Stories shape. As the father of a two-year-old who loves a good story, I am beginning to see how powerful a well-woven tale can be. God’s Word is mostly narrative, and the whole of revelation can be described as the Great Story. Stories help us experience the world. The best ones help us experience God.
The story begins with a sick little girl who can’t understand why her medicine tastes so bad. When she asks her dad, he tells her that she should ask grandpa the question later. When grandpa arrives she blurts out her question which reminds the grandpa of a story. He sits her down and begins the story of The Prince’s Poison Cup.
It is an allegory of the Bible’s story of redemption. It starts with the King of Life as Creator, his subjects in a beautiful park, and the subsequent rebellion instigated by “the man in the dark cloak.” After the Fall, all the King’s subject leave the park and set up a new city, the City of Man. The prince, representing Jesus, goes to the City of Man rescue the people by drinking the cup of the King’s wrath. The story climaxes as the prince takes his cup and drinks from the poison fountain in the middle of the city, and falls down dead.
Now, it’s one thing if I like the book; it’s another thing if my two-year old does. And let me say, she does. When I got my PDF copy I pulled it up on my iPad after breakfast one morning and started reading. She was gripped first by the pictures, and then eventually by the story. We’ve read it multiple times after meals in the last few weeks.
So yes, the story engages my two-year-old. I think it’s one of her favorites. The story is so engaging there have been a couple times when she wants to sit on mommy’s lap when the “man in the dark cloak” appears. Since we usually read it when we’re sitting around the table, I’ll grab a cup and pretend it’s the poison cup, but Emma doesn’t want me to do that anymore; it’s too realistic.
R.C. Sproul is a respected and notable theologian. One of the reasons why he’s so popular is because he can take complex subjects and reduce them into simple and understandable concepts. When I first listened to a series of sermons by him a few years back, I thought (and I told this to my wife) that he sounded like an old fun grandpa who loved to tell stories to his grandchildren. I think I was dead on– for the two children’s books I have written by him (the other is The Priest with Dirty Clothes) begin with a grandpa telling his grandchildren a story. It’s obvious he has a vested interest in making important doctrinal truths not only understandable for children, but wonderful.
The Priest with Dirty Clothes focused on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness toward sinners; The Prince’s Poison Cup deals with the doctrine of Christ’s propitiation of our sin. For parents who aren’t sure that they’d be able to explain the theology in the story, there’s an appendix in the back for parents. It gives all the symbolism and helps the reader to communicate the biblical truths in the book. There are Scripture verses included there too, which could make a great resource for family devotions.
I think a good children’s book must be well illustrated. Sometimes a good story is, in my opinion, ruined by abstract, impressionistic illustrations that don’t portrayed the scene well. This is especially true when you’re reading to a two-year-old, who needs some concrete imagery to help her fill in for all the words she doesn’t know. Also, good illustrations will enhance the vocabulary. I point to the cloak when I read cloak; I show her the fountain when I’m describing it. The best illustrations are able to strike a balance where they portray things from the real world but do so in such a way that invokes wonder.
Justin Gerard, the artist who illustrated this book is phenomenal. This is part of the reason I love the book so much. Bad artistry can make wondrous things feel common, and so when the King of Life appears to raise the prince from the dead (pictured to the right) the imagery is amazing, complementing the text perfectly, and invoking awe.
If you’re into reading to your children (and you should be), and you want to teach them solid biblical truth (and you should want that), and you have a few extra bucks (and you may not have this), get this book. Read to it your kids. It’s a great story, with solid theology, and stunning illustrations. And I think it will increase in value as they get older and more able to understand the depths of the truths inside. I am very happy about it, and am looking forward to any other children’s books Dr. Sproul might release.