The Book of Bible Stories by Amy Welborn is one of the most unusual and helpful presentation I’ve seen among the many editions for children. Published by Loyola Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review, this collection opens with stories relevant to Advent – the beginning of the liturgical church year – and ends with stories of Christ’s resurrection, Saul’s conversion, and “The Life of the Early Christians” while including Old Testament stories that foreshadow Easter in the redemptive tales of Noah, Moses and the Exodus, and “Ezekiel and the Dry Bones.”
Not only does this unique presentation of Bible stories give readers a clearer living portrait of God’s people – from Genesis through now, the author skillfully weaves in “various aspects of Catholic life that are informed by (the) Scripture passage: prayers, devotions, sacraments, teachings, and the lives of the saints.”
The opening section “Advent,” for example, begins with good news as “Prophets Say That A Messiah Is Coming.” Reading their Old Testament stories, “we join them on their journey. When God’s people of the old days are sad, we are sad. When they hope, we hope too.” And, “we pray about our journey right now,” then “we prepare for the future. The time of peace and harmony that God shows us in Isaiah’s vision is not here yet, but it will be. Listening to Isaiah, we hear of God’s power to bring all people together. We learn to see the world not with despair, but with hope!”
With Christmas, we’re reminded of “Isaiah’s Prophecies about the Messiah”:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5)”
As the church enters “Ordinary Time,” stories of Old Testament Patriarchs and Kings abound as do the “Parables of Seeds and Other Growing Thing.”
“Jesus knew that stories are the best way to teach. Jesus used a kind of story called a parable. A parable is a story that helps us understand one thing by comparing it to another….”
“When Jesus preached and taught, he was talking to ordinary people who lived in a certain time and place: first-century Israel. So his stories were about things those people would understand. The characters are farmers, travelers, judges and widows, brothers and businessmen, rich and poor. In Jesus’ parables, people are planting, cleaning, building, feasting, spending money, going to court, building houses, and managing businesses.
“Jesus’ parables remind us to look for signs of God in every part of life….”
To further aid readers of all ages in doing this, the author includes a “Think Quietly” challenge and an opportunity to “Pray Together” at the conclusion of each story. For example, in the Easter story where “The Risen Jesus Appears To His Friends,” the author reminds us that Jesus comes to us in communion, reconciliation, and service, then concludes the story with this call:
“Think Quietly: How did the Apostles experience Jesus after he rose from the dead? How is this similar to how we experience Jesus in the Church today?
“Pray Together: Risen Jesus, we believe in you and rejoice in the life you share with us.”
Obviously, I recommend this book highly for children growing up in the Catholic Church, but also people of all ages who want to know more about Catholicism and its strong biblical connections with God’s people and God’s Word. The more we listen to the Bible and each other, the more loving and receptive we are to each vital part of the Body of Christ.
Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018
Book of Bible Stories: 60 Scripture Stories Every Catholic Child Should Know