Thursday, 22 November 2007

2 more preschoolers' Christmas presents? Well, one.

Read-Aloud Bible stories vol. 1 by Ella K. Lindvall; Illustrated by H. Kent Puckett.
The Nativity Play. by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen

I'm only going to recommend one of these.

These are two books for preschoolers, and they’re both pretty good in the sense that pre-schoolers will love them and they are readily available. I got mine at Moore Books in Newtown, but they should be easy to get in other places or, failing that, online.

You’re not looking for complexity when you pick up a book for a preschooler, and on the patented Cheng ‘non-complexity’ scale, both books are doing well. If you or your kids love the TV show or book Kipper the Dog, you and they will love The Nativity Play by the same creators (Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen) . Although at nearly $AUD16 where I bought mine you would want to love them quite a lot, as there are plenty of high quality secular pre-school books available for cheaper.

This one is the story of a kids’ Christmas play and is a lot of fun. I enjoyed the little kid dressed up with the donkey’s head, and the bit where they nearly lost the shepherd with the key line to a toilet break. And what was that key line? “The Saviour of the World is born.” That’s pretty good, really, and if I was giving a present to a family where eyebrows might be raised over the giving of a childrens’ Bible story, I would consider this as a fun and acceptable alternative.

The other book, Read-Aloud Bible Stories Vol 1. caused me more problems, although the problems won’t bother the kids at all. At least not until they reach adulthood and they start to reflect on their childhood and wonder why their Bible reading skills are so dodgy.

In fact, based on my own experience of several years of reading to little kids, this one is a winner from a storytelling point of view and you can see why it is still in print after so many years. Here’s a sample:

Too-little Zaccheus started to run.

(Go, Zaccheus. Go fast.)

He came to the tree.

(Climb, Zaccheus. Climb fast.)

Now Zaccheus was up high.

He could see the daddies coming.

And the mommies.

And the grandpas.

And the grandmas.

And the uncles.

And the aunts.

And the boys.

And the girls.

And the friends.


(well, you’ll have to turn the page, won’t you)

This is good stuff for parents who want to keep the attention of one or more restless children. Short, part of a series, and plenty of interactivity. The pictures are big, bold and simple. I don’t like them, but there’s no reason kids wouldn’t enjoy them.


My main difficulty with this and, often, so many other Bible stories and story books that I pick up, is that apart from the fact that they’ve been taken from the Bible, both the stories but especially the way they are applied are almost incidental to the gospel message. God cares for you and knows you by name, that’s true. But to use the Zaccheus story of Luke 19:1-10 to establish such a point (as this read-aloud book does), is dodgy indeed. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” is what this incident is really about (Luke 19:10), but in the version here Zaccheus is not so much lost as short, or should I say TOO LITTLE (the story does). There is no indication at all, in this retelling, that he was a corrupt and sinful man who, in the face of grace, exemplifies repentance. That’s not good.

It’s not the only slip-up either. It’s true that God hears us, but this is not the main point of the Bartimaeus story, which is to contrast the faith of a blind man with the unbelief of those who shoud’ve seen who Jesus was, but didn’t. Jesus does welcome little children, yes, and he welcomes you—but the reason the story is there in Mark 10 is to teach other people that their understanding of the kingdom of God is wrong, and that they must become like little children in order to receive it. (see Mark 10:15).

Some of the stories are better, but in a volume where 3 of the 5 stories either miss the point, obscure it or get it wrong, why would you buy volume 2?


Lisa said...

I'm finding your reviews really helpful as I'm getting a reading list together for my church and wanted to include some children's books.

Melissa said...

Thanks, Gordon, for this critical review of the Read Aloud Bible Stories. I'll make sure I don't read the last page of each story!

I nearly ordered the set before I read your review, but you are entirely correct. It makes a great children's story book, but misses the gospel point. What a shame! Why are all the published Bible stories for toddlers so dodgy?