Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Story Bible

I admit it. When yet another Bible storybook comes my way, I don't get excited. There are so many picture books out there that retell famous Bible stories they all begin to look the same. However, when I opened up My Story Bible and began reading it to my children, I couldn't help but notice how interested they were. And this book, by Jan Godfrey and Paola Vertolini Grudina, does have some unique qualities.

Touted as retelling 66 favorite Bible stories, you'll find all the usual suspects here: the story of creation; Noah and the ark; Abraham, the stars, and the visitors; Isaac and Rebekah; Joseph; baby Moses, the plagues, and the parting of the sea; the ten commandments; Jericho; Gideon; Naomi and Ruth; several stories of Elijah; David's anointing, Goliath, and his "Lord is my Shepherd" song; Solomon; Jonah and the big fish; the fiery furnace; Daniel and the lions; the Christmas story; young Jesus in the temple; Jesus' baptism; the Lord's prayer; many of Jesus' parables and miracles; the story of Jesus' death and resurrection; Jesus' appearances to his friends after rising again; Jesus' accent into Heaven; Pentecost; Saul; Peter in prison; and John's vision, among other stories.

What makes this book worth more than a cursory look, however, is the charming way the stories are retold - as if a parent or grandparent were retelling the story for memory. Here's an excerpt from the story of Mary and Martha:
"Martha liked listening to Jesus too. But she was busy getting the meal ready. There was so much work to do: cleaning up, cooking and stirring, mashing and mixing, chopping and peeling, whisking and washing. Some things were bubbling and boiling when they shouldn't have been. Some things were doing anything at all when they should have been.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh DEAR! thought Martha, growing more and more worried and flustered. This meal would never be ready for Jesus!
You'll also find some things rarely discovered in books of Bible stories for children, like the wise men properly shown visiting Jesus as a toddler, not an infant, and a chapter on the prophecies about Jesus' coming. Some sections are beautifully retold in a kid-friendly manner, too:
"'Which is wiser?' asked Jesus. 'To build on a rock or to build on sand? Listen closely to this story. Make sure your life is built on the solid rock of my words, which are true and strong. They will not tumble around you when troubles come."

What I Like: This is an attractive book with illustrations that held my children's attention. The stories are short - each chapter is only two pages and most of one page is typically taken up by an illustration. I appreciate that each story is also followed by a note about where you can find it in the Bible.

What I Dislike: In one of the stories about Moses, the authors write: "Moses lifted his special wooden stick and the wind started blowing...Moses touched a rock with his special wooden stick." Not everyone may object to this, but to me this wording makes the stick sound magical, instead of acknowledging these things were done with God's help. In addition, in the story about the boy Jesus in the temple, the authors write that Jesus said "I needed to be in God's house - my Father's house - so I could learn all about him." The Bible never says that Jesus needed to learn about the Father. In the Bible, Jesus merely says, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49, NIV)

Other times in the book important points are left out, such as in the "translation" of Psalm 23. Other times, the point of the story seems lost, as in the synopsis of Revelation; we read about John's vision of a Holy City, but we have no idea when it will come or what it's really about.

Overall Rating: It's tough for me to weigh the positive and the negative in this book, but I give the book a rating of "Good."
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 - 8, but I'd say toddler to perhaps Kindergarten.
Publishing Info: Tyndale, 2009; ISBN: 978-1414326719; hardback, $12.99
Buy Now at ChristianBook.com for $10,99
OR buy at Amazon.com for $11.04

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