Eric Says Please by Dai Hankey – A Review
Eric Says Please in the third and final instalment in the epic ‘Eric’ trilogy, now found on Christian bookstalls across the nation, probably best aimed at 3-8 year olds. (Actually, maybe I’m wrongly assuming it’s the final instalment?! Who knows, maybe Hankey’s gonna complete the ACTS prayer mnemonic and have an Eric Says Wow! for Adoration?!)
If you’re familiar with Eric Says Sorry and Eric Says Thanks (my review of the latter is here), then you’ll know what to expect. If not, think fun, cheery, contemporary rhyming prose as we follow the escapades of little lad Eric, with Xavier Bonet providing bright, stylised illustrations. Each story doubles up as an opportunity to reflect on the nature of prayer, or more generally how we can relate to God. And whereas the first two books focus in on gratitude and forgiveness respectively, this latest book focuses on our need to depend on God.
But that’s what I love about Dai’s stories: they’re not simply a case of being told to pray more, or in this case ‘say please…‘ more. As Good Book Company editorial director Carol Laferton has explained, they’re not simply about morals and manners, where ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are simply ‘magic words’ that unlock the door to happy parents. They dig a bit deeper and raise more fundamental questions. In this case, Eric is learning that we’ve been created as dependent beings. Whereas self-sufficiency is often the modus operandi of our culture (“you can do it… follow your dreams… if you put you’re mind to it, you can be who you want to be…”), Eric’s adventure offers an alternative narrative. As he goes through an average day at school, Eric faces various moments where he’s faced with the choice of either ‘going it alone’ or asking for help. And Hankey has a brilliant way of gently showing that actually how we make this choice is often driven by pride.
Of course, this raises the important connection that ‘saying please’, i.e. depending upon God in prayer, is actually about us growing in humility, as we learn to see that we’re not independent. Ultimately this is not just about needing each other, but about being dependent on our Creator and Father in heaven. And indeed towards the end of the story, Eric’s Grandpa plays the wise mentor role and takes Eric to James 4:6, “Pride will always make us humble, but God gives grace to the truly humble”.
The story then finishes with Eric’s Grandpa helping him to pray a short prayer as they walk home from school (“you don’t need words that are big and smart; just be yourself and speak your heart”), in which Eric asks for God to sort out a conflict with one of his friends that has arisen during the day. In a lovely closing moment, Eric is amazed as God answers the prayer, with Eric playing his part in that answer. It’s a great example of prayer as something natural and ‘everyday’, rather than something just for church or ‘before bed’.
It’s worth noting that these books aren’t ‘intense’, and would make great presents, even if a child is not from a Christian family. They introduce Christian prayer as something attractive, dismantling a few unhealthy stereotypes along the way, and I imagine would start conversations and ponderings amongst non-Christian kids and their parents/guardians alike.
Presentation-wise, I was delighted to find the story text is a lot larger than it was in Eric Says Sorry, which is a great improvement. Each of the three books also includes a ‘game to play’, a ‘verse to say’, and a ‘prayer to pray’, and you can download digital copies of the artwork for Sunday school lessons, kid’s slots, toddler groups, etc.
Pick up the book from the publisher here. To get a feel for Eric Says Please, you can watch Dai reading the book below:
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!
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