Burpo, T. (2010). Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Fiction? Non-Fiction? Memoir
I typically don't read these kind of books -- first accounts of paranormal experiences or encounters with God, Jesus, or angels. Of course, this isn't actually a first account since the alleged experiences in Heaven were by a child too young to compile them into a book. But therein lies the draw -- we are operating on faith and want to believe, while at the same time we want some proof!
There are plenty of reasons one could read the book and not be convinced that the boy spent time in Heaven: primarily, his father is an evangelical preacher, and it can be assumed that his message was preached at home as well as on the pulpit. Children are sponges and it doesn't seem unlikely or outlandish that a four-year-old would be able to repeat what he'd heard at home or in Sunday school teachings. The father asserts that the depictions his young son gave were too specific and things to which the child wouldn't have possibly been exposed. Maybe.
At the same time, there were plenty of reasons to believe this child had spent time with Jesus and in Heaven, based on what the father says he said. For example, [the father says] that the boy said he met his sister in Heaven. The boy's mother said he told him he didn't have a sister, but the boy said his sister told him she'd died before she was born. The mother had indeed miscarried a child but said they had never shared that information with the little boy. Compelling, but again, the reader must take it on faith that the boy never overheard or picked-up on it before.
There was one event that did make me consider the possibility was real that the child had been with Jesus in his near-death experience. I won't elaborate, but it has to do with the one painting (of hundreds he'd seen) which he claims looks just like Jesus.
The book was quick and easy to read, and it definitely is something to ponder. It doesn't really matter if we believe this child spent time in Heaven; he and his family certainly do and that's what's important. If that helps them or others grow in their faith, then I'm all for it.