like any number of kids’ ABC books, this book uses short and simple language to alphabetically walk children through various portions of the liturgy and items in service to it.
This book is rightly more interested in teaching the liturgy than teaching the typical phonographic sounds of the alphabet. For instance, C stands for ‘chasuble.’ I don’t ever recall an ABC book where the C makes the 'ch' sound. Similarly, instead of the E making the ‘e’ sound, it makes the ‘yoo’ sound because E stands for Eucharist. Also, X doesn’t make its typical sound because in this book it stands for Chi Rho.
Each letter of the book is explained faithfully, and on those occasions when a fuller explanation would be helpful there is often an explanatory text set off in smaller typeface elsewhere on the page.
If you want to teach or supplement your teaching of the liturgy to your children, you cannot go wrong in the purchasing of this book.
This book fills a niche market and is unlikely to have broad appeal. This means that this book has a monopoly on the ABC Liturgy book market. Any grievances or scruples with the book (and I have a few) are not going to be satisfied by looking to a similar product because there is no similar product. The best one can hope for, as I do, is that a second edition of the book makes improvements that could and should be made.
I have four scruples. They are as follows:
First, some of the letter choices could have been better. Three examples follow. First, C stands for Chasuble. I have no grievance against chasubles—I even own one myself—but the letter C could have stood for ‘crucifix’ or ‘chalice’ instead. ‘Crucifix’ and ‘chalice’ have more immediate connections to Christ—one displays Him, the other holds His blood. So, something along the lines of “C is for Chalice which holds the blood of Christ” is more immediately located in Christ than the current “C is for Chasuble that my Pastor wears at the Altar.” Another reason to consider a change for the letter C is that it is borderline redundant because later on the book says “V is for Vestments.” Second, “D is for Deacon,” This is an odd choice given the lack of any formal or uniform definition of ‘deacon’ within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. D could have been “D is for Divine Service where God serves us His grace.” Again, ‘divine service’ is more immediately grounded in God revealed to us in Christ Jesus, and “deacon” is more on the periphery of that proclamation. Furthermore, every congregation has a divine service, but not every congregation has a deacon. Third, Y stands for Yoke (Stole). I really like this one, but I would have liked “Y stands for You" better because of its connections to the sixth chief part of Luther’s Small Catechism.
Second, the artwork itself, while tasteful and not cartoony, is sloppy and sometimes distracting, especially the artwork of the people. The noses of all the people in the book look like discolored lumps of clay hastily slapped onto a face at the end of a high school art project. There’s not much variation in the shades of colors, so the mother depicted on “L is for Liturgy” looks not so much like a mother as she does a misshapen blob of blue. The father’s arm on the same page is hardly recognizable as an arm because there are no lines demarcating his fingers, thus it’s confusing what his hand is doing, and it runs the risk of looking like an irreverent gesture rather than the sign of the cross. The artwork could have been significantly improved. I’m thinking along the lines of Jonathan Mayer’s far superior illustrations in the children’s book published by Kloria Publishing titled, “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It.” I wrote a review of that book here.
Third, there is random capitalizing of improper nouns. In “I is for Invocation: when we make the sign of the Cross to remember our baptism,” the word ‘cross’ is inexplicably capitalized. Likewise, in “S is for Sanctus: where we sing that God is Holy,” the word ‘holy’ is inexplicably capitalized. In “C is for Chasuble: that my Pastor wears at the Altar” the words ‘pastor’ and ‘altar’ are inexplicably capitalized. Then, in “B is for Baptism: where I was saved by water and word,” there is a prime opportunity to capitalize the word ‘word’ but that does not happen.
A fourth and final scruple is that there are typos in the book. Zechariah is incorrectly spelled as Zachariah. Under “H is for Hosanna” the word “cometh” is wrongly written with two m’s. And in “K is for Kyrie Eleison,” there are no commas after the words Lord, Christ, and Lord, as we find in our hymnals.
Given the intentional adornment of vestments and organized movement within the liturgy itself, the lack of attention to typographical and artistic details in this book doesn’t fit well with the intentional thoughtfulness communicated by every detail of the liturgy. Like a divine service that suffers when the pastor tries to squeeze it all in in under sixty minutes when he really needs eighty, so too does this book suffer. My Little ABC Liturgy Book feels like it was rushed to the publisher with a greater concern for getting it out than getting it right. Corners were cut and mistakes were made.
With that said, even a rushed divine service succeeds in actually delivering the goods of God’s grace and should absolutely be attended by the children of God. Skipping the divine service because it is rushed is a poor and unworthy excuse to do so. This book is like that rushed divine service: in spite of its faults it absolutely delivers and there is no good excuse to prevent you from purchasing and using it.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia/Immanuel in Cresbard/Wecota.