'Brighty’s Special Gift' is a Christian children’s book about a star, Brighty, who is different from the other stars. He has a different number of points and is brighter than them, and he is excluded by them as a result, which he finds very upsetting. No matter how hard Brighty tries, the other stars won’t accept his differences. God explains to Brighty that he is perfect as he is, and that all his suffering has made his light even stronger. Brighty learns to accept who he is, and in time, finds his place in the world.
There were a few topics that this book covered, and it provided a natural way to introduce discussion with children regarding these. We talked about people who are different, as Brighty is different, and also about bullying, how it makes people feel, whether they had witnessed anything like that or been a victim of it themselves, and how Brighty coped with being ostracised. I knew that this book was a Christian one before reading it, but in some books the theme can be stronger than others. In this book it’s a very strong theme, with God talking directly to Brighty. Although I’ve read Christmas books, and some other Bible stories with my children we wouldn’t generally read anything with such an overt Christian message. I wanted to make this aspect of the book clear because although it wasn't an issue for us, some people feel strongly about such messages, whether positively or negatively. There are some suggestions for learning activities to take the spiritual concepts further, which I thought was a useful feature.
There are lots of pictures in this book, which is something I like in a children's book, a full-colour illustration on every page to help keep the children’s interest. Appreciation of pictures is always subjective, but I didn’t like the pictures much as I prefer a more detailed style, particularly in the pictures that weren't of the stars. However, my children didn't mind them. One thing that I thought was good about the pictures is that they conveyed Brighty’s feelings as you could see expression on his face, which was useful for the discussions that we were having regarding the story.
The final verdict? My children really enjoyed the book and said they’d be happy to read it again. My 8 year old said that he didn’t anticipate the ending of the book, and that he liked that Brighty shone brighter even though that’s the reason why he wasn’t accepted, so even on a first reading, a message of being who you are and not bowing down to peer pressure was clearly understood. My 5 year old said that she wished that God had made Brighty darker so the other stars left him alone so the message hadn’t quite gone through, but we talked about it! I thought that it naturally led into an interesting conversation with my children, on a subject that can be hard to broach directly. We’d give this book 4 stars.
*Many thanks to Meryton Press for a review copy of this book, and to Jakki from Leatherbound Reviews for arranging the blog tour.