Author and preacher Max Lucado has devoted four decades of his life to writing dozens of books to spread the message of God’s Grace.
He is, perhaps, the most popular modern Christian author, having sold over 100 million copies of his works. Families are particularly drawn to his children’s stories in which Lucado illustrates parallels between the lessons learned by his characters and real-life applications of our faith.
In particular, one of Lucado’s series of books focuses on an imaginary people called the Wemmicks and is a favorite in our family, especially two of the installments, You Are Special and You Are Mine.
The Wemmicks are a community of wooden people created by the character Eli. The relationship between Eli and the Wemmicks offers a concrete representation to young people of the relationship with God and His people.
The name Eli is a shortened version of the Hebrew name for God, Elohim.
The Wemmicks give out awards for the physical qualities of the characters. If one is considered pretty or talented, has a particularly fine voice or smooth and colorful paint, they are given a star.
Main character Punchinello, however, seems to always receive “gray dots” instead of stars for not doing well enough compared to the other villagers.
Punchinello is not only bothered by the fact that he doesn’t receive the coveted star stickers, but that he really does not want stickers on him at all because they make him feel uncomfortable. He meets another villager who feels the same, and she sends him to their creator, Eli, for advice.
Eli explains to Punchinello that if he concerns himself less with what the other villagers think and focuses more on how he feels about himself, the dot and star stickers will not stick to him.
Eli tells Punchinello that he purposely made him unique from the other villagers, stating that, “The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
Punchinello learns to understand that he feels better about himself once he stops worrying about receiving stickers, representing the judgments and opinions of others.
You Are Special introduces children to the concept of what it means to be wonderfully and fearfully made by God, completely unique in our appearance and personalities. The colorful illustrations and text help parents introduce the concept of what it is to be considered special and whether it really matters.
The central message of the book is that the villagers judge others on their perception of what being “special” means – here typically being better, greater, or more unique than others.
But Lucado wants children to know that we are all special in God’s eyes. We are all unique and equally loved and cherished by our Creator. No one is better than anyone else, and judgments are not ours to make.
Another book in the series, You Are Mine, explores how God views our behaviors – especially when we strive for material possessions and yearn for recognition from others.
In this book, children can read about Punchinello’s latest adventures in which the Wemmicks start a competition on who has the most grand box. They spend their days searching for pretty things like balls to add to their boxes, striving to out-do each other in quantity and design.
Punchinello wants so badly to be the best that he sells everything he owns to buy more and more balls and boxes. When the day of judging the contest arrives, the mayor’s wife declares that everyone must climb the highest hill to “show their stuff.”
In his quest to be the best, Punchinello gets lost on his way to the top of the hill and winds up in his creator’s workshop. There, he realizes the futility of all he has done to be the best and hides from Eli in embarrassment.
Punchinello is a lovable character who makes mistakes over and over again in order to fit in with the villagers and feel better about himself. But time and again, Eli uses Punchinello’s mistakes to teach him to recognize his own unique qualities and to show him that Eli purposely made him who he is – mistakes and all – and cherishes him all the same.
“You are special not because of the things you have, but because you are mine,” Eli tells Punchinello. This is a wonderful phrase for children to keep in mind as they grow, facing pressure from peers and the negative messages of our increasingly materialistic society.
Parents can also use this message to explain their own love for their children as well as God’s love for us, for we are all the children of God.
The Wemmick series brings up many questions that parents can discuss with their children after reading the stories. Why do we seem to worry so much about what others think of us? Who determines whether we are special, and why do people seem to strive to out-do others? Is it more important to be true to ourselves or to the perceptions of others, and what are the real things of value in the world?
All of these themes are resolved by Lucado in these imaginative books. Through these vulnerable characters, the message is clear: God is the answer to it all.
God has decided we are special, and it is of no significance what anyone else thinks of us if we are striving to please Him. Being true to ourselves is the ultimate gift because we are embracing all of the unique qualities bestowed upon us by our Creator.
Whether you read these books aloud to your children or they are old enough to read and enjoy the series themselves, following up with a discussion of how the themes parallel the struggles of the Wemmicks to our own will make a lasting impression with your kids.
The unconditional love provided by the Wemmicks’ creator, Eli, illustrates the unconditional love that both God and parents have for their children.
He turns our weaknesses into strengths if we only trust Him to do so and makes us all exactly who we are to serve a given purpose in His plan, and Lucado’s books for children have these themes running through them.
Parents can tell their children, “You are the only you God made. God made you and broke the mold,” and share their own experiences in life that taught them the lessons Lucado illustrates in the Wemmick series.
Share and enjoy them with your children, and use them to guide discussions on your faith – your weaknesses, strengths, and unique traits that make you and your children who you are.
You can purchase these books at the links below.