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
January 4, 2018
May 18, 2017
The Children’s Bible published by Hendrickson Bibles, who kindly sent me a copy to review, offers the colorful artwork of Jose Perez Montero to illustrate approximately 300 Bible stories retold by Anne de Graaf.
Written on a third to fifth grade reading level, the stories proceed in chronological order, introducing children to biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, poets and prophets, and, of course, Jesus and the first peoples of the church. We see the beginnings of creation, the fall of mankind, and the need from the start for a savior.
Each well-told story helps young readers get to know God as the Lord interacts with people in scenes a child can relate to or circumstances they can envision.
To draw readers into the story, the author uses active verbs, easy-to-picture nouns, a conversational tone, and other good techniques found in the best fiction. At times, this requires imagining how a scene might have been, for instance, “In the evening, Moses wandered among the families.The children ran up to him and he gave them all a pat on the head.”
This type of picturing makes readers feel as though they’re “there” too, which is ideal in helping children relate to biblical heroes, put themselves into the action, and see the importance of trusting God, which, in turn, helps to build faith and character.
The only problem with this method is that liberties must be taken since the Bible does not say that kids approached Moses or that he ever gave them any notice. For that reason, I wish the book had been titled The Children’s Bible Storybook, which would show that it’s not intended to be a new translation into kidspeak.
Despite that objection, I highly recommend these “retold” Bible stories and artwork as they do exactly what a good book for children should do – get them interested in the content, which, in this case, will most likely lead them toward a trusting relationship with God.
Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer, reviewer
The Children’s Bible, hardback
June 28, 2016
The 5-Minute Nighttime Bible Stories retold by Charlotte Thoroe and illustrated by Gil Guile makes a good choice for bedtime reading with young children. Published by Tommy Nelson, the appealing artwork catches the attention of little ones, while the large font encourages elementary school child to read along and learn new words. In addition, I appreciate the capitalization of pronouns referring to God.
In the Genesis opening, for example:
“God spoke and whatever He said, it happened.”
The next page invites children to count the animals shown on that page as does the story of Noah. The cheery illustrations and interactive questions help to hold a squirmy child’s attention. Sometimes, though, that same question might cause confusion. For example, posing it with the story of Jesus’ birth could give the impression of an exact animal head count around the manger.
Another type of interaction occurs with a prayer such as the one relating well to the last page of the Noah story:
“Dear God, thank You for all of the wonderful animals and for always keeping Your promises.”
A sidebar with the story of Moses and Pharoah asks what happened to Aaron’s staff, while the next page lists the plagues with a prayer thanking God for taking care of His people.
All Bible storybooks don’t include the Ten Commandments, so I was glad to see this one did in child-friendly language. However, I wish this and other Bible storybooks would omit David’s killing Goliath and talk instead about his tending sheep or writing many of the poems known as Psalms.
In the New Testament stories, the interactive question: “How many disciples did Jesus have?” probably refers to the twelve men He had just chosen as apostles who would be sent out in His name, whereas the disciples or followers of that time and now are countless.
My favorite story in the book will surely be the favorite of young readers, too, as they read “Jesus Loves Children.” At the end of that story, bold letters acclaim, “Jesus always had time for children.” Amen!
Finally, the back matter of this sturdy book, which I kindly received for my honest-as-always review, gives children easy-access to find and memorize:
The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)
The Ten Commandments (included earlier too)
Psalm 23 (with a word about David and the Psalms)
Books of the Bible (Old Testament and New)
Song About Jesus (“Jesus Loves Me”)
Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, ©2016
5-Minute Nighttime Bible Stories, padded hardback
March 29, 2014
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 13, 2014
In the last review we saw how My Bedtime Story Bible by Zonderkidz can be enjoyed one on one with children, helping them to connect with God’s people by establishing nightly routines of ending each day with a Bible story and a prayer. On the other hand, The Story Bible from Concordia makes an excellent option for small churches and children’s Bible classes where monies, teaching supplies, and experienced Bible teachers are most likely to be limited.
In this hefty edition, The Story Bible provides “130 Stories of God’s Love” to help children come to know, as stated in the opening pages, “The love of Jesus, our Savior. The Bible is all about Jesus and you. This Story Bible will show you how and why this is true.”
On each slick page, the beautifully detailed illustrations draw children into the text with colorful, realistic art, except, perhaps, for the consistently light-skinned people seldom found in the Middle East or Africa where most Bible stories occurred.
Despite that lament, a parent, teacher, or other caretaker can hold the book, point to pictures that illustrate the story being read, and utilize the sidebars with vocabulary words from the text along with questions and activities to Ask, Do, and Pray.
For example, “The Birth of Isaac” asks a follow-up question on “How old was Abraham when his son was born?” with a “Do” suggestion to “Count to 100. Did it take a long time? Abraham had to wait a long time for a son.” This effective format consistently helps children to connect with the information included in each story before ending with a pertinent prayer.
For another example, the story of “The Passion of Christ” as found in Matthew 27, includes vocabulary words such as “passion,” “innocent,” and “crucified” in the outer margin of the page, allowing parents or teachers to discern what their children are ready for and when. For those being introduced to Christ’s sacrifice, the prayer included says: “Dear Jesus, I am sad when I see pictures that show how people are mean to You. Thank You, Jesus, for suffering and dying on the cross to take away my sins and give me a home in heaven. Amen.”
After closing the stories with “John’s Vision of Heaven” as shown in Revelation 21 and 22, the book ends on this life-giving word from John 20:31: “These stories are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” So be it! Amen.
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer
The Story Bible, hardcover
March 11, 2014
When my children were young, we sang through chores, memorized Bible verses I'd written on index cards, and ended each day with a story and a prayer. Today, kids often put themselves to bed without so much as a “night, night.” Things change! But as Christians we have the power to effect change for the good.
Establishing a bedtime routine with your children, grandchildren, or other kids in your care begins with a decision to, yes, just do it! However, the strength of that resolve comes from a belief in the importance of ending each day with snuggle time and a word of blessing. What an inheritance this can be to each new generation!
Since parents who did not grow up with such routines might not know where to begin, author Jean E. Syswerda briefly addresses this in the “Introduction” to My Bedtime Story Bible with suggestions for using the book and personalizing the stories. The Bible has many, many stories, of course, but the ones selected will introduce children to key Bible characters with whom they can relate.
But, how can children identify with Adam and Eve or Noah, Joseph, and Moses or other Bible people who lived in different times and places foreign to most of us? As we grow and mature spiritually, our belief in God provides that ongoing connection, but until we’re awakened to a life lived by faith, one thing we all have in common is the need for sleep!
And so, after telling the story of Adam and Eve with word pictures and language children can understand, the author ends with “Good night, Adam. Good night, Eve. Good night. Sleep tight,” followed by a “Tuck in” prayer-thought pertinent to that particular story and a child’s bedtime needs for pleasant thoughts and a restful night. The colorful artistry of Daniel Howarth brings each story to life too, showing young readers a broad view of the Bible from Genesis through the life of Christ and the early church.
As we’re reminded to “Thank God for a warm and soft bed to sleep in,” may God help us to remember to pray for other Christians around the world and pray, too, for the restoration of the church as one Body of Christ in Jesus’ Name. Oh, what a sweet dream that is!
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer
My Bedtime Story Bible, hardcover