Showing posts with label children’s Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children’s Bible. Show all posts

December 16, 2019

The Growing in Faith Bible for children and beyond

Does it seem strange to you to call a Bible “delightful”? But that’s the word that came to mind when Concordia Publishing House sent me a review copy of  The Growing in Faith Bible for children in the highly accurate ESV (English Standard Version) which says:

 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them,” Psalm 111:2.

As caretakers of the earth blessed by vital waterways and vivid sunsets, we study those delightful works of the Lord in nature. However, the Bible itself is a work of God to be studied and to fill us with delight.

In this edition for children and (my assessment) beyond, the colorful artwork and unique features will surely help readers to find God Himself delightful. One such feature, the “Verse for Life,” highlights Bible verses for children to memorize and recall throughout their lives. For example:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4.

The front pages of the book list the features with an explanation for each, starting with “Parent Connections,” which could also be applied to teachers and other caretakers and says:

“Teach your children the important message and theme in each book of the Bible, raising them to be a child of Jesus Christ, their Savior.”

As the heading implies, “Bible Narratives” give important Bible stories to show “how God loves, forgives, guides, and protects us in our everyday lives.” Then “Christ Connections” reveal “places in the Old Testament that point ahead to Jesus….” while another feature, “Big Questions and Answers,” reflects on things children wonder about and want to know.

To help readers find these features, numerous pages in the back of the book provide lists and related page numbers as well as a concordance and maps.

In addition to relevant prayers at the end of each Bible story scattered throughout the book, the “Topical Prayers in the back matter also have children and young people in mind. Those prayers include the reader’s church, pastor, family, and enemies! And the section “For My Needs” reminds readers to pray for themselves too. For instance, “When I’m Scared” says:

“Lord God, heavenly Father, please help
me; I’m scared. Remind me that You
are stronger than anything You created –
and You control everything that happens.
Take away my fear for Jesus’ sake, and
give me quiet trust in You; through
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Not only does this prayer give a frightened person an appropriate prayer to pray, the words themselves are comforting, faith-building, and filled with delight!

Although there's no Lutheran Church in my small town, and I attend a non-denominational church accepting of all parts of the Body of Christ, I was happy to see the addition of “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism,” which brings up important points for every Christian to consider. Regardless of our age or denominational preferences, we need to know what we believe and why, and this excellent word will help us to do just that.  For example, we receive this word of advice:

…with young people, keep to a single, fixed, and permanent form and wording, and teach them first of all the Ten Commandments, the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., according to the text, word for word, so that they can repeat it after you and commit it to memory. 

The brief catechism goes on to explain each aspect of those faith-building tools from God’s word. 

With this and other unique features meant to meet a child’s spiritual needs throughout childhood and beyond, this edition comes in a sturdy hardback that should last for many decades of delightful use.

June 14, 2019

One Big Story: Epic

With its animated artwork, clear language, and quotes from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), One Big Story: Epic will draw children and pre-teens into a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Published by B&H Publishing for BHKids and distributed by Lifeway, who kindly sent me a copy to review, this well-done edition features thick pages, colorful illustrations, and a hardback cover that ensure the kind of sturdiness meant to last throughout childhood and beyond.

The disadvantage to all this care is the weight of the book might be a bit much for, say, a 7-year-old. However, the sewn-in pages allow the large volume to stay open if kids sit at their desks or, more likely, flop on a bed or floor to read.

Since “epic” is a popular word, even the title has children in mind. As the Introduction says: “We often use it to say something or someone is awesome or spectacular. Whether it’s epic fails, epic movies, or epic cookies, people use this word all the time.”  

However, that opening page goes on to explain the true meaning by saying, Epic is traditionally defined as a special kind of story that shares the deeds of a great hero or tells the history of a special people,” making the Bible “the greatest epic ever written.”

To encourage young readers to make the same discovery, six colorful pages of “Contents” present lively titles and relevant drawings for each of 40 sections in the book.

In addition to the Bible stories themselves, pertinent questions have been scattered in sidebars to help children apply what they’ve learned. For instance, the story of Jonah includes these words: “God wants us to show mercy to others, even our enemies. How can we show this mercy to others today?” 

And, inserted into the story of Daniel, we find the question: “Where or when is it most difficult for you to obey God?” 

In the New Testament account of the betrayal of Jesus, we read: “God uses all things for His glory and our good, even acts as terrible as Judas planning to betray Jesus. How does knowing this help us trust God during difficult times in our lives?”

