Roberta Simpson, a seventy-plus-year-old grandma, frequently told her children and grandchildren stories from the Bible. Then one day Simpson (who'd never attempted to write professionally before) felt the Lord nudging her to put the stories on paper and seek a publisher. The result is Nana's Bible Stories, in which Simpson offers a new twist on familiar Bible stories.
Each of the seven Bible stories included in this book (David and Goliath, the healing of a leper, Balaam and his donkey, the healing of a blind child, Jesus feeding a large crowd, the lost lamb, and the story of the cross) begins with a short narrative, as if Nana is telling a story. The Bible tale is then usually told from a child's perspective, adding fictional elements to help convey the story in a kid-friendly and fresh way. At the end of each story (and sometimes in the middle), Nana stops to make a comment and ask readers a few questions. Biblical references are also given.
Most of the stories don't vary far from the biblical account. For example, the story of David and Goliath is told from Aaron's (David's friend, according to Nana) point of view. Aaron brings food to the soldiers, and witnesses the story from the sidelines. Before telling the tale, Nana writes:
"Can you imagine coming face-to-face with a giant? It would probably be more like 'face-to-waist' since the giant would be at least twice your height! And just imagine how big his hands and feet would be!Later, she asks how David might have felt after defeating Goliath.
I have never seen a giant, but I know a true story about a giant who lived thousands of years ago. He was mean and horrible, and everyone was very afraid of him - everyone but a boy named David."
"Do you believe God will help us fight our battles no matter what they are? David had faith. What is faith? Faith is trusting God completely. Even if our faith is very small, each time we use it, it grows even bigger! You can be a mighty person like David. Just put your faith in God and live to please him!"
The story that varies most from the Bible (while still remaining true) is the story of the cross. This is told from the perspective of a butterfly who, saddened, tries to fly away - but gets caught on a splinter of the wooden cross. Then a single drop of blood from Jesus' hand falls on her and she's able to slip free. The butterfly rushes home and tells her friends that Jesus' blood freed her. "Look at you," they say. "You're different!" The story ends with Nana asking readers if we've allowed Jesus' blood to set us free, too. Simpson ends by telling us all we need to do to be free and live forever in heaven is give Jesus our heart and ask him to forgive our sins.
What I Like: This is a new and homey twist on Bible storybooks. Nana is likeable and gives parents lots of ideas on how to talk to their children about the Bible. Simpson does a great job of making the stories interesting to young people, telling most from either a child's or an animal's viewpoint. She also does a great job of explaining such things as faith and salvation in a way young children can understand. Although a different illustrator might have done a better job showing action in the illustrations, the pictures by Susan Mitchell are nonetheless extremely attractive, realistic, and fresh.
What I Dislike: One or two of the stories are on the long side, and while they are broken up with Nana's questions, younger children may loose interest before the story is completed.
Overall Rating: Very good.
Age Appeal: 4 - 8
Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2007; ISBN: 1400310709; hardback with CD; $16.99
Special Info: Author Roberta Simpson is well connected. This book includes a short introduction by the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, and a CD with actress Jane Seymour narrating the book. Visit the author's website for lots of free goodies, including downloads of a few stories (narrated by Jane Seymour and Sheila Walsh), coloring pages, excerpts from the book, and more. Also, some parents may object to the depictions of Jesus in this book.