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The Prodigal Son and His Elder Brother Review by Cindy West

Gary Maldaner
Plain Path Publishers
P.O. Box 830
Columbus, NC 28722

Before I tell you about the book, I'd like to tell you about how the book began. After the death of his uncle, the author, Gary Maldaner, happened upon forty-two illustrations his uncle had drawn nearly fifty years ago. These illustrations told a "modern-day" story of the prodigal son, as recorded in Luke 15:11-32, and became the inspiration for the story that now accompanies the drawings.

On each two-page spread of the 12" x 12" book, you will find one of the black and white illustrations with a small portion of the actual text from the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. On the opposing page, the author has included somewhat of a story to explain what's going on in the drawings. I say "somewhat" of a story, because the text is at times giving descriptions and lessons we ought to learn rather than a continuous storyline. In other words, it's more of a teaching text than a story. Along with the teaching, verses from other places in the Bible are included to reiterate the points the author has made.

Here's an example of the text that goes along with an illustration of "And when he had spent it all":

Did he have great fun? I'm sure he did, but the kind of fun one gets from doing wrong always comes to a sad end. The pleasures of sin last only for a season. (Hebrews 11:25) When the season ends, the fun is over. Just as Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of boiled soup (Genesis 35:29-43), so this younger son gave up all of his inheritance for a short time of fun, and now it was over. His attitude had been, "forget the rules and the work--I want my fun now!" But, he never thought of what was ahead of him in life.

"And I will say to my soul, Soul thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" Luke 12:19, 20

Since the illustrations were penned in the 1960s, the modern-day take on the story is not so modern, but the point is still easily taken. What is the point? It's that the story of the prodigal son is still very relevant today. You watch one son from a farming family leave his home with his inheritance and big dreams for a better life in the city. Of course, he squanders his money and eventually finds his way back home, where he is accepted with open arms by his father. His brother, however, isn't so happy to see him and the father has to work through the second son's pride issues.

As with the original Bible story, the main characters in this version have to deal with selfishness, pride, repentance, humbling one's self, and forgiveness--all important topics today for most of us!

There is no age recommendation given, but I believe any child older than second or third grade would easily be able to understand the message. Our family read the entire book in one sitting, but it could be used over a few days or more if using it as a devotional and you want to dive into the concepts further.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010