John Hendrix has created his own unique style by blurring the boundary between text and art, melding it into cohesive story. Nowhere is this more evident than in Miracle Man, his first picture book about Jesus, where Jesus’s very words become an integral part of the illustrations, showing the power of the man who was the word made flesh. When I heard that Hendrix was creating a follow up book, Go and Do Likewise: the Parables and Wisdom of Jesus, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
The cover of Go and Do Likewise bears an image of Jesus surrounded by children, inviting the reader to approach as a child, though I don’t believe this book is meant only for children. In fact, the dense text on some of the pages suggests it’s clearly aimed at an older audience than most picture books—I’d say age six or seven through adult.
Go and Do Likewise presents rich visual imagery imbued with meaning to the careful viewer. The book opens with Jesus sitting on a mountaintop under a large tree. Its branches are backlit by stars which, combined with Jesus’s removed sandals, evokes the image of the burning bush. The tree bears the words “I am the vine,” and Jesus sits under it, eyes closed in prayer, bearing his cross-shaped staff in his hands. And that’s just the first page.
In the introduction, Hendrix evokes the image of a journey. Jesus was going somewhere. “Jesus walked… and ever since, people have followed him.” And we follow along as Jesus speaks and teaches, always moving closer to his final destination.
Go and Do Likewise retells several of Jesus’s parables in words and illustrations that give us a fresh perspective on just how outside-the-box Jesus’s teachings really were. Even our kids can get to a place where they’ve heard the lesson a thousand times and need it to be made new.
These stories recapture our attention as we see the ludicrous extent to which the shepherd goes just to find that one sheep; as we notice the way that Jesus treasures each of the dirty, ragamuffin children who flock to him; as we see how Jesus calls things we consider tragic—emptiness and tears—blessings.
Jesus walked...and ever since, people have followed him.John Hendrix
Perhaps the retelling that stood out most to me was the parable of the good Samaritan. When we watch the priest and Levite pass the injured man, their excuses sound rather reasonable. They’re the kind of excuses we might make when we pass a homeless person on the street. We’re able to see ourselves as the reasonable pharisees, asking Jesus how we can do what’s right without being put to too much bother. When the Samaritan pays for the injured man’s needs, we feel the sacrifice as he hands over “two precious coins” and further promises to be responsible for any bills incurred.
Picture books are meant to be read and reread, and Go and Do Likewise is the kind of book that will reveal more with each subsequent reading. And it’s beautiful enough to adorn any coffee table.
The book closes powerfully with a beautiful paraphrase of John 14:6-7. When Thomas complains that the disciples don’t know the way to follow where Jesus is going, he replies:
I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but alongside me. If you know me, then you know the Father… and now, and for the rest of time, you do know the way… you do know God. You have seen him, face to face.—John 14:6-7
Go and Do Likewise shows us Jesus in a new way to help both us and our children see him a little more clearly and follow him more closely.
Carolyn Leiloglou is the author of Library’s Most Wanted and the Noah Green Junior Zookeeper series. Her poems and stories have been published in Highlights, Clubhouse Jr., Cricket, and more. You can find her on her blog, housefullofbookworms.com, where she reviews her favorite children’s books each month.