Friday, 9 November 2007

The Jesus Storybook Bible

After my previous post suggested that most children’s Bibles don’t give you the big Bible picture, I was really happy to pick up another children’s Bible that proved me wrong. To be honest I haven’t been this excited about a book in ages, and I wasn’t expecting to be either, given my random flips through children’s Bibles over the years.

I’m going to go on about this for a bit, so if you don’t like reading long blog entries in multiple parts, then stop now and just get yourself in to Moore Books in King St Newtown having first phoned ahead to make sure that they still have this one in stock.

Or jump onto the net and order more than one. Order more, so that you will have them in time for Christmas, to give to your own children and the children of your friends. Since it only came out this year it is unlikely that they will have their own—but don’t worry, if they do then there will be plenty of grateful parents you can give this away to.

Let’s start at the beginning, which is the cover. It’s a small hardback, nearly square, and it looks like a better quality children’s storybook. The artwork by Jago is quite lovely, and is like the simple artwork that is used in some of my favourite recent fairy story books, or perhaps the work of Pauline Baynes (if you have the opportunity, check her work on Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham or Adventures of Tom Bombadil). The illustration for Goliath in the David story is a hoot. The waves in the storm before Jesus speaks words of calm are shaped like the stylised waves depicted in traditional Oriental art. The Pharisees and Sadducees—boo and hiss—look like they stepped out of the Spanish inquisition, with their Pythonesque blood-red robes and hoods. Fire, water, sky, stars and the green, green grass are textured and the colours are suitably primary where they need to be.

But all this would be worth nothing if the words themselves weren’t up to par. Sally Lloyd-Jones is a natural story-teller, and as well as carrying you along, these stories are funny, friendly, sad, scary, joyful and playful. This from the crossing of the Red Sea:

What were God’s people going to do? In front of them was a big sea. It was so big there was no way around it. But there was no way through it—it was too deep. They didn’t have any boats so they couldn’t sail across. And they couldn’t swim across because it was too far and they would drown. And they couldn’t turn back because Pharaoh was chasing them. They could see the flashing swords now, glinting in the baking sun, and the dust clouds, and chariot after scary chariot surging towards them. So they did the only thing there was left to do—PANIC!

This is better than the kids' Bibles I remember from when I was little.

Next post, I'll get onto theology.


Jago said...

Hello, I'm Jago, illustrator of the Jesus Storybook Bible, just thought I'd pop in and say thanks for giving my illustrations such a nice review!
Glad you enjoyed the book.

Sally Lloyd-Jones said...

thank you so much Gordon for helping get the book into children's (and their parents!) hands
I am honored to be part of getting the gospel across to little children
: }

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon,
Thanks for reviewing this. I'm reading it with my children at the moment too. I agree the illustrations are fantastic, and SLJ is a great story teller.
Unlike lots of childrens 'Bibles' this one has great theology, and communicates well the message of the Bible as a whole. Since the theology is so good, the stories also often apply themselves to our lives along the way. The intro is one of the best I've seen - great for children, and the parents who are reading it to them! My children are loving it, and never want me to stop after just one story.

I must admit though, at times I feel a little uncomfortable reading speech in quotation marks as though they are the actual words of a character when they are more an explanation of those words. Eg the serpent whispers "Just trust me, you don't need God. One small taste, that's all, and you'll be happier than you could ever dream..." This is a great explanation, but not the serpents actual words. The fact that my children often seem to remember what I read word for word, makes me feel a little uncomfortable about using words other than those in the Bible.
Theologically, this book is probably the best 'retelling' of Bible stories I've seen, so I'm sure Sally's grappled with this issue. Perhaps I should post this question on her website, but since you've reviewed it, I thought I'd ask for your thoughts - do you ever struggle with this question?