When I approach a storybook that seeks to teach children about Bible, I’m curious about several things. What stories and topics will the author choose to include or exclude? Will the stories be accurately told? What will the author give in the way of application (if any)? And can the stories hold the attention of a child?
The following resources are all ones that our family has used in the 10-minute devotional times we have before bed. (All 3 of these have illustrated depictions of Jesus, to warn those who find this a turn-off.)
The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible
The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, illustrated by Trish Mahoney
This story Bible contains 52 stories total — 26 from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament. The story selection includes many regular favorites — creation, the fall, David and Goliath, and many stories from the life of Jesus. It was also refreshing that Kennedy tackled some lesser-known stories — Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the disciples on the Emmaus Road, Paul’s missionary journeys, and even a story from Revelation.
Kennedy boils down each story to 4-6 pages with several simple sentences on each page, but he does an excellent job of summarizing the stories in a short amount of space. Each story has one statement worked into the narrative that appears in bold, large text — mostly truth statements about God and His character, the way God works, or His plan of redemption. The illustrations are simple and colorful and will hold the attention of small children well.
Each story has a question at the end, followed by a small paragraph that expands on the story. Many of these sections, especially the Old Testament ones, tie the story to the greater narrative arc of Scripture, the Gospel. Others expound on God’s character and a few address character traits that children can develop.
This story Bible checks a lot of important boxes for me — it is accurate, focuses on God’s character and the Gospel rather than just moralism, and keeps the attention of my 2-year-old and 3-year-old. I highly recommend it for preschoolers, but older kids could also dive deeper into the Scripture passages that are listed with each story.
The Jesus Storybook
The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago
This story Bible contains 44 stories from the Old and New Testament, and the purpose (as the title makes clear) is to show how each story points to Jesus. After the stories that introduce the concept of sin and our broken relationship with God, Lloyd-Jones begins building the anticipation for when God will put His rescue plan into motion until the climax – “He’s Here!” — with the story of Christ’s birth. The New Testament stories continue to Christ’s death — where it seems like the rescue plan has gone wrong — through His resurrection, ending with anticipation of Christ’s return because “this [story is] not over yet.”
This story Bible is quite a bit wordier than the previous one, and Lloyd-Jones definitely takes some creative license, imagining what some characters might be thinking and feeling, or paraphrasing considerably. (Quote from the David and Goliath story: “Chickens! Your God can’t save you! I’ll rip your heads off and have you on toast!”) Those who place a high value on accuracy might be bothered by some of the deviations.
The stories are fun to read out loud, though, because her style is conversational and humorous. Lloyd-Jones uses admirable skill in making sure each story fits into the bigger arc of the biblical narrative, and she makes good use of repeated words and phrases to provide continuity throughout. Jago’s illustrations are whimsical and colorful, reflecting the character of Lloyd-Jones’s writing.
Although the stories are well-told and attention-grabbing, they are somewhat lengthy, and for that reason, this story Bible is probably better for ages 4 and up when kids will understand and enjoy more of the sly asides and appreciate the thematic elements.
Everything a Child Should Know About God
Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N. Taylor, illustrated by Jenny Brake
This book isn’t a traditional Bible storybook — instead of going through a narrative, it takes biblical topics that you might find in a systematic theology and brings them down to a child’s level. Each addresses a topic, such as “God Is Holy,” in a short paragraph of text, with an illustration on the facing page. Bible passages are included for further study, along with a comprehension question to ask the child. The topics are organized into thematic sections such as “Who God Is” (with various attributes of God), “The Holy Spirit Helps Us” (the work of the Holy Spirit), and “Why We Go to Church” (explaining some of the ordinances children might see in church).
The advantage of a book like this is that it covers topics that might not naturally come up in a Bible read-through. The information is accurate and given in very simple terms, but parents should definitely pre-read to make sure they agree with everything being presented. My husband and I chose to skip one section which asked a leading question about praying to ask Jesus to be your Savior, simply because we felt our oldest might feel pressured to do it to please Mom and Dad rather than from genuine understanding and belief.
I would recommend this for families who have been through a Bible storybook already and want to make additional connections. Although the sentences are very simple, some of the concepts will be difficult for children to grasp, so previous knowledge will be helpful.