This may be an excellent choice for acquainting children with God’s Word, but, with questions like those, adults just might find the book speaks to them too!

Mary Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer

April 6, 2019

The NIV Action Study Bible

The NIV ActionStudy Bible, published by David C. Cook, who kindly sent me a copy to review, provides faith-building, character-building insights into God’s Word. The lively illustrations by comic-book artist Sergio Cariello will appeal to young readers, hopefully drawing them to read and reread this reader-friendly New International Version of the Bible.

Other special features in this small-print edition include:

Remember It – presents key Bible verses to memorize.

What About This? – responds to questions many young readers wonder about but might not know whom to ask. For example, “Why Did God Create People?” and “How Do I Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Unlock It! – adds insights to the surrounding passages.

Guess It! – helps young people recall what they've read.

Find It! – uses icons to help readers do just that.

Activate – shows how to apply what’s been read.

Ancient Archives – describe the peoples, cultures, and eras so readers can picture and “be there” too.

In addition, the concordance, dictionary, and index guides to the above features will help readers to find what they want and gain a better understanding of God’s Word.

Also, in the back matter, the inclusion of maps and brief guides to centuries of ruling powers will connect Bible stories to historical world events and their geographical locations  - places where only the names seem to change as people are people, no matter the era, and God is God.

Mary Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer


May 18, 2017

The Children’s Bible retold

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

February 23, 2017

Precious Prayers Bible, NKJV

I love the idea of children developing the habit of regularly opening a “real Bible” from an early age, and the NKJV (New King James Version) makes a good choice because of its kinship with the beloved King James Version (KJV) – but without the heightened language. Regardless of the translation used by adults in a church or family, the NKJV is excellent for memorization. I just wish this edition had taken advantage of that by including sidebars of Bible verses that children do well to learn and recall throughout their lives.

Reportedly, the font in this new edition for children is 9.5 type but appears smaller, especially since the ink seems to be dark grey, rather than black. I mention this because children drawn to the precious art are apt to be younger, so the biblical text may require more eye-focus and reading skill than most early readers have acquired.

That said, the age-appropriate poems, prayers, and blessings written primarily by Jean Fischer appear in kid-friendly print and language with Precious Moments™ artwork on slick paper inserts. Because of those inserts, young readers can turn to prayers that speak well for them, which most, if not all, surely will. Also, the thicker paper makes those pages sturdier than the thinner paper on which the New King James Version (NKJV) translation of the Bible has been printed.

The nicely padded hardcover should hold up well too. And, since this edition includes maps and introductions to each book of the Bible, a child can continue to use the Precious Prayers Bible for years to come.

Review by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, who received a complimentary copy from BookLook bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Precious Prayers Bible, NKJV, padded hardcover

I review for BookLook Bloggers

January 6, 2017

Holy Bible: Love Letters from God

The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) of the Bible sprang from the ever-popular NIV but with shorter words and sentences to make this, not a Bible storybook, but a simplified version of God’s Word. In the NIrV, for example, the opening verses of the Bible say:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth didn’t have any shape. And it was empty. There was darkness over the surface of the waves.”

To make this particular edition even more child-friendly and personal, Zondervan included pages of Love Letters from God, written by Glenys Nellist, who obviously has a heart for children.

Since I’d previously read and appreciated Glenys’ work, I requested a complimentary copy of the Holy Bible: Love Letters from God from BookLook Bloggers, who kindly sent me a free copy to review.

To give you an idea of the “letters,” a page-insert referencing Genesis 1:31 says:

Your Love Letter from God
Genesis 1

Dear __________

Do you like making things? Have you ever made something you felt really proud of, something you thought was so good it made you smile? That’s how I felt when I made the world. I had so much fun! But do you know the very best thing I made? It was you! And everything I make is good. So remember this – I made you, and you are good. I love you.

Your Creator,

In the adjacent column, the page includes a section to “Write Back,” which encourages children to: “Write a letter to God telling him about something you made – a story, a painting, a science project, a building-block city… may even a tree house!” Immediately beneath that text, double-spaced lines have been provided for each child’s personal response.

In addition to 80 “letters,” the edition includes slick, colored page inserts on such topics as “The Ten Commandments,” written in child-speak, and “What Is…” definitions of sin, repentance, forgiveness, grace, and more. Another such page discusses “How to Pray.”

Younger readers might prefer a slightly larger font than this edition has, but all readers will see colored maps in the back matter, along with space for notes and a ribbon bookmark to show where the child has left off reading a Bible that clearly speaks to them and encourages them to keep on reading.

