Book Reviews

The Center for the Theology of Childhood of the Godly Play Foundation is interested in the theory, practice, and empirical research concerning children’s religious lives, their spirituality, and the theological implications of what is learned. We are embarking on a project to offer original book reviews of volumes related to the spiritual guidance of children. This project is aimed to serve the international Godly Play community and to draw on it for these reviews, but those generally interested in this field will find them helpful as well.

John Pridmore Wrestles with the Angel of Childhood

A Book Review by Jeannie Babb

Playing with Icons: The Spirituality of Recalled Childhood
By John Pridmore
with foreward by Jerome Berryman

197 pp. The Center for the Theology of Childhood. $24.95

cover detail from Playing with IconsJohn Pridmore’s thorough and insightful book will capture the imagination of those who nurture children, especially in religious settings. Playing with Icons offers more an analysis of beautifully written case studies than a scientific survey. Pridmore, a retired Anglican priest, based his study on published autobiographies of childhood. He lists over a hundred such works in the bibliography, weaving evocative passages throughout the body of the book.

Pridmore invites the reader on an existential journey to play with and welcome the child. He likens children to icons, which when painted on wood gaze past us to behold God, even as we gaze at them and beyond them to God. Like an icon, a child’s vision of the divine lends us our own sighting. Pridmore invites us not only to pray with these icons, but to play with them and recognize this playfulness as a sort of prayer. Continue reading

Enclosing a space in which to be open

A book review and interview with Jerome Berryman, author of Becoming Like a Child: The Curiosity of Maturity Beyond the Norm

by Jeannie Babb

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Becoming Like a Child The Curiosity of Maturity Beyond the Norm by Jerome Berryman

Focusing on a single saying of Jesus, Jerome Berryman’s latest work combines decades of research with a lifetime of practice with lively stories from the Godly Play classroom. It’s the kind of book I want to spend much more time with, before saying anything at all. Yet, I also want to share it with you as soon as possible, because I hope you will read it and share it, and we can discuss it.

Becoming Like a Child (Church Publishing, 2017) is the sort of book I’d like to study in a Sunday class or a seminary class. Although the book is in some ways about Godly Play, it is not exactly a monograph. One need not be familiar with the practice, nor even interested in children’s ministry, to read this book and be led into a deeper understanding of Christianity, of the metaphor from which it takes its name, of human nature, and of oneself. Continue reading

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (New York: Penguin Books, 2016)


Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital AgeReclaiming Conversation (2016) arouses all sorts of deep feelings. Some may feel nostalgia for a time that never was, when we all talked frankly and honestly with each other. Others may feel enthusiasm for the latest, greatest device. Perhaps, defensiveness will be aroused unconsciously to withstand or deter uncomfortable ideas. We bring our personal histories with us as we read about the rapid shift in technology that we have been involved in. That is as it should be.

In my case I did not even see a television set until about 1950. I was a freshman in high school, when my father and I watched enthusiastically in a store window, as shadowy, black and white images moved amid electronic “snow.”   Before that I had lived in a world of radio, newspapers, books, people, and nature. Today no one graduating from college knows a world that does not include television, computers, handheld communication devices, and robots of varying sophistication. Continue reading

Children’s Bibles in America

Russell W. Dalton, Children’s Bibles in America: A Reception History of the Story of Noah’s Ark in US Children’s Bibles (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016)


Russell W. Dalton, Children’s Bibles in America: A Reception History of the Story of Noah’s Ark in US Children’s BiblesDr. Russell W. Dalton is Professor of Religious Education at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. He was educated at Central Michigan University (B.A., 1984), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1988), Harvard Divinity School (Th.M., 1990), and Union Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (Ed.D., 1998). He was called to Brite in the fall of 2004 from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he was the G. Ernest Thomas Professor of Christianity and Communication.

His previous books are Video, Kids, and Christian Education (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), Faith Journey through Fantasy Lands: A Christian Dialogue with Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), and Marvelous Myths: Marvel Superheroes and Heroic Living in the Real World (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2011).   Continue reading

The Spiritual Child

Lisa J. Miller, The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)


Lisa J. Miller, The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving Dr. Lisa Jane Miller introduces herself to the readers of The Spiritual Child as “a leading scientist in the now booming field of spirituality and psychology, mental health, and thriving (1).” In the Acknowledgments to her book she thanks Teresa Barker for her “elegant crafting of the writing (349),” and goes on to thank others such as her “alchemist of ideas,“ her “publicist extraordinaire” and her “ingenious marketing team (350).” This book is, indeed, a team effort and it was no small task to create an audience for it, because an appreciation for “the spiritual child” swims upstream in our culture. On the other hand, the book has hit a nerve. It has been on the New York Times Best Seller list and hit #1 in Family Nielsen Ratings. It has been a Psychology Best Seller for USA Today, and a Non-Fiction Best Seller in Publishers Weekly.

The author graduated with a B.A. from Yale University. She earned her Ph.D. under Martin E. P. Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, at the University of Pennsylvania. She has published over 85 peer review articles on spirituality and mental health. Continue reading