Heaven is for Real Movie Edition: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Heaven is for Real Movie Edition: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

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by Todd Burpo

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“This story has incredible intrigue and emotional power.”

--Randall Wallace, Director Heaven Is for Real, We Were Soldiers, and Secretariat

“Do you remember the hospital, Colton?” Sonja said.“Yes, mommy, I remember,” he said. “That’s where the angels sang to me.”

When four-year-old

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“This story has incredible intrigue and emotional power.”

--Randall Wallace, Director Heaven Is for Real, We Were Soldiers, and Secretariat

“Do you remember the hospital, Colton?” Sonja said.“Yes, mommy, I remember,” he said. “That’s where the angels sang to me.”

When four-year-old Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren't expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the following months—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.

This true story, retold by his father but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

Heaven is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe like a child.

Bonus material in this special movie edition includes:

  • Photos from the movie set
  • Updates from father, Todd, and son, Colton, on recent events including the making-of-the-movie experience
  • “From the Set” Q&A’s with the movie’s filmmakers and actors

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Editorial Reviews

For the nearly ninety percent of Americans who believe in heaven, Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo's 2010 account of his 3-year-old son Colton's return trip from Heaven was inspiriting confirmation. On April 18, this word-of-mouth bestseller will reemerge as a film starring Craig Kinnear and Kelly Reilly. These new movie tie-in trade paperback and NOOK Book editions will include an expanded photo section and bonus material on the film.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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Media Tie
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4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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Heaven is for Real

A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

By Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2010 HIFR Ministries, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8499-2297-8


The Crawl-A-See-um

The family trip when our nightmare began was supposed to be a celebration. In early March 2003, I was scheduled to travel to Greeley, Colorado, for a district board meeting of the Wesleyan church. Beginning the August before, our family had traveled a rocky road: seven months of back-to-back injury and illness that included a shattered leg, two surgeries, and a cancer scare, all of which combined to drain our bank account to the point where I could almost hear sucking sounds when the statements came in the mail. My small pastor's salary hadn't been affected, but our financial mainstay was the overhead garage door business we owned. Our medical trials had taken a heavy toll.

By February, though, we seemed to be on the other side of all that. Since I had to travel anyway, we decided to turn the board-meeting trip into a kind of marker in our family life—a time to have a little fun, revive our minds and spirits, and start moving forward again with fresh hope.

Sonja had heard of a neat place for kids to visit just outside Denver called the Butterfly Pavilion. Billed as an "invertebrate zoo," the Butterfly Pavilion opened in 1995 as an educational project that would teach people about the wonders of insects as well as marine critters, the kinds that live in tide pools. These days, kids are greeted outside the zoo by a towering and colorful metal sculpture of a praying mantis. But back in 2003, the giant insect hadn't taken up his post yet, so the low brick building about fifteen minutes from downtown Denver didn't shout "Kid appeal!" on the outside. But inside, a world of wonders waited, especially for kids Colton's and Cassie's ages.

The first place we stopped was the "Crawl-A-See-Um," a room filled with terrariums housing creepy-crawly critters from beetles to roaches to spiders. One exhibit, the Tarantula Tower, drew Cassie and Colton like a magnet. This stack of terrariums was, exactly as advertised, a tower of glassed-in habitats containing the kind of furry, thick-legged spiders that either fascinate you or give you the willies.

Cassie and Colton took turns climbing a three-step folding stool in order to get a look at the residents of the Tarantula Tower's upper stories. In one terrarium, a Mexican blonde tarantula squatted in a corner, its exoskeleton covered with what the exhibit placard described as hair in a "lovely" pale color. Another habitat contained a red-and-black tarantula native to India. One of the scarier-looking residents was a "skeleton tarantula," so named because its black legs were segmented with white bands so that the spider looked a little like an Xray in reverse. We later heard that this particular skeleton tarantula was a bit of a rebel: once, she had somehow engineered a jailbreak, invaded the habitat next door, and eaten her neighbor for lunch.

As Colton hopped up on the footstool to see what the rogue tarantula looked like, he glanced back at me with a grin that warmed me. I could feel my neck muscles begin to unknot, and somewhere inside me a pressure valve released, the emotional equivalent of a long sigh. For the first time in months, I felt I could simply enjoy my family.

"Wow, look at that one!" Cassie said, pointing into one of the terrariums. A slightly gangly six-year-old, my daughter was as smart as a whip, a trait she got from her mom. Cassie was pointing to the exhibit sign, which read: "Goliath Birdeater ... females can be over eleven inches long."

