The phrase “remember your baptism” is familiar to many Lutherans and Anglicans alike. Luther famously wrote in his Larger Catechism, “Therefore, if you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism. For Baptism not only illustrates such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it.”
But, of course, for those who are baptized and raised in the Church, it is impossible to remember your baptism as an infant. This is where Sarah Howell’s recent children’s book, On The Day Your Were Baptized: A Sacramental Explanation of Baptism for Children, comes in to help young children to first learn about their own baptism and what it means.
Ms. Howell’s work begins with a lovely cover of people from varying ethnic backgrounds that evokes memories of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28, ESV).
The book makes a perfect gift from a godparent to their godchild as the book has a nicely done dedication page to truly help a child remember the date of their baptism. Also, it could be a great gift from the local parish to the family of the newly baptized.
What Do the Kids Think?
Now, in preparing for this book review I trial-tested it with the best audience I know, my own children (ages five and two). They adored the book, and I give credit to the illustrations along with the rhyming on each page.
I have to agree with them, the illustrations are excellent windows into explaining what actually happens during the rite of baptism. Small children have a universal fascination with wanting to know how they acted when they were younger and what experiences occurred that they missed or cannot remember. The images Ms. Howell designed are great for filling-in the details of a young child’s imagination and curiosity about their own baptism.
But the actual text of the book is phenomenal in that it conveys deep theological truths all while rhyming from page to page. The book is nearly thirty pages long, but you can breeze through it as the lyrics nearly sing from page to page. And although you can make it a quick read before bedtime, there are many points on each page where you can pause and go deeper with the theology.
This is truly a book made for catechizing your young children.
Allow me to share two examples of where the text provides excellent starting points for diving into the Word with your kids.
The first one is early in the book when it explains why the baptismal garment is white, namely because “Jesus forgave your sins; they were all drowned.” This brings to mind Luther’s “Flood Prayer,” which is in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Baptismal rite and was restored in the 2003 Reformed Episcopal Church and the 2019 Anglican Church in North America Books of Common Prayer, respectfully.
Here’s the prayer on page 167 in the BCP 2019:
“Almighty and everlasting Father, in your great mercy you saved Noah and his family in the Ark from the destruction of the flood, prefiguring the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Look mercifully upon these your servants. Wash and sanctify them through your Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered from destruction and received into the Ark of Christ’s Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in love, they may pass through the turbulent floods of this troublesome world and come into the land of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Jesus forgave your sins; they were all drowned” is a natural jumping-off point
- to highlight the Flood Prayer in the baptismal rite,
- to enter into the Scriptures to discuss the flood narrative (Gen. 6) with your child, and
- to explain how the flood is “hyperlinked” to baptism by none other that St. Peter in his first epistle, where he connects the story of Noah’s salvation on the ark with baptism (see 1 Pet. 3:18-22).
The next example comes a few pages later where the book accurately notes God’s use of water “as a way to make all the dead things new again,” and then illustrates this truth by referencing the flood, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the washing of Naaman. These pages alone name-drop three stories where you can pause what you are reading, pick up your Bible, and read through the Biblical accounts and explain them to your children.
If there is any criticism for the book it is minor, but I will charitably share my thoughts in the hope that Ms. Howell will continue writing similar books, perhaps one for confirmation.
There are a few repetitive illustrations, but they are well-placed so as not to be noticed by the primary audience (the kiddos!). In a future revision, it would be nice to see no repetition in the imagery, if possible.
Finally, it is unfortunate that, while the book concludes saying that you are a “child of God” along with your family, it doesn’t bridge the gap that the baptized are made members of the Church. It is implied, to be sure, but it would have tied a perfect bow on this book if it was stated how baptism brings our union with Christ and His body, the Church.
Overall, Ms. Howell has done a magnificent job in creating the best children’s book I have read on baptism.
My children thoroughly enjoy it, and it has led to many fruitful discussions about the stories within Holy Scripture pointing to baptism. This book has given my family and I opportunities to talk about baptism’s rich meaning in changing our status before God and the Church.
Your children will not only be catechized by this work, but you will also likely be formed by its concise, yet deep coverage of baptism.