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
January 23, 2015
As a poet and writer, I've discovered that the most difficult books to write and place with publishers are those for very young children. The content must be age-appreciate, the text honest, and the facts accurate with only a few words of one or two syllables used to create a lively, child-friendly tone. The artwork must be kid-appealing, too, with clear, colorful pictures that help a preschooler better understand what's said.
In My Keepsake Bible published by Tyndale Kids, author Sally Ann Wright and artist Honor Ayres beautifully accomplish all of the above, but that’s not all to consider!
A “keepsake” book for young children needs a sturdy, wipeable cover and a manageable size. Long before a publisher gets that far, however, the initial idea or concept for the book must have a unique perspective or a fresh approach to an old story.
Wright accomplishes this, too, by connecting each child's personal history to his or her Bible family.
With pages for a birth announcement, family tree, and individual progress of the child’s development, this edition combines key parts of a "baby book" with key Bible stories to show our progress and ongoing development in our relationship with God.
That unique approach appealed to me enough to request a review copy from the publisher, which Tyndale kindly sent, and I studied with special interest as I would love to write this type of book!
After including pages to record the child’s story, the book begins with “The Story of Creation,” told in an appropriately poetic style.
“Long ago, at the very
beginning, God was there.”
“God made silvery fish and buzzing bees, song birds and bright butterflies.”
“Everything in God’s world was good.”
Prayers of thanks follow with subsequent prayers expressed by the author or by scriptures chosen from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Those prayers, which can help to establish a precedent for praying regularly, intersperse the stories throughout the book.
Looking at those stories closely, we find the honest truth that people mess up and do wrong! Nevertheless, our loving God continues to protect, guide, and love us, which pretty much sums up the Bible message. Then, as these clear, concise stories come to an end, “Paul’s Thank-You Letters” bring this word to young readers:
“Paul reminded them to live as God wanted them to – to be kind and forgiving to each other and to share what they had with others. He told them that the most important thing they could do was to love God. Then they would begin to act like him, loving other people too.”
©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.
My Keepsake Bible, lightly padded hardcover
March 3, 2014
The Bible contains a wealth of stories for parents, grandparents, and church school teachers to read and discuss with very young children, so deciding which ones to include and which to omit can be a hard call, but then, a Bible lover and reviewer who’s agreed to give an honest review might have a hard time too!
In The Rhyme Bible Storybook For Toddler, I found much to recommend in the quality of this sturdy kid-sized book with its lively writing and colorful artwork. I also liked the evidence of God’s love and care as shown in the stories from Creation through Moses but found other choices either odd or inappropriate for toddlers.
For example, there’s no story of the beloved Patriarch of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians – Abraham, whose examples of faith foster faith and open lines of communication among religious peoples. So I was perplexed to see The Rhyme Bible Storybook For Toddler skip from Moses to David – but not David the shepherd with loving example of the Good Shepherd, nor David the poet and Psalmist, nor David the good king who united God’s people. Instead, the storybook chose to focus on David’s slinging a rock at Goliath and bringing down a bullying giant. Is that the message we want to give toddlers – to solve problems by throwing a rock?
Older children can understand the context of that story and also the story of Jonah, where the disobedient missionary gets swallowed by a large fish, but do we want toddlers fearing the ocean more than they naturally do?
Do we want them to have nightmares about being locked in a den of lions as Daniel was in this short book? Again, older children would find that story adventuresome and faith-building, but with so little space for age-appropriate stories for toddlers, I would much prefer telling very young children how Daniel chose to eat good food, rather than how lions might eat him!
Like all of my reviews, this one must be honest, so I have a couple of confessions to make: 1.) When I don’t feel comfortable giving books a 4 or, preferably 5-star review, I usually do not review them at all. However, this one came from BookSneeze, so I have to do an Amazon review too, which I’m sad to say will be 3 stars because of the stories selected. Obviously, I would have made other choices, which brings me to the second confession. 2.) I would love to write a Bible storybook, in rhyme or out.
I’m very happy to say, though, that this storybook ends with the point to which a wealth of Bible stories lead: Letting readers of all ages know, “Jesus Is Alive!”
©2014, Mary Sayler, poet, reviewer, lover of Christ, children, and the Bible
February 25, 2014
When I first approach the review copy of a new Bible storybook produced by any publisher, I look for several important features:
. Bible stories appropriate to the age group
. language children can comprehend
. pleasing artwork to illustrate the text
. sturdy quality to stand up to actual usage
In addition to the above, ZonderKidz provided a poetic text to retell the creation story in 101 Bible Stories: From Creation to Revelation. For example, “Let There Be Light” retells the story in Genesis 1:1-5 with these words:
“Long, long ago, God created the heavens and the earth. But the earth was blacker than black with darkness. And there was nothing but emptiness.”
Into this lonely place, “God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light!” Then “God gently made the earth to spin so that there could also be darkness. He called the dark ‘night,’ and the light he called ‘day’.” And God “spun layer upon layer of fresh, clean air around the earth, wrapping it in every shade of blue.”
As layer upon layer of biblical insights reveal our Creator’s care, the stories progress from God’s encounters with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other character-building favorites to “An Angel’s Visit” where a young woman named Mary hears “God is happy with you.” Later, in “Joseph’s Dream,” the angel brings news that Joseph need not fear taking Mary as his wife, “For God has chosen her and blessed her to give birth to his very own Son.”
The remaining half of the book focuses on the life, teachings, parables, and healing work of Jesus to “The Darkest Hour” where “The earth grew deathly silent, and the sky remained hopelessly dark” as it had in the beginning of time until God spoke.
This time, however, Jesus speaks as He rises from the tomb to tell Thomas and all to “stop doubting and believe. After giving every follower “A Job to Do” in telling others the Good News, “Jesus Sends A Helper,” Who brings Holy Spirit power to do that work until Christ comes again.
With its use of slick quality paper, a sturdy binding, and colorful artwork by Dan Andreasen, this well-done Bible storybook lives up to its front cover label “Perfect for Independent Readers.” Nevertheless, we moms, dads, grandparents, and church school teachers will undoubtedly enjoy hearing again these 101 Bible stories with the children God has created to bless our lives.
©2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer
101 Bible Stories: From Creation to Revelation, hardback