Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Review of Children's Bibles: Finding the Right Bible for Your Child

Over the past few years we've acquired three children's Bibles--all of which Sam enjoys. I thought I'd take a moment to give a brief review of these three Bibles in case anyone is interested in adding one to his or her Christmas list. The three I am reviewing are:

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
2. Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
3. The Lion Read and Know Bible by Sophie Piper

All of these Bibles are marketed towards kids in the 4 or 5 year old range, though I definitely think they work for younger kids (Sam has loved them as a three-year-old). After giving a brief description of each of these books I will compare the prose for your own assessment.

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones This book is by far the most popular of the three. Actually, it is currently the most popular children's religious book on Amazon (and ranked #255 of all Amazon books sold). Overall it's gotten great reviews--and for good reason. This is a fun Bible to read. The prose is whimsical and lyrical with many asides made by the author (almost, ALMOST akin to C.S. Lewis' style in the Narnia series). The art work is colorful and quasi-fantastical. Some of the text and artwork requires that you shift the book (for example, the story of Babel is drawn and written in such a way that you have to turn the book on its side in order to see how high up the tower goes). Sam loved this book and I enjoyed the cadence that came with reading this book aloud.

My favorite thing about this bible is the way in which the stories transition to one another. For example, the story of Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel begins with a reminder that Jacob is Issac's son. This Bible does not read like a series of stand-alone stories--there is a smooth transition from story to story.

But here's why I'm not turning cartwheels over this one: I cannot get excited about some of the theological leeway taken by the author--even if I agree with the author's theological commitments. Now every children's translation is bound to take a few liberties here and there, but The Jesus Storybook has taken some pretty big liberties. This is primarily seen in the Old Testament where every story ends with a reference to Jesus and how Jesus fulfills or overthrows the current story (I suppose that's why the publisher included the subtitle: "Every Story Whispers His Name"...though perhaps "Every Story Shouts" would have been more realistic). Again, even though I might agree with the author in some places, I like my children's Bibles to be as close to the original story as possible. Just stick with the story. No extra theologizing needed. (Though I should say I wouldn't mind passing along this Bible to a family who has little to no background with Christianity--it might tie things together in a helpful way).

Bottom line: This is a fun, whimsical read with colorful, cartoonish pictures. I would cite the title and say this is more of a storybook than a Bible.

2. Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu I was excited to pick up this book by Tutu. His children's Bible currently ranks #64 on Amazon for Children's religious books. Unlike the other two Bibles, this book designates a story to each page layout, meaning that every time you flip a page you get a new story. The prose is pretty basic. Nothing new or fancy, just a solid, short story.

What attracted me to this book was the art work. Twenty different illustrators from around the world were commissioned to contribute artwork. And. It. Is. Breathtaking. Every picture you get of Jesus is a little bit different than the one you saw before depending on the author's context. Some pictures are more realistic than others. Some have obviously had fun mixing media. Here's a few for your perusal:

I love the pictures, but I find that when the stories are limited to one page spread you miss out on a lot. I like the idea of a page-per-story for an 18-month old, but I'd like some more substantive prose for those a bit older.

3. The Lion Read and Know Bible by Sophie Piper And then we come to The Lion Read and Know Bible. You knew I would save my favorite for last, didn't you? I love this Bible. I love it. I may be among only a handful who do, however, as Amazon has this ranked at #161,228 as far as sales are concerned (and it doesn't even register on the "most popular children's religious book" list).

What this book has that the others lack is historical and geographical context. I know that sounds boring, but hear me out. Tucked within the detailed stories are kid-friendly maps and historical tidbits on various aspects of Biblical life. So when we read about the various miracles of Jesus we also come to a page entitled, "The Jewish faith in the time of Jesus" which shows a fairly accurate depiction of what the inside of a synagogue looks like. You get who sits where, what activities take place, and even a glimpse at the cupboard containing Scriptures. Elsewhere you come to "The farming year" page where you learn about the different seasons of harvest as well as what kinds of plants grow in the Middle East. I regularly learn stuff when I read this Bible (Sam likes it, too). These extra features are great, but it's the stories themselves that I really appreciate. Each story is roughly 3-6 pages long and is a simple prose of the basic story. That's it. It's clear and straightforward.

The art work is fine. Certainly nothing exciting. It's highly detailed cartoon drawings. The art-student-drop-out in me occasionally wishes for something more flashy. Sam doesn't seem to mind.

