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Perfect Square

by Michael Hall

Review by Ashley Linne

 

My schedule is pretty crazy. I bet yours is, too. I’m a doctor of ministry student and also a mom of a preschooler, so there are days I spend hours upon hours in books. If that’s a result of a busy schedule, I’m certainly not complaining!

Recently as I was reading to my son at one of his classes, we ran across Perfect Square on the library shelf. We read through it and it seemed to deeply resonate with us both. Isn’t it wonderful how children’s books can capture the hearts of adults?

Perfect Square is a short picture book that chronicles a week in the life of a colorful, perfect square. The square is perfectly happy. But then a series of seeming tragedies happen—on Monday the square is torn into pieces and has holes poked in it; another day it’s cut into ribbons. But each day the square uses the pieces to transform itself into something beautiful—a park, a mountain, a bridge. The end of the story finds the square on Sunday when, surprisingly, nothing happens to it. Instead, it finds its corners and edges confining, so it turns itself into a window. Through this window the square looks out over the beautiful things it had become.

I find several layers of meaning in this little book.

My first impression was how empowering this book could have been to me as a child or even a young adult, in the middle of unthinkable situations in which I felt completely torn apart. The square could have encouraged me to keep on going, to “make lemonade,” despite the pain that the world was handing me. In many ways I have done exactly that.

On another level though, I realize the message that I can change myself into something better is erroneous. Only the power of the living Christ can truly transform me at my core. Only Jesus can take the broken pieces of my heart and make it whole again. And when it’s just too shattered, He gives a new heart altogether— “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

I’m an idealist and I really like this little book, so I’d love to end the review here. But to play devil’s advocate a bit, we could also say this book reflects a dangerous reliance on self. My son is only 4 years old, and developmentally he needs to have the confidence that he can handle a lot of what happens to him. But, I don’t ever want him to think God (or his dad or I) intends for him to do it alone. There’s a mandorla of interdependence that we must pass on to my son—truth that we are simultaneously responsible for ourselves, but also for others; truth that even when we are alone, we are never without the presence of the Lord.

I am still happy to have run across Perfect Square. We purchased a copy for ourselves, and I am looking forward to the conversations we’ll have at home as we read it.

 

Suggested song: Beautiful Things by Gungor; video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1spkhp41ig4