Bible Reviewer, Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017

Holy Bible: Love Letters from God, hardcover

I review for BookLook Bloggers

April 1, 2016

10 features Bible readers want

After reviewing new editions of the Bible for over four years and being an avid Bible reader long before that, I’ve learned that other readers look for the same features I like to see.

If I’ve omitted your favorite, please add it in the Comments section below. Or, if you’re a Bible publisher, please let us know what plans you have along these lines:

First, the physical features:

. Manageable Size .
The first thing most of us notice is whether a Bible is too big, too heavy, or too small to fit our needs. One of the most gorgeous study Bibles I’ve ever received was so massive, I found it too awkward to handle and read except at my desk. Nor could I comfortably carry it to my Bible discussion group, which was a loss to all of us since we missed the benefits of some very impressive footnotes and sidebars.

. Readable Font with Adequate Ink .
On several occasions, I’ve received review copies of “large print” Bibles that weren’t! Unless the font is a minimum of 10-point type with 9-point footnotes, the print will not be large enough for young readers to focus on or for older eyes to see without a blur. I hope type lauded as large print will become standardized at 11 or 12-point type with giant print at 14 points and super giant at 16 to 20. That said, none of the above will ease a reader’s eyes unless the publisher selects a well-inked font.

. Adequate Margins and White Space .
When a font of any size cuts into the surrounding margins, the text seems to scream at the reader’s eyes. That might be a necessary compromise for a study Bible, but people who interact with Holy Scripture usually need a wide-margin edition that provides space for jotting down those insights that come during reading.

. Quality Paper, Sewn into the Binding .
As do many Bible lovers, I like to underline God’s promises and words of encouragement, but some paper textures won’t readily accept a pencil or stop bleed-through from light markers. A creamy, thicker, easy-to-turn paper can be ideal for a reader edition, whereas thin paper might be necessary for a study edition. In either case, the quality of paper makes a big difference in Bibles meant to be kept and used often, which also means those pages must be sewn – not glued – into the cover.

I’m personally displeased with the cheap grade paper often used in children’s editions. I suppose the thinking is that they’ll soon outgrown a kid version and want a “grownup” edition, which might be true for some. However, a lifelong love for the Bible began for many of us in childhood, and I’m happy to say I still have the first Bible ever given to me. Keeping it was my choice, but if the publisher had used the cheap grade of paper I often seen now, I doubt my zipper-enclosed children’s edition would have lasted for decades!

. Durable Cover .
Regarding that zipper, which I don’t want in a Bible now, it still works amazingly well! Again, that’s because the publisher used quality materials and workmanship, which I’m finding more difficult to locate. However, contemporary translations in paperbacks with glued-in pages give us a chance to see if we want something more durable. If so, high quality leather covers that lay flat are a long-time preference for favorite editions, while top-quality man-made covers that lay flat can last well and also be pleasant to the touch. For encyclopedic editions, though, my gorgeous goatskin-covered study Bible can not stand up on my desk! Then, a sturdy hardcover binding with sewn-in pages makes the most sense.

. Two (preferably three!) Ribbon Markers .
Yes, we can always add bookmarks, but two or more ribbon markers encourage us to read from both testaments and actually check out those cross-references. For instance, I might want to read the Gospels straight through, as I would other books, but turn to Psalms for a morning meditation. Then, if I want to investigate the verses referred to in a passage, I need another ribbon to hold my place while I look up the next scripture. Therefore, three ribbon markers work great in study editions. Regardless of the number, though, each ribbon needs a hem-finished tip to prevent unraveling.

More importantly, students of the Bible, avid readers, and study groups need:

. Cross-References .
Make that readable cross-references! Most are not! Even in large-print Bibles, the references typically have a thin, tiny font that requires a magnifying glass. Since these often get placed between columns or in the outside margin of paragraphed text, this cuts into usable space for note-taking. One workable solution is to place a reference at the end of the Bible verse to which it connects, making it immediately accessible and also very readable as such cross-references sensibly use the same sized font.

. Book Intros .
For a reader edition, a brief introduction about the author, time, place, and purpose helps to get us grounded. For study editions, outlines and themes work well, but for either, a one-sentence thesis statement can help us to find which book is most likely to have what we’re looking for.

. User-friendly Layout .
Timelines, photographs, maps, and/or sidebars in an eye-appealing format make readers just want to keep reading, which should be a primary aim for any new edition. Those visual aids also help us to see the relevancy of scripture today. If space prevents those features, however, just having chapter subheadings will visually break up the text and help us to find the passages we’re looking for with greater ease.

