April 12, 2014

The Catholic Youth Bible

The Catholic Youth Bible from Saint Mary’s Press encourages young people to “Pray It,” “Study It,” and “Live It” as they read the Bible and apply scriptures to their lives. As the first page says, “This book can change your life.”

The “Welcome!” section explains “What Makes this Youth Bible CATHOLIC?” by saying, “For starters, its introductions and articles reflect Catholic interpretation of the Bible and make connections to Catholic beliefs and traditions. In addition, this Bible contains all seventy-three books and letters that form a complete Catholic Bible, seven more than most other Bibles…. Does this mean that other Christians cannot use The Catholic Youth Bible? Not at all. When it comes to the Scriptures, Christians from all cultures and denominations have more in common than they have differences.”

"Catholic" generally refers to the Roman Catholic Church, but the word also means "universal." To give you an idea of the type of insights you might expect, a “Catholic Social Teaching” sidebar on “The Cycle of Violence” explains, “Cain was a murderer. Some might say that he deserved the death penalty. But in Genesis 4:15, God marks Cain so that he is protected from being killed. God seeks to stop the cycle of violence."

As an example of a "Cultural Connection,” the sidebar for 1 Kings 5:10 tells readers, “The first Book of Kings says, ‘Solomon’s wisdom surpasses that of all the peoples of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.' ...Ancient southern Egypt included the country of modern Ethiopia. The people in these countries must have been well known for their wisdom in order for the biblical author to use them in a comparison with Solomon.”

Also regarding wisdom, an “Introduction to the Wisdom and Poetry Books” of the Bible says “In general, the wisdom writings have these characteristics,” which include “a search for harmony and the meaning of life” and “a fundamental belief that good and wise living is rewarded, whereas evil and foolish ways lead to ruin.”

Other features insert notes on “Praying with the Bible,” which help readers to “discover that God’s story is our story. God’s life is intimately connected with our lives.” Therefore, this section also provides “Tips for Praying with the Bible” and information about Lectio Divina, “a very ancient art for praying with the Bible… a prayer technique for reading the Bible slowly and contemplatively, allowing God’s word to shed insights on your life.”

Another series of page inserts concern “Living Biblical Principles” where readers are encouraged to:

• See God in Everything
• Trust in God Always
• Stand Up for the Poor and Vulnerable
• Be Courageous
• Serve Humbly
• Share the Faith

A section of photographs of biblical images will help young people to envision various items and places in the Holy Lands, but more importantly, lists of “The Names of God in the Old Testament” and the “Titles of Jesus of Nazareth” can help readers to deepen their faith and get to know the nature and character of our loving God.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

The Catholic Youth Bible, paperback

April 8, 2014

Break Through!

In this well-done edition, Saint Mary’s Press presents Break Through! The Bible for Young Catholics in the contemporary Good News Translation that appeals to readers of all ages.

The beginning pages include a “Salvation History Time Line” that shows the sequence in which the books of the Bible occurred as God breaks through to people, and people break through to God in the unique, ongoing relationship we, too, can be blessed to enjoy.

To encourage interaction with God’s Word, this edition includes sidebars throughout the text to show readers how to “Study It!” but also “Pray It!” and “Live It!” too. In the opening pages, for example, “Study It!” begins by explaining that “The main purpose of the Study It articles is to help you understand what the original author of the story was trying to get across.”

Then, “Pray It!” sidebars focus on “Talking with God,” wondering, for example, “Am I Like Cain?” before praying “Please help me to let go of the anger and jealousy that’s in my heart. Replace it with kindness, fairness, and the ability to see myself as you see me.”

Similarly, the sidebars for “Live It!” encourage young readers to keep on “Following God in Everyday Life,” wisely showing how to go about this. In Romans 12, for example, “Live It!” lets children know, “Sometimes certain messages in our world try to teach us things that are not what God wants for us. In chapter 12 Paul gives us a list of rules for living the life that God intended. Notice how different that list is from some of the things you see or hear every day.”

Other excellent features of this edition include “Break Through!” sections that present Bible stories as interesting conversations and interviews with Bible people. The back matter then has an index to those lively stories followed by an index of the articles for “Pray It! Study It! Live It! and Catholic Connections.”

