Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook

Studies show young children remember rhymes better than non-rhyming text, which is why so many children's book authors attempt to tell their story in rhyme. Writing rhyme is more difficult than it might appear, however, and there's really only one comprehensive rhyming Bible available, The Rhyme Bible Storybook. That is, until now.

Released this month, there's a new rhyming Bible well worth getting excited about: My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook by Crystal Bowman and Cindy Kenney.

Bowman is a rhyming picture book master and Kenney's work is strong enough she served as a Veggie Tales writer. There are no forced rhymes here, and the text flows smoothly while offering accurate, easy to understand stories from the Bible.

Bowman and Kenney's text sometimes goes between the lines of the actual Bible, too; for example, when Jesus washes Peter's feet:
"Then Jesus said to Peter,
'It's what I need to do.
Let me wash your dirty feet
so I can be with you.'
But Jesus wasn't talking
about the dirt outside.
He wants to wash away the sins
that we all try to hide."
In addition, each story begins with a short list of words children can learn. Each is followed by a pronunciation guide, which is especially helpful for names. For the story of creation, for example, the word list includes: buzzing, twinkle, special, holy, and blessed.

After each story, there is a short list of early reader words, plus a list of rhyming words. This is followed by questions for discussion. (Example: "How many days did it take God to make the world? Why do you think God rested on the seventh day? Can you think of times when it is good for you to rest?")

Finally, there are activity suggestions. Not all will work for every age group, but there are some nice ideas here. For example, after the story of Adam and Eve, the authors ask if the readers always obey the rules. They offer phrases like "I pick up my toys when my parents ask me to" and allow kids to answer "yes," "no," and "sometimes." There are also art projects, scrambled words, ideas for making "kindness coupons," and brainstorming sessions for what we can thank God for.

While the authors are careful not to get too graphic about adult topics, they don't shirk from some of the important but difficult stories in the Bible. For example, when Abraham sacrifices his son, God merely asks for Abraham to "give Isaac back," and when Cain kills Abel, the authors write: "He was so angry/he did something bad./He hurt his brother,/and his brother died."

In addition, My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook goes into greater detail about Jesus' death and resurrection than most children's storybook Bibles.

The back of the book also contains a list of Bible names (for example: "David - a shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath. p. 141"), Bible places, Bible words (like "birthright" and "leprosy"), and a scripture index for well known stories.

What I Like: Judging by the text alone, I like My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook better than other rhyming alternatives, but there are still other factors making it a strong choice. The illustrations by Christiane Engel are delightful; they are typically rich in detail and texture, and make for interesting viewing for young children. The addition of reading or vocabulary words is also useful, as are the questions and activities at the end of each story.

I also appreciate that often-glossed over sections of the Bible (like the beatitudes and "love is patient, love is kind...") are included.

Best of all, my four year old was glued to this book. We read all 367 pages in three days because she kept saying, "Please read more!"
What I Dislike: I wish the authors had included a chapter on the book of Revelation, stressing that Jesus is coming back someday.
Overall Rating: Excellent. I'm excited to share this book with other children.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher 4 to 8, but some slightly younger children will like this, too.
Publishing Info: Tyndale, 2009; ISBN: 978-1414320168; hardback, $17.99.
Buy Now at ChristianBook.com for $14.99.
Or Buy at Amazon.com for $12.23.
Special Info: Download and read the first chapter of My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook at the publisher's website. View the illustrator Chistiane Engel's portfolio (including samples from the book).

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