The one in this tank was only about six inches long, but its body was as thick as Colton's wrist. He stared through the glass wide-eyed. I looked over and saw Sonja wrinkle her nose.

I guess one of the volunteer zookeepers saw her expression, too, because he quickly came to the birdeater's defense. "The Goliath is from South America," he said in a friendly, educational tone that said, They're not as yucky as you think. "Tarantulas from North and South America are very docile. You can even hold one right over there." He pointed to where another zookeeper was holding a smaller tarantula in his palm so that a group of kids could take a closer look.

Cassie darted across the room to see what all the fuss was about, with Sonja, Colton, and me bringing up the rear. In a corner of the room decorated to look like a bamboo hut, the keeper was displaying the undisputed star of the Crawl-A-See-Um, Rosie the Spider. A rose-haired tarantula from South America, Rosie was a furry arachnid with a plum-size body and legs six inches long, thick as pencils. But the best thing about Rosie from a kid's point of view was that if you were brave enough to hold her, even for a moment, the zookeeper would award you with a sticker.

Now, if you have little kids, you already know that there are times they'd rather have a good sticker than a handful of cash. And this sticker was special: white with a picture of a tarantula stamped in yellow, it read, "I held Rosie!"

This wasn't just any old sticker; this was a badge of courage!

Cassie bent low over the keeper's hand. Colton looked up at me, blue eyes wide. "Can I have a sticker, Daddy?"

"You have to hold Rosie to get a sticker, buddy."

At that age, Colton had this precious way of talking, part-serious, part-breathless, golly-gee wonder. He was a smart, funny little guy with a black-and-white way of looking at life. Something was either fun (LEGOs) or it wasn't (Barbies). He either liked food (steak) or hated it (green beans). There were good guys and bad guys, and his favorite toys were good-guy action figures. Superheroes were a big deal to Colton. He took his Spider-Man, Batman, and Buzz Lightyear action figures with him everywhere he went. That way, whether he was stuck in the backseat of the SUV, in a waiting room, or on the floor at the church, he could still create scenes in which the good guys saved the world. This usually involved swords, Colton's favorite weapon for banishing evil. At home, he could be the superhero. I'd often walk into the house and find Colton armed to the teeth, a toy sword tucked through each side of his belt and one in each hand: "I'm playing Zorro, Daddy! Wanna play?"

Now Colton turned his gaze to the spider in the keeper's hand, and it looked to me like he wished he had a sword right then, at least for moral support. I tried to imagine how huge the spider must look to a little guy who wasn't even four feet tall. Our son was all boy—a rough-and-tumble kid who had gotten up close and personal with plenty of ants and beetles and other crawling creatures. But none of those creepy-crawlies had been as big as his face and with hair nearly as long as his own.

Cassie straightened and smiled at Sonja. "I'll hold her, Mommy. Can I hold Rosie?"

"Okay, but you'll have to wait your turn," Sonja said.

Cassie got in line behind a couple of other kids. Colton's eyes never left Rosie as first a boy then a girl held the enormous spider and the zookeeper awarded the coveted stickers. In no time at all, Cassie's moment of truth arrived. Colton braced himself against my legs, close enough to see his sister, but trying to bolt at the same time, pushing back against my knees. Cassie held out her palm and we all watched as Rosie, an old hand with small, curious humans, lifted one furry leg at a time and scurried across the bridge from the keeper's hand into Cassie's, then back into the keeper's.

"You did it!" the keeper said as Sonja and I clapped and cheered. "Good job!" Then the zookeeper stood, peeled a white-and-yellow sticker off a big roll, and gave it to Cassie.

This, of course, made it even worse for Colton, who had not only been upstaged by his sister but was now also the only stickerless Burpo kid. He gazed longingly at Cassie's prize, then back at Rosie, and I could see him trying to wrestle down his fear. Finally, he pursed his lips, dragged his gaze away from Rosie, and looked back up at me. "I don't want to hold her."

"Okay," I said.

"But can I have a sticker?"

"Nope, the only way to get one is to hold her. Cassie did it. You can do it if you want to. Do you want to try? Just for a second?"

Colton looked back at the spider, then at his sister, and I could see wheels turning behind his eyes: Cassie did it. She didn't get bit.

Then he shook his head firmly: No. "But I still want a sticker!" he insisted. At the time, Colton was two months shy of four years old—and he was very good at standing his ground.

