Psalms Twenty-Three

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“The Lord is my shepherd.”

Those five powerful words (words that have sustained many believers through the course of our daily lives) are the inspiration for the artwork in this beautifully-illustrated picture book by artist Tim Ladwig. The book is titled Psalm Twenty-Three.

The book was originally produced in 1993, but the haunting beauty of the pictures that follow two innocent children through their sometimes danger-fraught daily lives are just as moving today.

Though the words from the scriptures remain the same, the pictures tell a contemporary story. For whatever reason, a young brother and sister are being raised by their elderly grandparents. The book opens with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and the first scene is a hushed and beautiful illustration of the siblings–who are still young enough to share one bed–resting safely as their grandmother prepares to wake them for school.

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From there, readers see the fragile but strong grandparents tenderly feed and care for the siblings with the same unconditional love they must surely have heaped upon their own children. Readers follow along as the children frolic their way to school through a leafy park, splash in water puddles, gaze thoughtfully at the stained-glass window of the local church, and are greeted by their teachers as they climb the school steps.

But like most people’s lives, the siblings don’t just encounter love and happiness through their day. There is a point when they are on the way back home that they walk past some pretty shady characters, and scriptures are there to remind them (and the readers) that the Lord is their shepherd: a brooding man in sunglasses stands with his menacing Doberman Pinscher (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”); and a group of scowling teens who could be up to anything lurk on the corner (“I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me).

Thankfully, the grandfather arrives to escort the children safely home. And though readers later see the shady characters slink past the siblings’ window as they eat their supper and talk about their day, we understand that the Lord has truly kept them safe throughout the entire day.

This is a lovely book that is well worth adding to your African American picture book collection. If I have any quibble with this book, it is the depiction of somber teens on the street corner as “evil.” I understand what the artist is trying to say, which is that these boys can’t possibly be up to any good hanging idly on the street corner. But this “pre-judgment” is a slippery slope that may be the foundation of what has become widespread racial “profiling”, and this is definitely a no-no.

Other than this, I highly recommend this book for family or individual read.

Best wishes,
Rita Lorraine

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