One of the small, daily joys of Christian parents is to present the gospel to their children in storytelling. It is a precious ritual of word and deed, since storytelling to children often has active, multisensory components. The words on the page, the images that surround them, the nearness of the bodies of the reader and the children, and the cues of light at various times in the day all make for a profound experience. With this in mind, choosing quality Bible stories is a fitting task for parents to take on, so that there is harmony between what children experience at home and at church as they are being built into the image of Jesus Christ.
|Candle Bible for Kids
By Juliet David.
Illustrated by Jo Parry.
Candle Books. Pp. 42. $9.99
Candle Day by Day Bible
The Lion Bible to Keep For Ever
Given all of this formative richness, it is regrettable that some publishers take unnecessary liberties when developing the texts of their children’s Bibles. Take, for example, the Candle Bible for Kids: Board Book, which leaves out key Christian concepts or soft-pedals them. There is no mention of the Fall, it is unclear why the Flood comes, and Mary is given a “special baby” with no mention of his being God’s Son. Most egregious of all is its handling of the Passion. Immediately after the Triumphal Entry, it moves abruptly: “But bad men left Jesus to die on a wooden cross.” It is as if the editors believe that children can only handle a nice/mean dichotomy or that children have never worshiped in a space with a crucifix or window depicting the fullness of the faith.
The Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition continues in this vein. It adds a number of stories typical to a children’s Bible (Jericho, Elijah and the ravens, and Jonah) and some that are atypical (the calling of Matthew). Yet one of the central lessons of the Jonah story is left out. Jonah is merely “running away.” There is no mention of Ninevah, repentance, or God’s mercy. Once again, Jesus is not presented as God’s Son at the Annunciation. One can only infer that basic identity in the Ascension story. Children are capable of robust Christology. It is a shame to see Jesus primarily presented as a nice guy.
Elementary-age children are the target audience for the Candle Day by Day Bible. It offers 365 readings that are simple retellings of Bible stories. A sidebar on each page gives a short Bible verse or discussion question. There is a better sense of basic Christian faith, but it is presented unevenly. Some stories are included that do not typically make it into children’s Bibles, like Hagar and Ishmael, David and Mephibosheth, or Peter and Cornelius. But this is muted by bizarre liberties taken with the text, like Adam and Eve naming the animals together, Jesus only imagining the Temptations in the Desert, or Mary having no role in the Wedding at Cana. Once again, there is almost no mention of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, though it does appear in one of the sidebar comments (“The Son of God was born in a borrowed stable”) and in the Centurion’s identification at the Cross. The lack of even a single story from Revelation gives this 365-day book an incomplete feeling.
Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me is an improvement compared to the Candle Bible series. The Jonah story is handled more completely. It includes the traditional wording of the Our Father. The Parable of the Sower is a welcome inclusion. Also, the Prodigal Son actually shows contrition in this retelling. A short poem-prayer appears after each story. Short and rhyming, each prayer reinforces the story and presents opportunities for applying the story’s lesson. Sadly, both Creation and Christology are short-changed. There is no mention of the Fall and Jesus is not presented explicitly as God’s Son, which spoils an otherwise worthy book.
The Lion Bible to Keep For Ever is the best of the lot. It starts off strong with a poetic retelling of Genesis that captures the parallelism of the days of creation. This signals the book’s better grasp of both the spirit and the letter of the Scriptures. The Noah story includes one detail that children’s Bibles typically leave out: seven pairs were kept of certain animal species (a welcome departure from the typically cartoonish two-by-two approach). The Hebrew midwives in Exodus are singled out for their valor. The prophet Amos has a story dedicated to him. The Annunciation is fully told. The book is visually rich, with two-page images periodically spaced throughout and smaller illustrations on single pages. It does not end with Revelation, but it reaches Paul’s teaching that just as Jesus has been raised we will be raised and that one day Jesus will return.
Jesus asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” According to several of these books, he will find Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Children can do better if parents are diligent in their vocation.
Jon and Hollie Adamson