Tell Me the Secrets: Treasures for Eternity - Max Lucado * 4.6 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing - 8
* Pace - 8
* Plot development - 9
* Characters - 9
* Enjoyability -9
* Insightfulness - 10
* Ease of Reading - 10
* Photos/Illustrations - 10
Final Score: 73/80 = 91%

*WARNING: I will be discussing the stories in depth. I will try not to completely spoil the stories, but I want to give anyone who is looking at buying this for their children an idea of what is talked about so they know what age they might want to introduce some of the ideas to their children.

*The Gush*
I will admit, I’m not a huge fan of Max Lucado; nothing personal, just never seemed to click with me as he does with others. But I loved this short book the moment I picked it up. A decent part of it has to do with how much I’ve always liked Ron DiCianni’s work. Each short story is paired with a wonderful painting that works well with the core meaning of the story. I don’t know about other editions but this one is set up to appear like the Book of Secrets that Grandpa Josh pulls out when the kids come to him with problems or questions.

The characters are…very human in this story. A good thing because this is a book set to teach children and remind parents both the good and bad parts of being a human being as well as God’s plan for us. My favorite is Grandpa Josh, a ‘retired’ missionary who along with his wife has bought an old house that they are fixing up. He has seen much and gained wisdom both from others and mistakes he’s made. And now he’s imparting a bit of what he’s learned to three young kids God and a baseball has brought into his life. His wife, Melva, is a good character who is sadly underused. She really only appears in the first and last stories, but when she is there, she shines. I simply wish she’s been used in at least one of the other stories. The three children who Josh shares the secrets with and thereby shares them with us are good but don’t really stand out. While this might be a good choice so that the reader can easily see themselves in them, they are little more than caricature of almost stereotypical types of children. You have Landon, a geek who “wore glasses and carried a book” and “was short and skinny”; Eric, who “was tall and athletic” and “always wore a baseball hat and carried his glove”; and Shannon, the younger sister of Landon and whose parents we find out later are divorced. The fact that they are also Landon’s is never mentioned because that is not important; she serves to connect with children who’ve gone through the separation of parents while Landon serves to connect geeks and other who feel they are not athletic, etc. ‘Coincidentally’, I’ve always liked Landon best. While this connects the readers to the children quickly, it renders them basically two dimensional, even after they learn the ‘secrets’.

The Stories

The Shadow House: The introductory story. The three kids are playing baseball when they break a window in the local house called The Shadow House. They decide to face the consequences and meet Josh and Melva, who have them work around the lawn to pay off the damages they did. The book of secrets is also set up with Grandpa Josh saying he will unlock it when his young friends ask him the right questions. He will know when they do.

The Secret of Forgiveness: Shannon comes to Grandpa Josh after being teased by a classmate she’d helped over her parent’s divorce. She’s angry, understandably, but Josh has a story for her. The story is The Watermaster. A desert village is barely hanging on because of lack of water. A farmer was digging when he found a miracle for the town, a cavern full of water. He became the watermaster, bringing water for free for all the villagers, until he has a couple of dreams that made him believe the people were ungrateful and mean to their neighbors. After everyone in the village is judged to be ‘bad’, he takes his water and hordes it away from those that need it. A thought provoking story that is echoed by the artist’s comments concerning who is really hurt when we withhold forgiveness. Nine times out of ten, the other person doesn’t even know or care, and we end up only hurting ourselves more.

The Secret of Peace: This is a story about a talk between Eric and Josh along with some verses that pertain to the subject. Eric was ridiculed by his science teacher and laughed at by his classmates because he answered truthfully when his teacher asked who believed in creation. That idea alone is highly charged but that is not really the issue here but merely used to facilitate a talk concerning how our view of the world and universe around us is by our very nature limited compared to God. The Peace of God comes from the acknowledgement that he can see everything far beyond what we can and he is the one watching over us.

