Friday, October 1, 2010

The Bible for Young Children

For a speed through of the Bible, The Bible for Young Children is an attractive option. Offering a quick, simple overview of the Bible, this book by Marie-Helene Delval begins with a simplified version of creation. God creates light, the sky, moon, stars, plants, birds, and animals. Then, skipping over the creation of humans, Delval writes: "God gave the earth to men and women and their children so they could love there and make it even more beautiful!"

This story easily segues in the story of Noah: "But then people became mean, so mean that God was sorry that he had given them the world." But the story of Noah doesn't flow so smoothly into the next story: Abraham and Sarah. In fact, there is no transition at all between the two stories. Noah's story ends. Turn the page. Abraham's story begins. There is no break of any kind.

The rest of the book proceeds in this manner, running one famous Bible story into the next, mostly without transition. We learn about Jacob and the "ladder of light," baby Moses, Moses and the burning bush, God parting the sea, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, Samuel, the anointing of David, David and Goliath, King Solomon asking for wisdom and building God's temple, Jonah, Daniel and the lions, Isaiah predicting Jesus' birth, Jesus' birth (at it's very simplest: "This great king came - the Son of God! He was a baby, born in a stable. Mary was his mother, and he was called Jesus."), a brief explanation of Jesus choosing his disciples, the parable of the lost sheep, a brief explanation that Jesus healed people, a brief explanation that some people loved Jesus and called him the Son of God but others wanted to kill him, and a brief explanation of Jesus' death and resurrection. The book ends:
"Jesus is alive forever! Jesus is the light that is stronger than the darkness!"

What I Like: I have never read a more fast-faced overview of the Bible for young children. Delval covers the basics, giving kids an almost instant idea of what is in the Bible. (Although not necessarily what the Bible is about; more on that in a moment.) The illustrations by Gotting are a bit dark in color at times, but they are refreshing, impressionistic, and less "dumbed down" than what's offered in many children's Bibles.

What I Dislike: I wish there were better transitions throughout the book. If the author could not transition via words, some sort of visual break would have been helpful. I also wish more emphasis was put on Jesus, even in the Old Testament stories. I'm also not thrilled with the portrayal of Jesus - it leaves out the most important part of the Gospel. According to Delval, Jesus' message was simply: ""Listen to the good news! God loves you all! You are his dear children!"

I also find it odd that the author mentions the Ten Commandments a couple of times, but never tells us what they are. (The accompanying illustrations show the Commandments in Hebrew, not English.) Also, there are times when the text is borderline inaccurate. For example, Delval says the Hebrews had to "work like slaves" for the Egyptians. In fact, they worked exactly like slaves because they were slaves. In another example, when writing about the resurrection, the author says Jesus rose "in the morning." This makes it sound like he wasn't dead for three days.
Overall Rating: Despite the downsides to this book, I rather like the "speed through" aspect of it, and think it makes an interesting introduction to the Bible. On this basis, I give it a rating of Good.

Age Appeal: 4 - 8.

Publishing Info: Eerdmans, 2010; ISBN: 978-0802853837; hardback, 96 pgs., $16.50

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Special Info: See our reviews of other books by this author.

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