Kristin Stiles’ Review of ARLO AND THE GREAT BIG COVER-UP, by Betsy Childs Howard

Published on April 29, 2020 by Benjamin J. Montoya

Crossway, 2020 | 38 pages

A Book Review from Books At a Glance

By Kristin Stiles


Kids sin. A lot. It’s part of all of our inherent sin nature. Thankfully, God has also equipped children with a conscience. Guilt and shame are a gift, because they reveal to us that we have done wrong. Too often, though, our reaction to guilt and shame is to try to hide and cover it up. That’s not how God would have any of us deal with our sin. In her book, Arlo and the Great Big Cover-Up, Betsy Childs Howard tells the story of how Arlo tried to deal with his sin and what the results were.

Arlo was to stay in his bed during naptime, but when he saw a scratch on his wall he decided to grab a marker and make it into a face. No sooner was the drawing completed that he realized he had done something bad. He tried to wipe it off, only to smear it and make a bigger mess. Next, he gathered a bunch of toys to stack up on his bed to conceal the eyesore on his wall. When he heard his mom approaching his door, he quickly hid under his bed. It didn’t take a sleuth to figure out what had happened and where the little boy had disappeared to. His mother confronted him on his actions and discussed how he compounded his sin of disobedience with trying to cover it up. He was forgiven when he repented, but he still had to suffer the consequences. His mother then made the connection between his behavior and what happens when she sins. She also sometimes tries to hide from God and suffers the guilt and shame that follows, but she is thankful for God’s free offer of forgiveness that is provided through the blood of Jesus.

This is really a great book for addressing sin and forgiveness with small children. There are a lot of subtle details that can be further analyzed as this book is read and reread. For example, Arlo first sees the scratch, then he thinks about how it could be made into a face, then he reaches for the marker while still touching the bed with his foot. The progression of sin goes from a fleeting thought to a focused thought to action. He attempts to keep the letter of the law (“stay in bed”) but disobeys the spirit of the law. Incomplete obedience is disobedience. All of these elements are helpful in discussing sin with children.

In a society that emphasizes self-esteem and minimizes sin, it is vital that our children understand their own depravity. Even at this young age, parents can instill in their children the need for forgiveness and salvation. Arlo’s experiences provide a way of introducing and reinforcing these essential truths about sin and forgiveness. Your children would greatly benefit from repeated readings of this book.


Kristin Stiles is a home-school mom, a Sunday School teacher, and helps lead the “Young, Reading, & Reformed” children’s ministry at Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA.

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Crossway, 2020 | 38 pages

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