"The only way you can get a sticker is if you hold Rosie," Sonja said. "Are you sure you don't want to hold her?"

Colton answered by grabbing Sonja's hand and trying to tug her away from the keeper. "No. I wanna go see the starfish."

"Are you sure?" Sonja said.

With a vigorous nod, Colton marched toward the Crawl-A-See-Um door.


Pastor Job

In the next room, we found rows of aquariums and indoor "tide pools." We wandered around the exhibits, taking in starfish and mollusks and sea anemones that looked like underwater blossoms. Cassie and Colton oohed and aahed as they dipped their hands in man-made tide pools and touched creatures that they had never seen.

Next, we stepped into a massive atrium, bursting with jungle leaves, vines tumbling down, branches climbing toward the sky. I took in the palm trees and exotic flowers that looked as if they'd come from one of Colton's storybooks. And all around us, clouds of butterflies flitted and swirled.

As the kids explored, I let my mind drift back to the summer before, when Sonja and I played in a coed softball league, like we do every year. We usually finished in the top five, even though we played on the "old folks" team—translation: people in their thirties—battling teams made up of college kids. Now it struck me as ironic that our family's seven-month trial began with an injury that occurred in the last game of our last tournament of the 2002 season. I played center field, and Sonja played outfield rover. By then, Sonja had earned her master's degree in library science and to me was even more beautiful than when she'd first caught my eye as a freshman strolling across the quad at Bartlesville Wesleyan College.

Summer was winding down, but the dog days of the season were in full force with a penetrating heat, thirsty for rain. We had traveled from Imperial about twenty miles down the road to the village of Wauneta for a double-elimination tournament. At nearly midnight, we were battling our way up through the bracket, playing under the blue-white glow of the field lights.

I don't remember what the score was, but I remember we were at the tail end of the game and the lead was within reach. I had hit a double and was perched on second base. Our next batter came up and knocked a pitch that landed in the center-field grass. I saw my chance. As an outfielder ran to scoop up the ball, I took off for third base.

I sensed the ball winging toward the infield.

Our third-base coach motioned frantically: "Slide! Slide!"

Adrenaline pumping, I dropped to the ground and felt the red dirt swooshing underneath my left hip. The other team's third baseman stretched out his glove hand for the ball and—


The sound of my leg breaking was so loud that I imagined the ball had zinged in from the outfield and smacked it. Fire exploded in my shin and ankle. I fell to my back, contracted into a fetal position, and pulled my knee up to my belly. The pain was searing, and I remember the dirt around me transforming into a blur of legs, then concerned faces, as two of our players, both EMTs, ran to my aid.

I dimly remember Sonja rushing over to take a look. I could tell by her expression that my leg was bent in ways that didn't look natural. She stepped back to let our EMT friends get to work. A twenty-mile ride later, hospital Xrays revealed a pair of nasty breaks. The tibia, the larger bone in my lower leg, had sustained what doctors call a "spiral break," meaning that each end of the break looked like the barber-pole pattern on a drill bit. Also, my ankle had snapped completely in half. That was probably the break I had heard. I later learned that the cracking sound was so loud that people sitting in the stands at first base heard it.

That sound replayed in my head as Sonja and I watched Cassie and Colton scamper ahead of us in the Butterfly Pavilion atrium. The kids stopped on a small bridge and peered down into a koi pond, chattering and pointing. Clouds of butterflies floated around us, and I glanced at the brochure I'd bought at the front desk to see if I could tell their names. There were "blue morphos" with wings a deep aquamarine, black-and-white "paper kites" that flew slowly and gently like snippets of newsprint floating down through the air, and the "cloudless sulfur," a tropical butterfly with wings the color of fresh mango.

At this point, I was just happy to finally be able to walk without a limp. Besides the hacksaw pain of the spiral break, the most immediate effect of my accident was financial. It's pretty tough to climb up and down ladders to install garage doors while dragging a ten-pound cast and a knee that won't bend. Our bank balance took a sudden and rapid nosedive. On a blue-collar pastor's salary, what little reserve we had evaporated within weeks. Meanwhile, the amount we had coming in was chopped in half.

The pain of that went beyond money, though. I served as both a volunteer firefighter and high school wrestling coach, commitments that suffered because of my bum leg. Sundays became a challenge too. I'm one of those pastors who walks back and forth during the sermon. Not a holy-rolling, fire-and-brimstone guy by any stretch, but not a soft-spoken minister in vestments, performing liturgical readings either. I'm a storyteller, and to tell stories I need to move around some. But now I had to preach sitting down with my leg propped in a second chair, sticking out like the jib sail. Asking me to sit down while I delivered the Sunday message was like asking an Italian to talk without using his hands. But as much as I struggled with the inconvenience of my injury, I didn't know then that it would be only the first domino to fall.

