This photo essay introduces world faiths through images of children participating in various elements of spiritual life: prayer, study, cleansing, holy places, holidays, food and drink, rites of passage, caring for others. The focus is on what we hold in common, while the differences among world cultures and religions are self-evident in the photos. The book has a valuable aim: “respecting and working to understand the differences among faiths helps create a more peaceful and just society.” Authors Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon have done a commendable job.
Children and adults alike should enjoy the visual beauty of these images from around the globe. Readers can observe the diversity of special garments, ritual celebrations, and places of worship. Photos provide an opportunity to glimpse aspects of religion, such as water baptism, that might be outside of one’s usual experience.
Each double-page has a sentence or phrase of text, plus captions for the photos. After the photos, there is a map indicating areas in the world where the photos were taken. The map is followed by four pages of detailed description of the topics covered, including a wonderful two-paragraph summary of what “praying” means.
At the end of the book there is a five-page glossary, especially useful for explaining less familiar terms. (For example, I had heard of Zoroastrianism, but could not have explained it without help.) I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of images from shamanism and indigenous religions, as well as Rastafarianism and the Baha’i faith.
Parents and teachers can read the explanatory text (written for ages 9 to 13), and use the background information to help their child when looking at the photos. The text that accompanies the photos is suitable for children ages 4 to 9. This book would be a valuable reference for anyone teaching about world religions, regardless of the age group involved. Certain images might spark a reader’s curiosity and lead to further explorations. The book would be a helpful tool for people living in diverse communities, to introduce the religions of their neighbors.
This highly recommended book was developed by the Global Fund for Children, and proceeds will go to support that organization’s work. Published by Charlesbridge in 2009, Faith is available in both hardcover and paperback.
A slightly different version of this review was published in Friends Journal: Quaker thought and life today (Dec. 2009).