The book begins by showing Jesus' infancy in a stable, without mentioning the miraculous way he entered the world. The author then goes on to say that his parents, Joseph and Mary, took him to Egypt to flee the wicked King Herod. When the king dies, the family moved back to Judea and as Jesus grew, he worked with his father as a carpenter. When Jesus was 12, the author says he went to Jerusalem and his "heart rejoiced when he entered the temple...Jesus knew, even then, that his life's purpose would be to work for his Father in Heaven..." The author then tells us of John the Baptist, saying:
"John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. As the two men prayed, God sent a dove down from Heaven - a sign that He was pleased."
This is definitely whitewashed; the Bible tells us that "At that moment [of Jesus' baptism] heaven was opened, and he [Jesus] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matt. 3: 16-17)
Afterward, the author says that Jesus went off to be by himself, praying "for God to show him the way to live his life." This, again, is inaccurate. Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by - and refuse - Satan (see Matt. 4:1-11).
The author then recounts how Jesus taught the people of Israel and performed miracles. The book doesn't delve into Jesus' arrest, time on the cross, or his resurrection. Instead, the last page says that:
"After Jesus' death, his followers took his teachings all around the world. And the stories he told are still known and loved and retold today in every land on Earth."
In essence, the author makes Jesus sound like another of the brothers Grimm. No where is Jesus' status as God's son mentioned, nor is his miraculous resurrection and what it means for us.
What I Like: There are some things to like in this book. For example, the author does a nice job of describing the settings (Jesus was born in Bethlehem, "a town in the rocky hills of Judea;" later, the family settles into "a small stone house in Nazareth.") The illustrations, by Jerry Smath, are warm, friendly, and realistic without being drab.
What I Dislike: The political correctness. It's pretty clear this book was designed to please those who believe Jesus was just "a good man." Lots of important information is left out, leaning toward the side of being biblically inaccurate.
Overall Rating: Poor.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 9 - 12, but toddlers and preschoolers would find this book interesting, too.
Publishing Info: Golden Books, 2002; ISBN: 0307960315 ; hard back, $2.99.