It’s tough to find a theologically sound children’s Bible that is also appealing and engaging to children. Here are my thoughts on two of them, and why one is ultimately the better of the two. I really think all children should have a real Bible and not just a storybook Bible, but for young children ages 2-8, I think it is appropriate to also have a storybook Bible to use as a tool to teach children about God.
I wouldn’t say I “review” the following two Bibles. My real purpose is to tell you about one I really enjoy, and why I believe it is worthy of your purchase the most.
Jesus Storybook Bible
We’ve have used the Jesus Storybook Bible for well over a year. This is not a Bible translation but a paraphrased overview of the Bible written in a story form for children- hence a ” storybook”. It has some imperfections and things that have bothered me. The author will sometimes create some of her own conversations in an attempt to “add” to the story. Generally this doesn’t bother me, as an effort to have the story more comprehendible to children, but it does bother me if the theology is compromised simply for the sake of the story.
Right away in the “The Terrible Lie” story of the book I read something that doesn’t sit well with me. In the Garden of Eden, the snake says, “Does God really love you?” This takes away the true meaning of Satan’s temptation. In fact, this is even how the author defines sin; sin is defined as `believing the lie that God doesn’t love you’ which is not a biblical definition. This isn’t an isolated question in this book either. The topic of sin and how it is addressed is one of the biggest and most frequent complaints I have about this book. This theme pops up again and again. In addition to this there are dozens of statements the author makes that gives me an uneasy feeling and many liberties were taken with the narrative stories that were unnecessary and sometimes even contradictory to what the Bible says.
Outside of some theological concerns the Jesus Story Book Bible doesn’t include much of God’s wrath and justice either. I realize this is a children’s book but I believe it is needed to better explain God’s grace and mercy.
I could go on about the problems I have with The Jesus Storybook Bible, but my point is not to trash talk the book. In fact, I overall enjoy the book. Out of the twentyish children’s storybook Bibles for children I have looked at, The Jesus Storybook Bible is perhaps my second favorite. I do, however, feel strong parent explanation and conversation with children is needed to clarify the stories better. It does a good job of pointing everything to Jesus, children really listen to the stories, and I enjoy the presentation and artwork of the book. In fact the illustrations are excellent and some of the best I have seen in a children’s storybook Bible. Although I have complaints about the book most children’s storybook Bibles have MANY more faults. My point of this blog is to praise a children’s Bible that I find superior to the rest, which is the book that follows.
The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook
The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook by B & H Publishing is my current favorite out of ones I have read to compare it with. This text is based off the Holman Bible translation (one of my favorite translations), but is obviously modified for a younger audience. This Bible storybook is part of the Gospel Project and is a 320 page hardcover book that is filled with vibrant full color illustrations. They are not as eye catching as the Jesus Storybook Bible, however it also includes some pretty cool features for smartphones or tablets.
You can download the” Augmented Reality app” free to your smartphone or tablet. Kids can scan the picture, icon, or QR code on the page. If they scan a photo or icon 3D imagine will pop up and a voice (Jenna Lucado) will tell you a very short version of the story. It’s pretty cool. If they scan the QR code there is a video of the story. Some of these the story is told with bag puppets dressed as Moses and the Israelites, while others are two live characters telling the story. Some are pretty cheesy but they are overall well done and I think young children will really enjoy them.
The tech stuff is pretty cool, but the best part about this Children’s Bible is the way the stories read. These stories tell the full story- not just a brief summary. They are written in a way that children can easily understand and engage. Each story is one page long. They aren’t super dramatic like the Jesus Storybook Bible is. They are simply one page versions of the stories. I do admit the font is small, but they cram a lot of text on each page. Each story ends with a “Christ Connection” part to help children see Jesus and his overall plan of salvation throughout the entire Bible. I think this is much more effective as a discussion with children, instead of the scriptish endings of Jesus Storybook Bible. There is also a “Big Picture” question and answer- kind of what you can take away from each story. There is very little censoring in the stores contained in this storybook. They do not shy away from discussing sin and judgment. They even leave stories like Barak and Deborah in there…yes the one where the girl puts a tent peg through the man’s head (ouch).
The storybook has a great selection of stories. They cram a lot of Bible into this storybook ( I have said that a few times, haven’t I?). Almost every Old Testament book has at least one story, it even includes some stories on the prophets, and it always has conversation questions that relate the story back to Jesus. In the New Testament they have epistles covered and early church history. They even define terms that might be confusing to children. They include definitions of Holy Spirit, Satan, Hell, Heaven, sin, etc…
Give the storybook a try; I think you will love it! Even if you are a huge Jesus Storybook Bible fan, if the above didn’t convince you to try The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook, maybe this will- The Jesus Storybook Bible has 46 stories; The Big Picture Bible has 146. That’s right, 100 more stories.
If you have a Storybook Bible for children that you would recommend, let me know in the comments and I’ll give it a try too, if I haven’t already.