You’ve probably seen William Stieg’s work before: his hasty, evocative illustrations defined the style of New Yorker covers for decades; he’s also the creative genius behind the movie Shrek. But what few know about Steig is his enduring contribution to children’s literature. Steig, who died in 2003, wrote a range of longer-format children’s picture book including Brave Irene and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. But one children’s book draws from his Jewish heritage to present a captivating argument for the existence of God:
As two freshly painted puppets dry in the sun, they wonder about their existence. “Do you happen to know what we’re doing here?” asks the thin, yellow puppet of his fat, pink companion. “Someone must have made us,” says Pink. “But how,” Yellow asks, “could anyone make something like me, so intricate, so perfect?” Pink is certain that they were created by someone, but Yellow argues that they are a fluke, that over eons they just happened. Unconvinced, Pink asks several awkward questions. Why can they see and hear? How can the paint on their bodies be so neat and symmetrical—”with perfect edges, in just the right places?” In the end, Yellow concludes that “some things will have to remain a mystery. Maybe forever.” — Anita Barnes Lowen
The story doesn’t end in a stalemate as a strange man soon appears who unsettles their theories. Children under age 8 may not understand the subtlety of the arguments presented, the narrative is compelling nonetheless. Adults will be deeply engaged by the clarity of Steig’s thought and the potency of his storytelling.
Modern picture books tend to be hopelessly banal and strive for little more than promoting the latest TV show. Yellow & Pink work certainly entertains – but also leads to thoughtful discussion about God and his role in creation. This is a children’s book that could be discussed in seminary classes; it certainly belongs in all church libraries!