Monday, October 28, 2013

A lightweight New Testament sparks heavy questions

Stephen and his peers received this easy reader paperback version of the Gospels and Acts after "graduating" from one class to the next at our church, Restoration House Family Worship Center. We've read 2-4 stories from the book every night for the last couple of weeks.

Oddly, I couldn't find the exact title on Amazon, though another Read and Share Early Reader Bible Stories by Gwen Ellis appears to be a slightly longer version of the one we have. Published by Tommy Nelson, our version contains 45 illustrated two-page stories centering on Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples and Paul. While many popular children's Bibles, including the Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-James, point to Jesus through the entire scriptures, I liked having a slim volume devoted to a plain telling of the life of Jesus. (I do highly recommend the Big Picture Story Bible. Both boys have enjoyed it. I also have some close friends who love the Jesus Storybook Bible.)

My 5-year-old, Stephen, is extremely inquisitive. This, unfortunately, means that he likes to ask questions about every other sentence whenever we read. For this reason, I really liked the brevity and simplicity of the Read and Share. Ellis doesn't embellish or insert opinions or interpretation into the stories, which I found could at times make the Jesus Storybook Bible a little cumbersome to read aloud.  This leaves room for me to add in my own asides and for Stephen to ask questions without losing continuity. A few longer stories- such as Jesus' parable of the prodigal son- were broken up into multiple parts. Each story ends with a brief explanation or question. Stephen always understood and answered the questions immediately, which is a big deal in my mind because he doesn't always exhibit such focus.

The illustrations, as you can see from my photos, are cartoon-like, but nicely expressive. I'm amused by the Sesame Street noses. The selection of stories, which cover Jesus' birth, John the Baptist's ministry, Jesus' life, death and resurrection and a little of the nascent church, is pretty good too. If I were running the show, I would have cut the story about the fish with the coin in its mouth and included Mary's magnificat -- something that is absent from every children's bible we own-- I dunno, do authors think it too Catholicky to include? I might also include the Mary who poured out the costly ointment rather than Jesus riding into town on the borrowed donkey. Those are just my personal preferences though.

While we're thinking wishfully, would someone write a similar volume to continue on with the rest of Acts and the Epistles? I want to teach my children about Priscilla and Aquila, about those naughty Corinthians and how Peter grew from the overconfident disciple to a mature church father.

But, bottom line? I like this little book, and Stephen has as well. As someone who chronically starts without finishing, I found this a great tool to see something through to the end. It has provoked Stephen to wonder why Jesus didn't want to Peter to retaliate and why God didn't give the angry mob a big spanking. These questions have opened the door to his heart to listen as I introduce him to the sacrificial love of his Savior, and any book that does that is worth a hearty recommendation.

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