Title: “The Prince’s Poison Cup”
Author: R.C. Sproul
Illustrator: Justin Gerard
Publisher: Reformation Trust Publishing
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Rating: 5/5 (audience considered)
Purchase: Ligonier Ministries
And now for something a little different! For a long time I’ve wanted to get my hands on R.C. Sproul’s illustrated children’s books to see what they are like. However, as a student with no job and zero income, I couldn’t justify spending money on a children’s book. There’s material out there that is more helpful for me at my present maturity level, both mental and spiritual. But as this book has been provided to me by Reformation Trust Publishing, I have read it and can now present to you a review of it.
“The Prince’s Poison Cup” is an allegorical book. The real allegory is a story within a story, told by a grandfather to his granddaughter. She asks him about the medicine she has to take for her tummy ache, and why it tastes so bad if it is going to make her well. The grandfather springboards off of this apparent paradox to tell a story about things that look good but are actually bad, and things that look bad but are actually good, referring to the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and the cup of God’s wrath respectively. So the bulk of the story covers the allegory, which depicts the fall of man and the suffering of Christ as the way mankind can be redeemed.
This book is meant for preschoolers and early elementary schoolers, I think. You can visit the Ligonier page for this book to get a small preview of the content and difficulty. This is definitely not for a beginning reader, because there are actually a lot of words. (I find it slightly humorous that R.C. Sproul retains some of his scholarly diction, even when writing for kids. This book includes words such as “archenemy,” “violated,” and “justified.” I suspect that some of the more difficult words were kept in for their theological connotations, although I do wonder about other words like “taunted” and “persuaded.”) I do, however, think that even early preschoolers can benefit from having this book read to them by a sibling, parent, or babysitter. There are beautiful illustrations so that they can remain engaged and follow the storyline. It is well-written, and the pacing is excellent, with full-page illustrations every once in a while to accent important events. (There are even four full pages of illustrations at the Prince’s death.)
As a children’s book, “The Prince’s Poison Cup” is meant to cover the major concepts of Christ’s suffering and its implications for us sinners. It’s not going to be complex, detailed, or even expository. It is an allegory meant for children, and that is exactly what it delivers. I first read it expecting a deeply complex and intricate allegory. I’m glad I didn’t find it. This isn’t a work of literature. It’s a simple allegorical tale that kids will be able to understand. The greatest benefit of this story is that it provides an excellent segue for talking about salvation and the work of Christ, as well as more complex themes like Christus victor, the servanthood of Jesus, and satisfaction in God (if you so choose). R.C. Sproul wrote the ending to help you do just that:
[Grandpa:] Each time you have to take bitter medicine, I want you to remember the story of the Prince’s poison cup.”
“I will, Grandpa,” Ella promised. “And do you know what? I know another Prince who died for His people.”
“Do you?” Grandpa asked, with a twinkle in his eye.
Also helpful will be the four pages at the end labeled “For Parents” which has some discussion questions (e.g. “Does Jesus offer people a ‘drink’ of some kind?”) with relevant Bible verses to facilitate conversations focused on teaching young children the truth. This is an excellent resource and a lovely book that I’m sure you will find helpful in instructing children in the way of truth. I hope you consider it for any Christmas or birthday gifts you may give!
(This book was provided free for review by Reformation Trust Publishing, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)