All of the above features encourage Bible reading, but most importantly, we need:

. Unbiased Footnotes and Articles .
At first glance, this preference seems to have exceptions. For instance, when I received a review copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, I expected – and, indeed, wanted – footnotes to interpret the Bible from the perspective of that denomination. Ditto for the Didache Bible, whose footnotes include quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC.) Such editions provide an important service to members of a particular denomination by helping them to see where their church is coming from and why. In addition, this info can foster ecumenical understanding in Christians from other backgrounds.

Study notes that present various interpretations can be very helpful, too, when they’re fair-minded, avoid telling readers how to think, and do not speak against any denomination ever! The more Christians from diverse backgrounds read, study, and love the Bible, the more we come to respect one other and acknowledge the family we have as the beloved children of our one Creator God.

© 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler

February 29, 2016

Holy Bible for Kids, ESV

The Holy Bible for Kids, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, now comes in this two-column “large print” edition, which is not very large but, nevertheless, a nice font size for the young eyes of the intended readership.

Adapted from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the text in the English Standard Version (ESV) is easier to comprehend than the King James Version used in some church school classes, but similar enough to both of those classical editions that children can keep up with either.

Maps and a concordance in the back of the book will help young readers to stay grounded in the biblical setting and times, but what makes this edition especially child-appealing is the lively cover and the many back-to-back illustrations of colorful Bible scenes.

The first illustration, for instance, depicts the baby Moses being taken out of his basket floating in the river with a circular inset showing “The Birth of Moses” and reference to Exodus 1:1-2:10 where that particular story can be found. On the back of that artwork, readers will find the white-haired “Moses and the Burning Bush” with reference to Exodus 2:11-4:31.

Since these realistically rendered illustrations can be found throughout this edition of the Bible, children could flip to the artwork then look up the scriptures to find the whole story. Such searches will help them to become more familiar with the location of each book and, hopefully, encourage them to read the whole Bible.

Reviewed by poet-writer Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.

Holy Bible for Kids, ESV, large print, hardback

November 30, 2015

Faith Builders Bible for children and new readers

Unlike a Bible storybook, the Faith Builders Bible for children and new readers includes the full text of the reader-friendly, New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) – a translation based on the NIV, but with new readers and elementary school-aged children especially in mind. For example, the beloved 23rd Psalm begins:

“1 The LORD is my shepherd. He gives
me everything I need.
2 He lets me lie down in fields of
green grass.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths
for the honor of his name.”

You’ll find that kind of clarity throughout this edition published by Zondervan, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

The readable text works well as do the illustrations, which will appeal to children who enjoy Legos or Minecraft, neither of which has any connection to this unique edition. For generations, though, children of all ages have played with building blocks, and so, undoubtedly, the publisher played with that idea to connect Bible reading with activities having child-appeal. And it works!

For instance, the opening two-page spread in the front matter shows “Building With Books Of The Bible” by stacking titles of those individual books above their particular category. Beginning with the Torah titles above the category “Law” and ending with “Revelation” above the category of prophecy, readers can see how the Bible comes together as one structure with many parts.

In the back matter, a “Dictionary to the New International Reader’s Version” helps to build vocabulary heard at home, church, or church school. For example:

“anoint 1. To pour olive oil on people or things. This sets them apart for God. 2. To pour oil on people as part of praying for their healing.”

The back of the book also lists “Great Bible Stories” by topic and the book, chapter, and verse(s) where they can be located, but the addition of page numbers might have helped readers who aren’t yet familiar with the Bible.

I also would have liked a larger font for younger readers and a page in the front or back listing the titles of illustrations and their page numbers. For example the illustration and story “Noah Builds An Ark” has been inserted between pages 120 and 121.

That building-block drawing helps children to envision the scene and, perhaps, inspires them to build an ark of blocks. More importantly, that illustrative page, like others in the book, gives a brief version of the story with reference to the chapters where the full account can be found before ending with a character-building “Building Block Verse:”

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Genesis 6:22”

The text on those pages has a larger, readable font, which encourages new readers to read the stories themselves. In addition, the pages provide a Bible storybook within the Bible, giving children and new readers the opportunity to read more when they’re ready.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.

Faith Builders Bible, hardback

September 28, 2015

Kids Study Bible, NRSV with Apocrypha

As soon as I learned of the NRSV Kids Study Bible with Apocrypha, I requested a review copy from Hendrickson Bibles, which the publisher kindly sent to me.