A user-friendly glossary and a series of time-tested, traditional prayers have also been included in the back matter to aid spiritual growth. In addition, a set of clearly drawn maps will help children to picture Bible journeys but also see the geographical placement of “The Holy Lands in Modern Times.”

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

Break Through! The Bible for Young Catholics, paperback

April 4, 2014

More Bible stories for young readers

A few days ago, we talked about Bible stories for young readers in the Arch Books series from Concordia. These nicely done but inexpensive little paperbacks make wonderful gifts to drop into an Easter basket or give children in a religion class or church school.

You’ll also find the text for some of the Arch Books in Spanish, for instance, this story of Ruth and Naomi:

Rut & Noemi, Spanish edition, paperback

Since Noah is in the news now, young children might welcome one of these editions:

El arca de Noe, Spanish Edition, paperback

Noah's 2-by-2 Adventure, English Edition, paperback

As spring gardens get started, this timely story tells Jesus’ parable of the sower. With kid-friendly artwork and lively language, this little book seeds deep biblical truths that encourage young readers 5 to 9 to hear God's Word and grow into a lifelong love for the Bible.

The Parable of the Seeds, paperback

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

April 1, 2014

Bible stories for young readers

In the best-selling Arch Books series, Concordia Publishing House presents inexpensive but nicely done Bible stories for elementary school children, grandchildren, Sunday School classes, and religious study groups in parochial schools.

The colorful illustrations and child-appropriate language in rhythmically rhyming text make each of these little paperbacks a good gift for children 5 to 9 to read to themselves, but the word to "Dear Parents" at the end of each book in the series encourages parents and teachers to act and interact too.

For example, The Great Commission: “Jesus Said, Go and Tell!” shows that even a child can lead others to Christ. The especially well-written text and appealing artwork make this title highly recommended for use with children in any church denomination.

The Great Commission: “Jesus Said, Go and Tell!” paperback

With Easter coming, another highly recommended choice is Good Friday, which helps young children familiar with the term to understand why such a sad day could be good.

Good Friday, paperback

Another excellent choice to read with children just before Easter is John’s Easter Story as told by the apostle who stayed near the cross, witnessed the empty tomb, and took Jesus’ Mother Mary into his home.

John’s Easter Story, paperback

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

March 31, 2014

Big Bible Storybook

When The Catholic Children’s Bible Big Book on Moses and the Ten Commandments arrived as a review copy from Saint Mary’s Press, I thought the publisher might be sending me a poster about one of their many fine publications. Instead, I found an actual Bible storybook, measuring 14” x 21” with large print and illustrations a group of children can easily see as someone holds up the book.

To keep the teacher or classroom leader from getting a crick in the neck while reading, the back cover presents a full layout of all the inner pages and text, including a “Glossary” that defines such words as “commandment.” Or, children on a grade 2 to 3 reading level might be asked to take turns reading and turning pages while a group leader follows along behind the scene.

In addition to helping children interact with Bible people and stories, this innovative book includes the section “Guiding Comprehension Questions” to encourage participation and keep the discussion on topic and on track.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

The Catholic Children’s Bible: Moses and the Ten Commandments Big Book, 14” x 21” in paperback

March 29, 2014

The Catholic Children’s Bible

The Catholic Children’s Bible is bright, blessed, and big! Its very size encourages parents, teachers, and other loving adults to interact with children as they read the Good News Translation (GNT) and the 125 stories featured throughout the text.

For example, in the story “Joseph Forgives His Brothers,” children learn to “Understand It!” as they hear how Joseph “could have tried to get even by hurting his brothers. He could have refused to talk to his brothers. Instead, Joseph hugged his brothers.” The application of that story ends by saying “Not forgiving people is like carrying a heavy burden or load. It weighs us down and makes us very sad.”

The story “God Helps Joshua Defeat Jericho” focuses on another biblical principle: our need to trust God. Then the “Live It!” section reminds readers that “The Israelites obeyed God because they had learned to trust him.” Children are then asked to “Finish these sentences to make your own prayer about trusting and obeying God" by completing the blanks in “Dear God, I trust that you will ______. I will obey you by ______. Thank you, loving Father, for always caring for me. Amen.”

