Sunday Is for God
“Weekdays are for school. Saturday’s for having fun. But Sunday is the Lord’s day. Sunday is for God.” Sunday Is for God, by Michael McGowen, will bring you back to the days of itchy clothes, starched collars, and hot suit coats. But this picture book may also transport you and the young readers in your life to a renewed appreciation of Sunday morning worship. At first, Sunday Is for God feels nostalgic. The slice-of-life story follows a boy as he wakes up, eats a huge breakfast, knots his tie, puts on his cufflinks, and heads up the grassy lawn to church. Gradually, the boy’s voice becomes more genuine. As the congregation sings about gathering at the river, he wishes he were at the real river with his pants rolled up. Later, he tries to make his friend Joey laugh by saying “Amen” in an extra-loud voice, “just when everyone else is quiet.” But little by little, the Bible verses that Brother Cartwright reads begin to infiltrate the boy’s thoughts. When he hears the words of the final prayer, “Keep us, Lord, under the shadow of Thy wings,” he whispers a reverent “Amen.” Sunday Is for God is also about men. Although the book is about worship, the text and illustrations also show the boy’s view of the male figures in his life, particularly his elderly Papaw. He notices how Papaw holds the baby before the service, listens intently during the sermon, and rolls up his sleeves with relaxed joy afterward. Meanwhile, the multi-layered collages of artists Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher augment the story. In one dimension, they capture the scenes and warmth of a hot summer church service. Yet the faint shading of the pictures appears to be an overlay, created by the faded print of carefully chosen hymns, Bible passages, and images from the worshippers’ lives. The overall effect is both earthly and ethereal. However, the painting that most kids will gravitate to contains a bit of magical realism. As the boy daydreams about the river, he drapes his arm over the pew. When he touches the blue carpet of the center aisle, it ripples like water. Sunday Is for God is a remarkable book. Yet I find myself wondering how kids will react to the text. The language is beautiful. The tone is kid-friendly. But the pace is slow, and the word count is high. The length of the book may be too much for young listeners. But I hope I’m wrong. Sunday Is for God is both reverent and joyful as it conveys the importance of family and worship. Reviewer Jean L. S. Patrick is the author of several books for young readers, including Who Carved the Mountain? The Story of Mount Rushmore. Her weekly book column has been running in the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic since 1989.