One morning that October, right about the time I'd gotten used to hobbling everywhere on crutches, I awoke to a dull throbbing in my lower back. I knew instantly what the problem was: kidney stones.

The first time I had a kidney stone, it measured six millimeters and required surgery. This time after a round of tests, doctors thought the stones were small enough to pass. I don't know whether that was a good thing, though: I passed them for three days. I had once slammed my middle finger in a tailgate and cut the tip off. That was like baking cookies compared to this. Even breaking my leg into four pieces hadn't hurt as bad.

Still, I survived. By November, I'd been hobbling around on crutches for three months, and I went in for a checkup.

"The leg's healing correctly, but we still need to keep it casted," the orthopedist said. "Anything else bothering you?"

Actually, there was. I felt a little weird bringing it up, but the left side of my chest had developed a knot right beneath the surface of the nipple. I'm right-handed and had been leaning on my left crutch a lot while writing, so I thought maybe the underarm pad on that crutch had rubbed against my chest over a period of weeks, creating some kind of irritation beneath the skin, a callus of some kind.

The doctor immediately ruled that out. "Crutches don't do that," he said. "I need to call a surgeon."

The surgeon, Dr. Timothy O'Holleran, performed a needle biopsy. The results that came back a few days later shocked me: hyperplasia. Translation: the precursor to breast cancer.

Breast cancer! A man with a broken leg, kidney stones, and—come on, really?—breast cancer?

Later, when other pastors in my district got wind of it, they started calling me Pastor Job, after the man in the biblical book of the same name who was struck with a series of increasingly bizarre symptoms. For now, though, the surgeon ordered the same thing he would've if a woman's biopsy had come back with the same results: a lumpectomy.

Strong, Midwestern woman that she is, Sonja took a practical approach to the news. If surgery was what the doctor ordered, that's the path we would walk. We'd get through it, as a family.

I felt the same way. But it was also about this time that I also started feeling sorry for myself. For one thing, I was tired of loping around on crutches. Also, a lumpectomy isn't exactly the manliest surgery in the world. Finally, I'd been asking the church board for a long time to set aside money for me for an assistant. Only after this second round of kidney stones did the board vote to authorize the position.

Instead of feeling grateful as I should have, I indulged myself with resentment: So I have to be a cripple and be on the verge of a cancer diagnosis to get a little help around here?

My pity party really got rolling one afternoon. I was down on the first floor of the church property, a finished basement, really, where we had a kitchen, a classroom, and a large fellowship area. I had just finished up some paperwork and began working my way upstairs on my crutches. Down at the bottom, on the first step, I started getting mad at God.


