Friday, January 23, 2015

Review of "Bible Favorites: One Sentence Storybooks"

It's not easy finding bible stories balancing simplicity and meaning for very young readers. These days, I typically focus on materials for my 6-year-old because I assume I'll be able to use them later when my 3-year-old and 1-year-old get older. This new set from Tyndale Kids and Focus on the Family targets preschoolers aged 3-5. Combining early literacy and familiar Bible stories, the Bible Favorites: One Sentence Storybooks collection by Nancy I. Sanders and illustrated by Hannah Wood features 10 booklets in a box with a Velcro closure. I was surprised by the diminutive size of the books-- at 5.75 inches by 4.75 inches, the set is just a little fatter than some people's smartphones. Each of the books are just 12 pages long, and really do consist of a single sentence, revealed a few words at a time to present one simple concept from each story. The first five books cover Old Testament stories, including the creation narrative in Genesis, Noah's Ark, Moses and the burning bush, David and Goliath, and Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. The last five cover New Testament passages, including the Wise Men, Jesus walking on water, the Good Shepherd, the Prodigal Son and Jesus' resurrection. 

I love the soft, almost luminous paintings and find that my boys are drawn to this style of illustration too. The simplicity is also attractive, and I read all 10 books to 3-year-old Rockam in one sitting this morning. He enjoyed the suspense of the steadily building narrative and the growing detail in each picture. For example, my favorite of the set, "The Sad Son," builds this way:

1. The sad son
2. The sad son came back home
3. The sad son came back home to his dad
4. The sad son came back home to his dad for a hug.

I thought this rendition of the Prodigal Son was so sweet and included just the right amount of detail for my wiggly, fun-loving preschooler.

An older or more mature child would probably enjoy the last pages of each book, which recap the key vocabulary, give some spiritual significance to the story and provide a memory verse and a prayer. Rocky wasn't too interested in these elements, so I skipped some of them. I also noticed that while the stories are ultra simple, some of the devotional content was more than a couple logical leaps removed from the narrative. For example, in "Two Mice and the Ark," the story begins and ends with three pairs of animals boarding the ark. The devotional segment "One Truth to Learn" reads: "Sin is anything bad someone thinks, says, or does. God sent a flood to get rid of sin on the earth. But He used an ark to save Noah, his family, and the animals." I would need to recount much more of the story to help my son understand the connection between mice on an ark and God getting rid of sin with a flood. The memory verse and prayer take another turn, focusing on God's forgiveness and salvation.  I felt that the devotional's more advanced concepts seemed imbalanced with the playful simplicity of the story. But I also think the format allows parents to use or skip as much of the content as they deem helpful. As I mentioned in my previous post, it never hurts to read children's devotional books beforehand so you can make the most of the moment when you read them with your kiddos.

Overall, I think this is a good addition to my small collection of bible materials for the littlest readers. My son's spirituality is still in its nascent stage, and I count the One Sentence Stories to be a fun and adaptable way to plant some seeds in the soft soil of his heart.

*Thanks to Tyndale Kids for sending me a copy of these books in exchange for my honest review!*

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