Regardless of our age or level of spiritual maturity, none of us completely trusts or obeys God all of the time, and children need to know this. In “We Ask God to Forgive Our Sins,” the “Understand It!” section tells kids “No one is perfect. Everyone sins. When we do something that we know is wrong, we have ugly feelings. We feel sad, guilty, and ashamed for disobeying God. We want to make things right again. So we need God to forgive us.” This section continues to explain the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a child-friendly, insightful, and understandable way.

The stories often aim to help children mature in character and deepen their relationship with God, but these featured stories also reveal God’s power. For example, the “Live It!” section for “Jesus Heals People from Sin and Sickness” lets young readers know that “…Jesus has power to help sick people. You can show sick people the love of Jesus. Think of someone who is sick. Pray that he or she gets better.”

In addition to the Bible text and stories, the back matter includes clear photos, paintings, timelines, and maps to help children envision the times and places. They’ll also find prayers, such as the “Our Father,” to pray and “Bible Passages for Special Times,” such as “When you are feeling happy” or “When someone has hurt you.”

Throughout this edition, a color tag on the outer edges of each book of the Bible will help readers to find a passage with greater ease. Once there, they’ll find a brief introduction with kids clearly in mind. For example, “The Letter to the Ephesians” begins by saying, “This letter could be called ‘What It Means to Be Christian.’ It begins by recalling what we believe as Christians. God made us his children by sending Jesus Christ to free us from sin. We, who believe in Jesus receive the Holy Spirit. Now we are one people united with Christ. We are all part of his body, the Church.”

Amen and amen.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

The Catholic Children’s Bible, paperback

March 21, 2014

Young Women of Faith Bible

When my review copy of the Young Women of Faith Bible arrived from Zondervan, my first reaction was to frown at the hardcover and paper quality. Trying not to judge a book by its you-know-what, I reminded myself that Bibles for young people will most likely be replaced by nice quality editions in favorite translations as young Christians mature.

Nevertheless, I’d rather see a nice paperback with pages that don’t pucker. And, to be even more blunt, I chafed a bit over the title of “Young Women” when teen girls are obviously the targeted reading audience. Like, can't we just call a teen a teen?

To give this edition of the NIV (New International Version) a fair view and balanced RE-view, I put the book aside, deciding to wait until I'd gotten over the dissatisfaction that often occurs from having personal preferences or almost any expectation.

During the night, however, I woke up thinking about my new blog for teens, Texting God, which has a text message for each title and a response from the Bible in the body of the blog. Although I loved the idea, I wasn't quite sure what came next.

Going into my office at home and switching on the light, I saw the Young Women of Faith Bible on my desk where I’d left it. Picking it up, I flipped to the back pages where I’d previously noticed a page entitled “Weekly Studies Index.” As I started to read, I thought, “This is good stuff!” which, translated, means that teenaged girls will surely benefit as they easily find such subjects as “No Doubt About It” with the page number listed to ease the search even more.

Turning to that page, I read a reassuring paragraph which starts, “Doubt isn’t always a bad thing,” and then goes on to provide teen-relevant examples of what to expect, do, and experience.

Above this appropriate text, I also noticed the page title, which further investigation showed to be the format consistently used for each subject in the index. Again and again throughout the book, that title clearly states: “I’m Becoming a Woman of Faith.” Oh. Yes!

And, yes, this copy of NIV is for teenage girls, but the title of Young Women of Faith Bible aptly describes the focus and overall purpose of this unique edition.

With sidebars offering “Memory Challenges,” teens grow into adults with Bible verses to guide their choices and lifestyles.

With side notes providing insights and information, young readers begin to understand that hard-to-understand passages have meaning and power.

With Bible stories highlighted as “If I Were There…,” teenage girls can gain the maturity that comes from experience – even the experience of our biblical others.

And so, as it turns out, I not only recommend this edition for teenage readers but also parents of teens, teachers of teens, and those of us who write Bible-based blogs, poems, and other manuscripts for young people on their way to spiritual maturity.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

Young Women of Faith Bible, hardback