"Talking is okay," an 8-year-old boy once told psychiatrist Robert Coles, "but I don't do it all the time the way grown-ups do; I guess you have to develop the habit." Instead, many children draw. In a new picture book compiled by Coles, professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard University Medical School, a variety of at-risk children-hungry, ill, or homeless-let their imaginations soar and use their crayons to talk as they depict, in color and shape, their ideas of God's house. A bright, pictorial essay, In God's House is 32 pages of full-color illustrations with commentary by children.
"From the very beginning of my work," Coles introduces the book, "I asked children to draw pictures-I had discovered that a boy or girl drawing or painting is a person trying to say something, trying to show what is on his or her mind." Here, both children from a Brazilian slum and American children "living on the edge" draw their visions of God. Through the houses that take shape, we see as well the reality of these children's lives: their dreams, aspirations, and fears.
What color is God's house? What shape? Is it a house of rain, topped by sun? Or is it a scary place, hovering above the earth? For Daniel-a 12-year-old boy who wields his crayons to block out a house of gold, flanked by two suns-God's house is "a house with free stuff inside." For another child? A red, crooked building, replete with green door, is the place where God lives. Full of life, it is a place where God keeps bad people; but it is also a place with "enough food for everyone."
And Lue, 8 years old, paints a tropical field where rain falls in bright aqua drops. Above, a green sun shines. In the center, two children stand in a red capsule, surrounded by sunlight and cheery, aqua rain. "God lives," Lue explains, "in Heaven and in my house."