Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons is a beautifully illustrated picture book of the “lost and found” parables from Luke 15. The parables are presented as a series of stories, with no mention of Jesus. There is a connecting thread and phrase about completeness through each story that children pick up on right away. When I read the story to a group of mixed aged kids, a second grader knew to expect the phrase at the end of the story of the two sons.
The man who searches for his sheep explains how he knew one was missing and why it mattered to him that he found that one. The celebration of finding the sheep makes sense to him, even when his neighbors question his effort and dedication to that one animal.
The woman who searches for her lost drachma wants to reunite her whole collection. Clearly for the reader (who can see the missing coin in each picture), her excitement at finding the coin is outsized in comparison to what was lost and found. Yet, the woman’s joy will not be diminished by pettiness. What is wholeness to her has been restored. That is worth a party!
The last story of the parable has the most editorializing, but it is still meaningful. The ups and downs of the younger son are almost always the focus of story, but here equal time is given to both sons. The completeness is not achieved without recognition of the father’s love for both sons. With all three stories told together, the parable is not reduced to allegory, but stands as an testament to the completeness (wholeness and unity) that are both Divine desire and Divine joy.
The illustrations in the story are not your typical robe + beard fare, but transport the essence of Luke’s truths into new wine skins of bright colors, diverse people, and contemporary settings. The pictures are inviting and do the excellent and desired work of communicating feelings and information about the story and the characters. Children following along can see the missing sheep and coin as their seekers search, but they are also able to understand the excitement in finding what was lost and, once again, having wholeness in your community and in your heart.
I really love this book. I would recommend anything by Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso anyway, but there is something about the purity of this telling and its pictures that is extra appealing. I kind of want to read it over and over again to myself, children, and adults until the message sinks in, again.