Primarily for children 8 to 12, this unique edition has the New Revised Standard Version text (NRSV) with the Apocrypha and all sorts of kid-appealing sidebars and study aids too.

Each book of the Bible begins with an Introduction that summarizes “What Will You Learn About In This Book?” followed by information about the writer(s), setting(s), main characters, and highlights from stories of our ongoing relationship with God.

For example, the apocryphal aka deuterocanonical book of Sirach “contains guidance on how to act towards all kinds of people and to God. The sayings it contains are like the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.”

Under “Who Wrote This Book?” readers learn that the writer, “Ben Sirach, a Jewish scribe, may have written the work about 180-175 B.C.”Then, if readers want to “Take A Closer Look,” they’ll see how the “Fear of the Lord is true wisdom,” Sirach 1:11-20 and how we all have “Duties toward one’s parents,” Sirach 3:1-16.

Sidebars to over 60 "Bible People" introduce children to patriarchs, prophets, poets, and other people of interest – people with whom we all identify and from whom we continue to learn.

In the New Testament, for example, “Mary and Martha were sisters, and Lazarus was their brother. They lived in Bethany and were close friends of Jesus. Mary poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feed to wash them because she loved him so much. Martha is best remembered for busily preparing and serving a meal rather than being with Jesus.”

To encourage children to remain in the company of God’s Word through memorization, little sidebars have been interspersed throughout the text. In First Corinthians, for example, “Hide It In Your Heart” provides this memory verse, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Cor. 15:57.

Besides glossy color inserts within the pages, the lists of Bible parables, miracles, and more in the back matter will help young readers to see that God's Word is meant for them. Also, the readable dark blue font, bright headings, and attractive suede-like cover give the feel and eye appeal that will encourage kids to read.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler

NRSV Kids Study Bible with Apocrypha, flexisoft cover

July 2, 2015

NIrV Study Bible for Kids

A year ago, I reviewed the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, published by Zonderkidz, who also sent me a review copy of this year’s release of the New International Reader’s Version for slightly older children, the NIrV Study Bible for Kids. Since the NIrV text has a third-grade reading level, this study Bible well-suits children 6-10.

Besides being young-reader-friendly, the edition includes study features appropriate to the age group. At the beginning of the book, for example, a two-page color layout defines the Bible, addresses “What is in the Bible?” and shows the division of “The Old Testament” and the New with categories listed beneath each. The facing page then illustrates that information with a bookcase and each book of the Bible grouped by:

Old Testament
Major Prophets
Minor Prophets

New Testament
Church History

Seeing that bookcase helps children to realize that many books come together in one Bible. Most likely, the visual will also help children to understand and recall various categories and easily find out which book belongs where. For instance, “Church History” depicts the book of Acts.

As occurs in study Bibles for teens and adults, this children’s edition introduces each book with a quick word telling what to expect overall and in key chapters, such as Genesis 12 where “God gives Abraham a promise.”

Throughout the text, a “Brain Game” reinforces what’s been learned as children read and search the verses for themselves and/or as an adult asks the questions provided in those sections. Similarly, “Soak It up!” highlights key verses to memorize, while “Check It Out” gives children an idea of the culture.

On the page for Acts 10:9, for example, the “Check It Out” sidebar explains: “Houses had flat roofs. People slept on their roofs on hot nights. Some roofs had gardens. People grew fruit and spices on their roofs.”

In the back of the book, children will find even more information in the interesting article, “Life in New Testament Times.” Also, a dictionary and colorful maps will help children to understand more about Bible times and places as will slick, colorful page inserts with lively lists and visually appealing artwork. I wish the art consistently corresponded with the adjacent text. Nevertheless, the informative features throughout make this edition very recommended for young readers.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler

NIrV Study Bible for Kids, hardback

June 26, 2015

Sing-Along Bible stories

Parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caretakers of toddlers and preschoolers will have fun remembering these 50 Bible stories with accompanying songs to learn along with the kids! Stephen Elkins not only selected the stories and translated them into child-friendly language, he provided the lively artwork for this sturdy picture book, which includes a CD.

The slightly padded front cover, which can be easily wiped clean of sticky fingerprints, is nicely sized for young children and early readers. For the latter, a “Let’s Read” upper section has 6 or 7 lines in a clear font with easy-to-read song lyrics in the “Let’s Sing” section at the bottom of the page. In between, you’ll find the title of the story with a relevant “Little Lesson” on the facing page, which, again, many young readers will be able to read for themselves. If they know how to put a CD on pause, so much the better!

