This post is the conclusion to our two-part piece reviewing Toddler and Preschool Bibles. If you missed Part 1, you can catch up here.
If you did read Part 1, you've already read my introduction, so I'll move right into the reviews.
As seems to be the habit among contemporary storybook Bible authors, this book is a companion to an adult version, entitled Jesus Calling. Oddly enough, I don't care for the adult version at all, but this storybook Bible is now in my top 3.
The selections in this compilation are designed to all point to the Salvation message. The last paragraph of many of the stories gives context on how this story relates to Jesus, whether it's a foreshadowing, a prophecy, a genealogical connection, or an example of how that person lived the way Christ calls us to.
Each story identifies the passage in original scripture from which it is taken, making it easy for a parent to read the full text in tandem with the story. The stories are your typical storybook selection and there was nothing I was surprised to see in it. It's told in traditional story format, but without making it seem as though what is being told is fiction. The conclusion of each story includes a Bible verse that speaks to the heart of the message of the story.
For example, the story of the Israelites and the golden calf is accompanied by a verse about God's forgiveness. Following the Bible verse is a summary of the connection the author wants the child to draw to salvation, and written as though God is speaking it, which is always something I want to be extra careful with.
Similar to The Story, this version is a great version to bridge the gap between a non-reader and the early reader age. The stories are a little more detailed than the one paragraph summaries in other versions, but not so long as to test an attention span or be too complicated to understand. This is a strong contender for favorite for preschool or early elementary.
Similar to Jesus Calling, the Jesus Storybook Bible is a collection of stories designed to point children to Jesus. It too has beautiful illustrations. It retells a Bible story and then is explicit in stating how it relates to the salvation message and God's work in that person's life.
My issue with this version is that, in an attempt to relate to the children, the author takes some liberties in embellishing the stories, and those details aren't always accurate. For example, in the story of Leah and Rachel, the author writes, “Rachel was the kind of girl who always gets invited to parties and chosen for the team” when the reality is that as a young Jewish girl, she would not have been at any parties or playing any sports. The text goes on to describe Jacob looking at the two sisters side by side and choosing the prettier one, when what scripture says it that Jacob chose Rachel because he loved her.
These embellishments aren't dangerous, but they're unnecessary. The Word of God does not need embellishment to improve it. I also think that it is a little too whimsical and loses some of the reverence Scripture deserves. Its New Testament is limited to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the conversion of Paul, and John's dream that is relayed to us in the book of Revelation. This book is not a bad addition to your library and children will learn from it, but if you're looking to purchase something new, Jesus Calling accomplishes the same goals more effectively.
The Big Picture Story Bible follows the same vein as the previous two in this review in that it attempts to knit the selected stories together toward one global narrative, rather than being just a random assortment of stories. Each story is told with the tone, “God did this because _______.” There is great continuity in the story telling, helping children grasp the “big picture.”
The illustrations are captivating and my son loves looking at them. The larger format of this book makes it a great choice for reading in a group. The language is far more simplistic than the previous two, making this a great choice for younger children and for early readers.
The simplicity also means it is not fraught with the speculation and embellishment so rampant in other versions. The New Testament after Pentecost is a little rushed, cramming everything after it into just a couple of chapters, but again, this version is about the big picture, not the details.
I would not rely on this as my only children's Bible because I think the details are important too, but as a tool for helping a child understand the purpose of the Bible and God's great love, this is excellent. I rank this as our #3 favorite for the whole of early childhood.
I really wanted to dislike this one because it seems so cliche. It's easy to find in mass market, it's been around for decades, and it is very little kid-ish. I really don't care for the cartoony illustrations. But my son loves this one. This, above all of the others, is the one he chooses.
When I looked it over before buying it, I was impressed. The stories are retellings and paraphrases, but they're not embellished. When it tells of a person speaking, it tries to use as close to real scripture as possible, rather than interpreting it and filling it full of suppositions.
For example, it quotes Mary as saying, “I love God. I will do what he has chosen me to do.” It's simple and to the point. There's no fluffy speculation about what she might have been thinking and/or how she felt, or what she might have done in response. I really appreciate that kind of faithfulness to the original text.
It's a little more robust in its story selection than the Jesus narrative Bibles and it spends a little more time on the New Testament, which I also appreciate. Like the others, it gives you corresponding text in the full Bible so that you can partner it.
Older children might find it too simple for their taste, but the simplicity also means it's great for early readers. A dictionary of Bible terms in the back is a nice touch for those children who can read it for themselves.
There's a reason this one has been a bestseller since my childhood. And it tops my top 3 in terms of effectiveness with my son. This one is a good choice for toddlers and early-mid preschool age.
Because all of these books are paraphrases and storybooks, and not actual Bibles, they all have their flaws. None will be perfect, and none should replace reading the actual Word of God with your child. They're also not necessary, if you prefer to read only from the whole Bible.
In our home, they're a tool to help our son understand what he's hearing when we read from our Bibles. The Word of God is living and active, and will speak to our children's hearts if we give them the opportunity to hear it. These storybooks are tools to help him take some ownership of spending time with God and His word before he knows how to read. They help him visually as he tries to develop a chronology of the Bible. But they're just tools.
We also make sure he understands that there is only one Word of God, and that all these different books just use different pictures and ways of explaining to help kids understand. Selecting the right Children's Bible(s) can be a great resource for developing a love for the Word.
Factors to Consider
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a Children's Bible:
- Does it treat the original Word of God with respect?
- Is it a faithful paraphrase, retelling, or representation of actual scripture?
- Does it include actual scripture?
- If it includes actual scripture, does it use a sound translation?
- Does it embellish the Word of God?
- Does it cover a broad range of scripture? If it is singularly-focused, is that focus sound?
- Is it age-appropriate for the child(ren) in your home?
- Does it captivate your child(ren)'s interest?
- Does it maintain your child(ren)'s excitement about being in God's Word?
- Does it help you in teaching from the Bible?
These are just suggested guidelines. Pray about your decision and God will help you know how to best instruct your child(ren) in His Word.
Is your favorite on the list above? Why is it your favorite? Did I leave your favorite off? Tell us about it in the comments!