Excerpted from Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent. Copyright © 2010 HIFR Ministries, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Heaven is for Real Movie Edition: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 132 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not much of a reader, but I could not put this book down. Best book I have read in a very long time. Everyone in this world should be made to read this book. Can not wait for the movie to come out. To bad there is not a 10 star rating or more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a touching story. Couldn't put it down...read it within 24 hours. Simply put - everyone should read this book.
GCWineholt More than 1 year ago
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL -- Special Movie Edition A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back By Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent In this book, you will find the original book of Heaven is for Real along with some added chapters by Todd Burpo. There is a chapter about how the book had affected their lives and how the movie came about. There are chapters with interviews with actors, producer, screenwriter and others connected with the movie. Information and background about the movie is given. The most important thing, I think, about the book is the original book is included. This book is about Colton Burpo (a four-year-old) and the experience of going to heaven while being operated on for a ruptured appendix. This story sound like it came from the twilight zone, but backed by Biblical facts. Unbelievable, as it may seem, his experience held many truths. Todd Burpo, his father, tells his story from his son’s perspective, a four year old. The information Colton gave at to what he seen in heaven is amazing. The facts he finds out about his family in heaven, things he did not know or every heard about, is a miracle. The story is heartwarming and gives us knowledge of heaven that we may not have known. If you know the Bible you will see the connections and know the truth, you will know that there is no way a four year old could make up a story with such detail. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had seen the previews and watched the interviews with Colton then I saw the book while browsing through my nook and I just had to read it. I'm glad I did. One minute I was crying and the next I was giggling! This book will stir emotions and make you realize miracles do happen and God is real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a psychic and a medium, so I have had many conversations with people both on this side and the "other side." This book, telling the experiences of a 4 year old child, has validated everything I was told. Excellent book, can't wait for the movie. Even if you DON'T believe, this will make you think.
DavidCarter More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book. I have already read this book and listen to the audio book. Now I will go see the movie in theater. You must get the book right away to inspire your life to become great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had heard from various people that this book was worth my time. After reading it I can agree! The idea I have had of my faith, Heaven, and God  was strengthened by reading this book. The contrast of hearing about the love Colten had from his father in heaven and his father on earth was  interesting. I would have given the book five stars if it had included just a little bit more of Colten's words and less of his father's. Overall a good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This inspirational, and intriging story inspires you to grow in your faith. It was a swift read but the story never became uninteresting. Can't wait to see the movie. The book will amaze you.
Robin_the_Red More than 1 year ago
This book is a very easy read. It also covers the "story" more thoroughly than the movie. There is a lot of good insight in the book without it being preachy. I applaud Todd Burpo for being brave enough to put his son's story out there. This book is a must-read if you've every lost a loved one. If you are not sure "what" you believe, this book leaves it up to you to draw your own conclusion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once you get a hold of this book you won't be able to put it down. It's a very life-touching book. It didn't only just bring me to tears but it also changed me. An incredible must read book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I won't be spending any money on the unlikely notion that god created the heavens and the earth and the next thing he did was install himself in a theistic monarchy complete with absolute rule, taxation and torture.
theupsidedownreader More than 1 year ago
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo What an amazing story! This little kid looking into Heaven, sitting on Jesus’ lap. If there was ever any doubt about Heaven it would be dissolved by this book. I saw the movie which was a brilliant representation of the story. Here is a synopsis of the book:  “Do you remember the hospital, Colton?” Sonja said.“Yes, mommy, I remember,” he said. “That’s where theangels sang to me.” When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his familywas overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though,was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as itwas extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back. Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during thesurgery–and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents weredoing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked ofvisiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom hehad never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven thatmatched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read. With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels,how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves us. Retold by his father,but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven Is for Real offers a glimpseof the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobodywears glasses.” Heaven Is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offeringthe chance to see, and believe, like a child. Like I said it is an amazing story that will change your life and inspire you beyond belief. I highly suggest reading it.  ~/~ The Upside-Down Reader
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For anyone that thinks this little boy was dreaming, just to let you know, you do not dream while your under anesthicia (i know i spelled it wrong) what happened to believing in miracles. Are we that caught up in our scientific and computer age world that christians are called wack jobs and miracles are just things that can be explained without it being a true miracle. Open your eyes world. Stop killing off god and his son. Saying there not real. Miracles gives us hope. Without hope, theres just no life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry but this was just a real yawned. Very predictable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a waste of time. It is likely on sale for being so stupid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Garbage! Won't let me give it 0.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why is Barnes and Noble sending me messages about this garbage?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As long as you go in knowing that it is total fantasy fiction, it is a heart warming story. It is not an example of fictional realism as there is not one shred of real evidence that god, satan, heaven or hell exist. So if you take it as a good "make believe" story told from a child's perspective then it is a nice read, otherwise you are deluding yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We do not know what all is retained in memory before five years we do know from brain surgery that a person can have a total all senses recall of an incident some have total recall of their dreams and hallutionations but they are not real the parents made a dollar or two and as thechild gets older will no doubt if he keeps active in their church more and more recall
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!!!! Its such an inspiring story. Its amazing how he went to heaven and then came back to earth. U should really read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a Christian and well versed in the Bible. If you are a Christian evangelical, this is the book for you. If you are looking for a more authentic read however, you will be disappointed. This author uses every Bible passage possible to link what is supposed to be his son's experience to the "truth" about Jesus Christ and God. Those in this "heaven" come complete with halos, wings, robes with the correct color sashes, thrones, etc. I don't intend to demean what may have been a deeply moving experience for his son, but the lengths the author goes to in this story are simply too contrived. Heaven is for real....but not this one.
Greekgirl20 More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. When I saw the trailer of this book that was becoming into a movie I got very excited. I bought the book and it was worth reading! I got a little sad and I almost cried but it was beautiful. Read the wonderful true story book!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was awesome to read about coltons experience.
Anonymous 7 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Movie was da best***!! Not aure about the book, never read ***i rated this for the movie not the book