Younger children will need an adult’s assistance, playing the CD, keeping track of the stories, and guiding each reading. You might also want to skip the “David and Goliath” story, which almost every Bible storybook includes even though toddlers and preschoolers don’t need the thought of whacking bullies in the head with a rock! The “Little Lesson” on the facing page says, “There is power in the name of the Lord!” but the take-away could be in discovering the power of hurling objects across a room. (Yes, I’m apt to worry, but then one of our little ones loved to throw things, and the power of a flying Matchbox car wiped out a TV set!)

Other than that concern, the stories in this picture book, published for Tyndale Kids, fit preschoolers well. They’ll love the idea of “Balaam’s Donkey” talking with the “Little Lesson” take-away of “God can do all things!” And, as a parent, grandparent, and Bible teacher, I love the idea of teaching the very youngest child to “Pray about Everything” and planting the thought, “I can pray for my puppy!”

Accompanying another important story, “Jesus Promises to Love Me,” the “Let’s Sing” section gives the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” – the life-changing song I first heard as a toddler and immediately believed. Still do.

The book continues to builds on that early teaching moment and other stories, for example, by saying:

“Do you want to be a good friend?
Jesus taught us how!
He said, ‘Love other people the way I have loved you’.”

Then the “Little Lesson” brings that home by adding: “Loving others makes us a friend of Jesus!”

Yes, and amen.

Thank you, Tyndale House Publishing for this lovely, lively book and the complimentary review copy you kindly sent.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

My Sing-Along Bible, padded hardback picture book

January 23, 2015

My Keepsake Bible

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.”

Ending with,
“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

October 31, 2014

NKJV Adventure Bible for children

The flyer that came with the copy of the Adventure Bible the publisher kindly sent me to review calls this “The #1 Bible For Kids,” and I can easily see why!

Zondervan published this particular edition of the NKJV (New King James Version) with 8 to 10-year-old's in mind, but the sturdy hardback cover, colorful illustrations, and kid-friendly features make this a keeper for children in almost every age group.

Written by Lawrence O. Richards, those features include:

• Life in Bible Times
• People in Bible Times
• Did You Know?
• Let’s Live it!
• Words to Treasure

Most of those special features are self-explanatory, but to give you an idea of what to expect in “Did You Know?” an example relating to Exodus 30:7 says, “Incense is similar to perfume, but it is a powder that is burned rather than a liquid that is put on a person’s body. Incense and perfume both smell sweet.”

As an example of “Let’s Live It!” one of these special sidebars appears with a list of the Ten Commandments, giving the meaning for each and also “How I obey it,” which translates each command into everyday acts that are doable. For instance, the fourth commandment to “Keep the Sabbath holy,” means “Rest and think about God,” with an example of “How I Obey It” given as “Pay attention in church.”

An example of “Let’s Live It!” in the New Testament discusses “How to Love Enemies” as mentioned in Luke 6:27-36, explaining “Love is not just a feeling. Christian love means caring about other people and doing nice things for them.” Suggestions then include “Smile. Be friendly. Pray for her. Help him with schoolwork. Say nice things about her. Choose her for your team.”

Other highly appropriate study aids for children include Bible verses in “Word to Treasure” – and maybe even memorize! Also, each book of the Bible has an introduction addressing such questions as:

Who wrote this book?
Why was this book written?
For whom was this book written?
What happens in this book?
When did this happen?

The “Where” of a book often matters, too, so the edition includes several pages of clear, colored maps as well as a concordance to help readers look up key words or topics in the back of the book.

Scattered throughout this edition, however, slick, sturdy page inserts carry along the adventure motif, colorfully illustrating that being a Christian is an ongoing adventure with the Bible as our companion and travel guide.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She highly recommends this excellent edition from Zondervan as an ideal gift for children at Christmas time and throughout the year.

NKJV Adventure Bible, hardback

June 30, 2014

NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers

Until Zondervan sent me a review copy of the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, I hadn’t read the New International Readers Version of the Bible, which relies on the NIV but uses shorter words and sentences to encourage children to read the Bible themselves. Great idea! and well-done....

More than a Bible storybook that retells stories for children, the NIrV might be called an English translation for school kids. For example, Genesis 1 begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth didn’t have any shape. And it was empty.”

This child-friendly edition also includes inserts and sidebars to highlight or explain Bible principles. For example, “Words to Treasure” features key verses such as Genesis 1:1 to memorize and “Did You Know” to clarify words and concepts such as “1:1 The word create means to ‘make something new.’ Genesis tells us that God is the creator of all things.”