The Secret of Victory: Landon seeks Josh’s advice concerning a cousin who always seems to pressure him into doing things he doesn’t really want to do and he gets in trouble doing. Josh, who can’t go with him obviously, loans him the book of secrets and tells him to read The Song of the King. Three knights are given a quest by the prince that the first knight to journey through the dangerous forest of Hemlock and arrive at the king’s castle will be granted the hand of the princess. The Hopenots infest the forest and attack travelers who foolishly pass through their domain. The only way to find their way through the forest is to listen for the king’s tune played on a flute three times a day. This will lead them in the right direction. Only one other person knows the tune, and that is the prince giving them the quest. Each knight is allowed to choose one companion to go with them. One knight is strong, one is fast, and the last is smart. The problem is… the Hopenots imitate. So the knight that will complete the quest must be able to know the king’s song completely and follow it. False flutes might blow but he would be able to recognize the one, true song. Temptation might play a pretty tune, so we must truly know God’s song so we will follow it.

The Secret of Growth: One of the best short stories. The three children are all involved in this one, each with their own issue to work through. Josh gifts each of them with an item: Eric gets a knife, Shannon a horse’s bit, and Landon gets a lump of clay. Each are sent to someone who knows how to use the items and they see them shape or take shape in the hands of a master. This leads them to the solution to a riddle Josh shares with them: You’re glad I came when I’m gone, but you wish I’d leave when I’m there. It hurts when I help. I stretch when I strengthen. Who am I?. Growing up is always a painful process but that is how a baby becomes a child and a child becomes an adult.

The Secret of Love: It’s Eric again, this time because some of his team brought some magazines of naked women to the dugout. Josh shares with him the ‘true’ story of a gem merchant who wrote about the one gem he missed, true love. He went after the flashy, the outwardly beautiful, and the richly clothed even though he knew that the best gems are the ones with the inner glow. Love is not based on things that time will fade or cannot be sustained like movie type romantic love. True love is about work, is about the heart, and is about the inner beauty. In our current society, this is something our children desperately need to learn.

The Secret of Greatness: This is my personal favorite story. There have been times where I’ve need this story every day; I think everyone has had those times. Shannon comes home to find her dad extremely down because he did not get a promotion and his boss’s reason was that he was not good enough. Josh, who apparently knew something was up, had let her borrow the book of secrets. She sets out to read her father a story called The Wemmicks. (I believe Lucado has since published this as a picture book in its own right.) The Wemmicks are like small Punch and Judyesque wooden people carved by someone they called Eli. They go around all day putting gold stars and grey dot stickers on each other. Pretty, good, and talented Wemmicks get gold stars while scuffed and ‘untalented’ Wemmicks get grey dots. Some are covered in stars and others are covered in dots. One such is Punchinello, who is covered in them. Then he meets Lucia, a Wemmick who has no dots or stars. Others try to give them to her but they just fall off. When he asks how she does this, she sends him to Eli. Scared, he still gathers his courage and goes to the woodshop. Eli is delighted to see him and tells him he doesn’t care what the Wemmicks think, he made Punchinello and he thinks he’s special. Who are they to give stars or dots; they don’t know the true value of the Wemmicks they are judging. The more Punchinello believes Eli over the Wemmicks, the more the stickers will fall off.

I love this story and have definitely have days where I have to make sure dots and/or stars fall off.

The Secret of Life: The last story and one parents NEED to know about and decide when to share with their children. Grandpa Josh is old and one day the three children are pulled out of their classes and taken to the hospital to see him. Melva is there and takes them to see him before following his directions to take them to the Obstetrical ward. There they see babies who have made a journey from what they knew to a brand new world that must be scary and strange to them. She then reads them a note he wrote in the book of secrets concerning death as another journey into a world that is strange and unknown to us but that we should not be scared because God is there and knows what he’s doing. The story ends with Josh going home and the children remembering all he taught them. A touching story but one that should be handled right when read to children. It is also necessary because death touches everyone no matter the age they are.
These are wonderful stories that will facilitate a lot of good discussions with your children.

*The Rant*
Very little here because most of my problems with this book were touched on above with the flat characters and the last story being one parents should be prepared for.

*Conclusion*
This is a wonderful book to open discussions with your children about basic Christen truths. Even as an adult, then stories help remind of truths that are so easy to lose in this hectic world we live in.