Aaron Ajax is a sixth grader who has not had much change in his life. He has had the same best friend since the first day of kindergarten. He has never moved. There has been no hardship or uncertainty. That all changes when his father loses his job as a local radio personality and the family is faced with moving from their hometown in Montana to Bismarck, North Dakota. Aaron has a difficult time dealing with these changes. Dear God, I don’t get it! takes us inside Aaron’s head as he tries to understand why God is not answering his prayers the way he would like.
Not only is Aaron angry with God about the move, but he has preformed opinions of the area to where his family is moving: “I opened my eyes to see a lady in the car next to me blowing her nose. ‘What am I doing sleeping with my face smashed against the car window?’ I wondered. My mind was in a groggy, just-woke-up fog. It took only seconds for me to remember the awful truth – we were leaving Montana and headed to a place I had thus far only heard about in jokes.”
Aaron fears he will be unable to make friends. The first person his age that he sees is a girl who pelts him with a snowball and the first boy he meets is openly hostile — all this before he even starts school. He is jealous of his younger brother Luke’s ability to make friends easily wherever he goes. When he does start school, he discovers that the hostile boy, Josh, is in his class and worries that will Josh influence the other kids against him.
He begins daydreaming about being a hero and his attempts to make this happen lead to a series of misadventures — including recruiting his little brother to pretend he has locked himself in the bathroom so that he can be “rescued.” When Aaron finally has to explain everything to his parents, his father tells him, “Real heroes don’t cause problems and then act like they saved the day. It is dishonest.”
Things turn around for Aaron when he stops trying to make things happen and begins to rely on God. He prays for forgiveness for the dishonest things he did and asks God to help him to put God first. Once he realizes that he should just be himself, things get better. He risks losing his new friends by doing what is right instead of what is easy, and he winds up helping the class troublemaker to fit in and become” just one of the guys.” This, along with another surprise chance to be a real hero, shows Aaron that God is still on his side — even in North Dakota.
There are vocabulary words and thought-provoking questions for each chapter located in the back of the book. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to place the questions and vocabulary for each chapter at the end of each chapter, instead. An advanced third-grade reader would have no difficulty with this book, and it would be appropriate for children through sixth grade.
I will be using this book in my home school to help my son understand to trust God always, even in difficult circumstances. But this book is useful for parents who are not homeschooling also, to open up communication about the prayer lives of their children.
Patti Maguire Armstrong does a great job exploring Aaron’s feelings as he goes through these changes, skillfully demonstrating that children often have the same difficulties in their faith lives as adults, and that they may feel alone and unable to express these feelings. As a mother of ten children, two girls and eight boys, including two adopted AIDS orphans from Africa, she has a great deal of experience dealing with children’s emotions. Her husband Mark was a broadcast journalist for many years and she draws on this for the father’s job in Dear God, I don’t get i! She has co-authored the Catholic Amazing Grace book series and is often featured on Catholic Exchange. Her website is raisingcatholickids.com.
Freelance commercial artist Shannon Wirrenga illustrated the book in a style reminiscent of the Beverly Cleary books — a style very appropriate for this story of a boy’s blunders and recovery. Her cover art captures the frustration that Aaron was feeling when he was leaving his home in Montana to move to North Dakota. Wirrenga also illustrated The Little Cloud by M.G. Maher and Chicago Bob by Scott Eide. A resident of Bismarck, North Dakota, she seeks to serve God through her artwork and is the coordinator of Artists Celebrating Christ (March 18-21 at the Benedictine Center at the University of Mary in Bismarck). You can learn more about her at http://www.shannonsartroom.com/.