Also in the beginning, “Live It!” articles begin with such titles as “You’re Special” followed by an encouragement to “Read Genesis 1:26-27. God made us in his own image. We are God’s very special creation./ Look at pictures of your mom or dad when they were children. How were they like you? How were they different?... / God made you in his image too. You are special to God. He loves you. Write a message to God to thank him for loving you.”

Other child-friendly features include full page inserts such as the “Ten Commandments for Kids” and small sidebars such as “Life in Bible Times” and “People in Bible Times.”

In Acts, for instance, we read about “Purple Cloth,” which explains that “Purple dye came from crushing the shells of tiny purple sea creatures. Hundreds of these shellfish were needed to make enough purple to dye one robe. So purple cloth was very expensive….” Then, on the adjacent page, “People in Bible Times” talks about Lydia, who “sold beautiful purple cloth. One day she heard Paul talk about the gospel. Lydia believed what Paul said….”

Believing comes from hearing and receiving the Word of God. With this Bible to accompany children throughout childhood, they can hear on their language level then read and re-read God’s word as though the Bible were written especially for them.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible and traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books, the Bible-basedOutside Eden and environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.

NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, 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

February 11, 2014

The Jesus Bible for children

An eye-appealing format and two-color sidebars that interact with young readers make this edition of the New International Version (NIV) a good choice for children 8 and up to read by themselves but also for teachers to use in small churches where Sunday School classes cover a range of ages or varying number of children. The color maps and thorough concordance will aid learning too. More exceptional though, The Jesus Bible from ZonderKidz includes an “Index of Hints of the Savior/ Jesus Revealed,” which marks the theme of this edition that highlights the many references to Christ throughout the Bible.

Other unique features include glossy insert pages that nicely highlight key concepts in the Christian faith. For example, “The ‘I Am’ Statements of Jesus” help young readers begin to see Christ as the Good Shepherd, Who guides them, and The Way, The Truth, and The Life to call upon in their own lives. However, I wish that important page had been placed in the Gospel of John, rather than the book of Daniel. Similarly, “Jesus in the Psalms” might be placed more effectively in the book of Psalms, rather than the OT book of Second Chronicles.

Hopefully, such publishing matters can be addressed in future editions and possible errors corrected, such as one found on page 28. In the sidebar to a story in Genesis 20, Abraham made the mistake of tricking King Abimelek, but the “Live Like Jesus” insert mistakenly says Moses did the trickery.

Therefore, in reviewing this review copy which Zondervan kindly sent, I’m a little concerned about the publisher's effort to do too much or hurry to publication, but I’m also greatly impressed by the earnest desire to find ways to reach people of all ages and backgrounds for Jesus Christ. That’s what the Gospel should do – must do to reach the ends of the earth as the Lord commands.

Clearly and correctly, this edition demonstrates we can and will “Discover Jesus in Every Book of the Bible.” Amen! Yes, for in every page of God's Word, Jesus Christ is there, and, as we read the Bible, Jesus is here. Wherever we are, Jesus Is God with us.

©2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer

The Jesus Bible, hardcover

January 22, 2014

ESV Children’s Bible

What an excellent transition the ESV Children’s Bible from Crossway provides for young people between the ages for reading Bible storybooks and study editions for adults! For example, “The Bible, God’s Message to Us” introduces children to this “ancient book full of God’s mystery and truth. Full of wonder and power,” then goes on to explain why the Bible was written and some ways to respond.

Additional front matter also helps children get grounded before going on to the highly accurate but readable ESV (English Standard Version) text, while the back pages include such helpful information as “Who is God? What is God Like?”

The back matter also shows ways “God Makes Himself Known” and lists the Ten Commandments with explanations for each. Going “From Old To New Testament,” the study aids discuss “Jesus: God’s Righteous Son” and the meanings of the Gospel, salvation, and sanctification. In addition, a dictionary defines words often used in Sunday School, church services, and Bible classes with clear definitions for the A to Z terminology ranging from “abide” to “zeal.”

A defining moment for this edition, however, occurs in the lively Bible storybook illustrations interspersed throughout the text. That format makes the ESV Children’s Bible a good choice for children just learning to read and also those who absorb information better through pictures than words. For children who have begun to look up Bible books, chapters, and verses themselves, the layout eases the search with a red banner across the top of each page to highlight the actual Bible text.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, Bible Reviewer

ESV Children’s Bible, hardback

November 4, 2013

The big picture in a Bible storybook

Most Bible storybooks for children include similar stories of people who exhibited great faith and courage – or a lamentable lack of either! Unlike the titles published years ago, however, today’s storybooks often show God’s people as admirable but flawed human beings, who sometimes reflect and sometimes conflict with the ongoing love, goodness, justice, mercy, and forgiveness of our unchanging God.

