Friday, July 23, 2010

Toddler Bible Story Books

I mentioned that Smiley is now remembering stories better, so is time to introduce him to Bible stories, and we bought six "children's Bibles".  There are collections of various short Biblical stories with pictures.

I also mentioned that Smiley's favorite Biblical story is David and Goliath.  So in my reviews of each book I'll cite that story as an example of the text.

Note that none of the books have historically accurate illustrations.  For example, historians know the clothes worn in first-century Israel, but all these books instead use the imagined styles of clothing that Hollywood has popularized.

First, The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers, with text by Linda Sattgast and illustrations by Toni Goffe.

This book was a pleasant surprise.  Smiley does not care about rhyming text, but as the parent the rhymes do make the book much nicer to read a zillion times.  I also appreciate how the rhymes change format with each story.

However, the rhyming text has two shortcomings.  The first is that I want to change the text sometimes, to emphasize different parts of the actual Biblical story, and improvising rhymes is harder.  But I can always use another children's Bible for those reading times.  Second, a minor personal gripe.  The shorter formats sound quite Dr. Seuss-y, which seems odd for Biblical stories.  (We fish and fish / And wish and wish. / How we wish / We'd catch some fish!)

The pictures are better than average.  Personally, it seems to me that the illustrator's version of Jesus seems a bit scary, but Smiley does not seem to agree.  All the pictures involve a minimal number of characters (for example, it appears that six people brought down the walls of Jericho).

Here's "The Giant Story".  As typical, this text picks a couple important points to retain in its summary (David's trust and Goliath's arrogance) and avoids inserting anything artificial.
Goliath was a giant, / A great BIG giant! / He stood as tall as a tree.
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" / Goliath would laugh, / "Everyone's afraid of me!"
Goliath had a spear, / A long, sharp spear. / He carried a shield and a sword.
David was a boy, / A very young boy, / Who said, "I will trust in the Lord!"
David had a sling / And five smooth stones. / The sling went around and around.
Whizz! went the stone / As it flew through the air, / And the giant came tumbling down!
Next, The Early Reader's Bible, with text V. Gilbert Beers and illustrations by Terri Steiger.

The two books by Gil are my least favorite.  In too many stories his text leaves out key points.  For example, the plagues in Egypt are simply given as "But the king did not obey God.  So God hurt the king and he hurt the king's people.  The king was afraid."

The illustrations are very nice.  Like those of the first book, they are simple and cute, with a less angular style and depicting actual crowds when appropriate.

The most distinctive feature in this book is the inclusion of several application questions after each story.

Here's "The Giant Story".  Gil includes some details that other authors omit.  He also seems to waffle: is it age-appropriate to mention killing? is the main point David's trust in God or courage?  Rewriting the last two sentences would help greatly.
"Come and fight me," Goliath called.
But not one of God's people would fight him. / They were afraid of Goliath.
A boy named David said, / "I am not afraid.  I will fight Goliath."
"How can you?" asked the king. / "You are not as big as he is."
"God will help me" said David. / So David went to fight Goliath.
He too his sling. / And he took five stones.
The big man ran at David. / He wanted to kill David.
The people with Goliath wanted / to kill God's people too.
David talked to God. / "Help me, God," he asked.
Then David put a stone in his sling.  Away went the stone.
Down went the big man!
The people with Goliath were afraid.  They ran away.
"David is brave," said the king.
David WAS brave. / But he knew that God had helped him.
Third, The Toddler's Bible, with text by V. Gilbert Beers and illustrations by Carole Boerke.

The illustrations are darling.  Not as angular as the first book or round as the second, although sharing the first book's depiction of a minimal number of people.

But Gil's text deteriorates, leaving out even more significant points, inserting inaccuracies, and often becoming preachy with a sentence about why something happened instead of what happened.  David and Goliath is a typical example:
Look at that giant!  His name is Goliath.  He wants to fight David.
How can David win?  He has only a slingshot.  Goliath has a big spear.
But David asked God to help him.  Goliath did not ask God to help.
That's why David won.
Why, Gil?  Since it's a toddler book instead of an early reader's book then there is less need to dumb down the text.  The parent will be doing the reading!  Sigh.

