Who Counts? By Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso


Prodigal: adjective; spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant

Who Counts?

The title of this book threw me off-who counts? Everyone matters! I started reading this book and the first story was about a man and his sheep. He realizes one day that he is missing one of his 100 sheep, so he goes out looking for her. He ends up finding her, bringing her back home, and having a celebration. Someone asks the farmer, why celebrate? It was only one sheep-you have 99 other sheep. He claims that his flock was incomplete without her.

I then realized that this was starting to sound somewhat like a story I’ve heard before. I kept reading.

The same thing happens with the next story, where a woman is counting her 10 coins (or drachmas, a Grecian silver coin) and one day loses one. She searches for it and ends up finding it and also having a celebration. The woman has the same rationale for celebrating the return of her lost coin. I now knew this book was definitely about three parables from the gospel of Luke.

The third and final story was an adaptation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s a well-known parable: a man has two sons, and he has split his money in half, one half for each son. The younger son runs off with his share and soon returns home with no money and lost hope. The father welcomes him home with open arms, love, and an extravagant celebration. The older son stays back and works on the father’s farm and stays with his father for years, but is forgotten about when the brother comes home. The father feels awful that his older son was forgotten and tells him that everything he has is also his. (For the full story, feel free to pull up Luke 15: 11-31, located in the New Testament of the Bible).

Parables serve as simple ways to get us thinking about important topics. Usually, parables are found in the bible. This book serves as a beautiful interpretation of three famous parables outside of a biblical context. There is a biblical interpretation of these parables, but a different approach could be that this parable teaches us that every one of us counts and everyone should feel counted. Not once is God mentioned in this book (excluding the author’s note), therefore it can be viewed both ways.

Even though this story is out of biblical context, it’s hard to untie this story from its origin in the gospel. I would probably steer clear of ever using this story in a school context, specifically in a public school (Christian private school? Maybe). There is no getting around the fact that this is a parable and can be interpreted in ways that do not adhere to all religions. This is a book that I would personally buy for my own children or for families of children I know would appreciate this story. It is a story from the bible with pictures and adapted dialogue, which kids enjoy and understand. There are also different representations of skin color in each story, which supports the increasing importance of multiracial representation in children’s literature. This book is an elegant adaptation of these three parables and I would love to have this on the shelves of my (future) house.

Bonus content! A song by one of my favorite bands loosely related to Parable of the Prodigal Son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLG5KNNal74

Post by: Jenna Adamczak


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