To emphasize this contrast even more, “A Letter to Parents” in The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook from B&H Publishing clearly states: “’Be good’ is not the message of the Bible. ‘Be saved’ is.” While human heroes come and go, God The Hero remains.

As any child knows, of course, a Hero rescues, protects, and takes care of what needs tending – just as God did from the moment sin ruined the perfection created in the beginning. So, from the beginning, God planned a timely redemption through the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

To show this so children can follow the time sequence and see how God’s plan fits together from Genesis to Revelation, each page of these Bible stories includes the unique feature of the “Christ Connection.” For example, the story, “God Created the World and People,” makes this connection: “Colossians 1:15-22 reveals that Christ is ruler over all of God’s creation. All of creation was created through Him, by Him, and for Him. Everything was created to give glory to Christ, but people would choose not to give Him glory. The rest of the Bible reveals how Jesus would restore the relationship between God and man.”

That “Christ Connection” ends with a “Big Picture Question” for discussion and a “Big Picture Answer” too. In the story, “Obadiah the Prophet,” for example, the question, “What is pride?” receives the “Big Picture Answer: Pride is thinking you are better than others, and it steals glory from God.” Or, the story, “Jesus Christ Will Return,” asks the “Big Picture Question: Why will there be no need for a lamp in heaven?” then answers, “God’s glory will be its light and there will be no more night.”

This type of involvement helps the book live up to its name, but in addition, The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook offers an app to be downloaded for free. Then readers can scan the icon on each page and watch the illustration come to life online. With over 140 colorful, kid-appealing illustrations to choose from, children can interact with Bible story people as they interact with God, presenting us with our timeless stories too.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook from B&H Publishing


October 22, 2013

Leg-go my Bible cover kids love

Let’s be honest. Those of us who love God’s Word can’t help but have favorites. Some translations mystify us while others speak clearly, drawing us again and again to their light.

If we really get real, we realize God created us as a sensory people! So surely God knows that some editions of the Bible have an eye-appealing format or a cover we like to touch or a soft, fine quality leather we like to smell and maybe hug like a best friend close beside us.

I suspect ZonderKidz had similar thoughts because several of the review copies of children’s Bibles they recently sent me seem bound (pun intended) to draw kids to pick up the Bible and keep on reading, which, of course, is the point:

Regardless of how young or old we are, we can find Bibles that appeal to us, Bibles we connect with, Bible we’ll actually read, and Bibles that show God’s keen awareness of our wants and needs.

For example, one of the new offerings from ZonderKidz is the NIV ClearlyU Bible where “u-CHOOSE the cover u like!” In three easy steps, you remove the designs included with the Bible, choose a favorite, then insert your choice into the clear cover sleeve. Although the font felt a bit small, the New International Version (NIV) provides easy reading, and the compact size (under 5”x7”) fits into a backpack or bag with the cool look of a diary.

That edition makes no claim to laying flat yet almost does. However, the Animal Print Collection Bible definitely flattens on opening, and so does the Fruit of the Spirit Bible, which comes covered in a lively watermelon print with colorful pages inside, describing each of the fruits of the spirit.

Since both of those choices have the same overall size, font, and translation, the reader’s choice may well depend on personal preferences or perceptions of what’s cool. For some that may mean soccer, so another choice cover looks like a soccer ball that lays flat. From the NIV Sports Bible Collection, that larger edition (approximately 6”x9”) also has a larger, more readable font.

The last and liveliest choice of the smaller editions (under 5”x7”) comes in a bright FlexiBible with a “squishy,” rubbery, Lego-look cover and four tabs to add color or close the book from opening in a child’s bag or backpack. Although labeled for “Ages 8 & up,” a six-year-old boy and fourteen-year-old girl pulled it first from the stack, pronouncing the cover “cool.”

And aren’t these the coolest Christmas and birthday presents – or anytime gifts – ever? Think of it! How cool to have editions that encourage young readers to carry around their Bibles and, cooler still, to read!

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

NIV ClearlyU Bible

Animal Print Collection Bible, NIV

Fruit of the Spirit Bible, NIV

NIV Sports Bible Collection

FlexiBible, NIV