Fourth, The Beginner's Bible, with text by Karyn Henley and illustrations by Dennas Davis.

This is my favorite text.  I just wish I liked this illustrator's style as much as the previous one's.

Here's "The Giant Story".  Notice how many significant details are retained in this version.
The enemies of God's people came out to fight. / They sent their best fighter out first.
His name was Goliath. / He was over nine feet tall.
He called to the army of Saul, / "Choose a man to come and fight me.
If he wins, we will be your servants. / But if I win, you will be our servants!"
The men in Saul's army were afraid.
They knew that Goliath was stronger than they were. / No one wanted to fight him.
Now David's brothers were in Saul's army. / But David was at home keeping the sheep.
One day, David's father called him. / "Take this bread to your brothers," he said.
So David got to go to his brothers. / He got to see the army.
He also got to see Goliath. / And he saw how everyone was afraid of him.
"I will fight Goliath," said David.
But Saul said, "You are only a boy. / How can you fight Goliath?"
"God will help me," said David.
So Saul gave David his armor and helmet. / He gave him a sword.
David tried them on. / But they were too heavy.
David gave them back to Saul. / "I am not used to these," he said.
Instead, David chose five smooth stones from a stream.
He took his sling in his hand.
David called to Goliath, "You come with a sword and a spear.
But I come to you in the name of God. / This battle is the Lord's."
The giant came closer to fight David. / But David put a stone in his sling.
He threw the stone at Goliath.
The stone hit Goliath right in his forehead. / And Goliath fell down.
David trusted God. / God helped David win. / All the people were glad.
Fifth, The Beginner's Bible for Toddlers, text by Mission City Press Inc. and illustrations by Kelly Pulley.

Despite the title and same publisher, this book has nothing in common with the previous one.  It is designed to be portable.  It is small and has a handle.  Unfortunately, that virtue dooms its other potential.  The book is so small that important stories get left out.

The illustrations are quite nice, looking much more solid and finished than the previous books.  However, everyone always has their eyes wide open all the time!  Ack!  Stop staring at me!  (Actually, having big eyes is probably a careful design decision since infants and toddlers fixate on eyes.)

So this is our children's Bible story book that will live in the car, where smaller is helpful.

Here's "The Giant Story".  As typical with this text, the summary is not bad.  The text's flaw is omitting entire important stories, not abusing those that it does include.
Enemies of God wanted to fight the Israelites.  A giant soldier named Goliath yelled, "Bring out your best soldier to fight me!"
The Israelites were afraid.  They did not want to fight the giant.
"I am not afraid to fight the giant," said a young boy named David.
The king said, "You can't fight the giant.  You are too small."
David said, "God will be with me."
David picked up some stones.  "One, two, three, four, five," he said.
The giant laughed at David.
David said, "I am not scared.  God will help me fight you."
David put a stone in his sling and ran toward the giant.  Then he let the stone fly.
The stone hit Goliath's forehead, and he fell to the ground.  The Israelites won!
Finally, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories, with text by Mary Batchelor and illustrations by John Haysom.

This book confuses me.  It has gorgeous illustrations, no longer little-kid pictures.  That is clearly its strength.

However, and completely opposite to the previous book, it's so big!  It is full of text.  Many stories do not even get their own picture, and I don't see any that get more than one picture.

I just don't understand what child would be ready for so much text but not ready for an actual Bible translation.  There must be some niche it fills, but I can't figure it out.

I won't cite this book's David and Goliath story here because of its length.

We're not done with purchasing and reviewing children's Bible story books. But for July we are. I put a bunch more on Smiley's wish list, including some from a Jewish perspective on scripture. I expect that his relatives will get him some of these for Chanukah and Christmas.

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