Great Stories of the Bible is a collection of six books in one from the Zonderkiz® Adventure Bible series with an “I Can Read!” level of 2 (reading with help). The stories include:
(There is no table of contents in the book, so I’ve included page numbers below. One may want to write them down on the first page for easy flipping.)
God’s Great Creation (pp.2–33)
Facing the Blazing Furnace (pp.34–65)
Ruth and Naomi (pp.66–97)
Miracles of Jesus (pp.98–129)
A Father’s Love (pp.130–161)
The Good Samaritan (pp.162–192)
Each story is greatly simplified for children and ends with a page that includes some or all of the following: a verse, character profile(s), and a few sentences about the story or another verse. I’m certainly not opposed to paraphrasing, simplifying, and taking a bit of artist liberty in retelling Bible stories, but just with adults (i.e., Eugene Peterson’s popular translation The Message) there’s bound to be some potentially harmful storytelling. Consider the following example from The Good Samaritan: “After a long time, a third person passed by. This person was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The Samaritan saw the man lying in the dirt. He knew that the hurt man needed help. He forgot that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other” (182–183). I’m sure there are those who will disagree, but I think kids pick up on subtle messages like “the Samaritan only helped the Jew because he forgot they didn’t get along,” meaning it would have been okay to ignore or be mean to him if he had remembered. The point of the story is that the Samaritan helped despite his cultural stigma. Perhaps I’m not indicative of your typical American kid, but I would have definitely run with a poor understanding of that parable if I had read this.
We need to be careful how we teach these stories to small children because they stick with them. I remember talking to a friend years ago—both of us missionaries and well educated—who still had flannel-graph (remember that?!) info and stories stuck in his head that didn’t jive with Scripture because it was engrained at an early and impressionable age. Some may say, “But isn’t reading Bible stories helpful and better than other books?” Well, I don’t think that’s a “yes or no” question when it comes to books like these, but if one is going to read these books with a child I recommend reading an actual Bible (not another paraphrase like The Message) and take the time to explain Scripture in a way the child can understand. Am I giving little kids too much credit? I don’t think so, though I obviously can’t speak for everyone’s children.
As for the bulk of the book, the illustrations by David Miles are still a little too clean-cut and Caucasian for my liking, especially in an age where we’re becoming much more culturally sensitive and aware of those in Scripture. Kids, however, will probably like the chalky pastel drawings.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”