Bottom line: This is a bible for a story-loving, curious kid.

Comparing the Prose--Here's a glimpse at how the three Bibles treat the story of Jonah:

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

"God had a job for Jonah. But Jonah didn't want it. 'God to Nineveh,' God said, 'and tell your worst enemies that I love them.'
'NO!' said Jonah. "They don't deserve it!'
'Exactly,' said God. 'They have run far away from me. But I can't stop loving them. I will give them a new start. I will forgive them.'

2. Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"'Go to Nineveh,' God said to Jonah. 'Tell the people there that if they do not stop their cruelty, I will destroy the city.' Jonah hated the people of Nineveh because they were enemies of Israel. He did not want them to be saved, so he jumped aboard a boat sailing for a far away country."

3. The Lion Read and Know Bible by Sophie Piper

"Once upon a time there lived a man named Jonah. He was a prophet--so when he gave advice, people knew that the advice was from God. One day God spoke to Jonah. 'Go to the city of Nineveh. the people there are wicked. I want you to tell them to change their ways.' Jonah looked to the east. The road to Nineveh stretched on for miles. He had always been glad Nineveh was so far away: it was the home of the Assyrians--the worst enemies his people had ever known." 

And now a sampling of Revelation in case you want to see how a children's Bible handles that tricky subject:

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

"John was one of Jesus' helpers. He was old now and living on an island, which might sound nice except it was a prison. (The Leaders put him there to stop him from talking about Jesus, but I'm sure you don't think a little thing like being in a cell, in prison, on an island, in the middle of an ocean could stop God's Plan, do you?)" 

2. Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"When the disciple john was very old, God sent him dreams and visions. He saw that there would be wars and famines and floods and terrible disasters. But God told John, 'Soon I will make a new heaven and a new earth. Then every tear will be wiped away. I will be with my people, and they will be with me. Everyone will live in peace and joy."

3. The Lion Read and Know Bible by Sophie Piper

"John sighed. It was hard work in the prison camp. He had been arrested because he believed in Jesus. Now he spent his days quarrying stone. When he wasn't working, God gave him dream. 'One day,' he wrote, 'I saw a new heaven and a new earth. I saw a holy city--the new Jerusalem. It was built of gold and jewels, and was the loveliest place there could ever be."

So there you have it, Friends. Hopefully you can find something that will be right for your little one!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tubes, Tornados, and Other Troubles

Yesterday I purposefully woke up my son at 6 am. Why would I do this to my kid with a former-sleep-disorder? Because Sam was getting tubes in his ears at 2 pm and if I wanted him to get any food in his stomach it would need to be at 6 am. So we ate and then faced eight hours of wakefulness without food. As it turned out, the anxiety of just thinking about keeping Sam from food was worse than the deed itself. My boy who normally asks for at least four breakfasts (seriously, on a given day he will have a bowl of oatmeal, a scrambled egg, a cheesy tortilla, and a banana all before 9 am) was just fine. It was nothing an unlimited supply of popsicles couldn't cover.

He did fine. More than fine. Moments before the nurse took him away to the operating room (which I incorrectly thought would be traumatic), Sam announced, "See how much joy I have?" There was one sad moment when he said to the nurse, "Can I please have a healthy snack? I really need some healthy food in order for my body to be healthy." We placated him a bit then sent him off to the operating room "driving" his bed on wheels.

It took him a while to wake up and when he finally did he had about 30 seconds of craziness where with wild eyes he frantically ran his hand all over my face (it was like Helen Keller searching for her mother).

It went well. The only hiccup was when we drove back from Riley to Marion we did so in the midst of a tornado warning. Sam looked out at the yellowish, blackish sky and announced, "Something is wrong with America!"

We got home. We tucked the kids in. And I sat. After being "on duty" without food since 6 am I was exhausted. I said aloud: "I have been waiting for this moment all day."

And then John puked.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

News Flash! Sam is Not God

Sam: "Mommy, I'm going to say something that will surprise you."
Me: "Okay. What is it?"
Sam: (Dramatic pause) "God knows even more about animals than I do."
Me: "I believe it, Sam. I think you're right about that."
Sam: "Mommy, what's part teacher and part zookeeper?"
Me: "You mean a 'zoologist'?"
Sam: "Yes. I'm going to be a zoologist that teaches people about God and really likes animals."
Me: "Okay. Good plan."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Covers for Clara

Yesterday was Clara's birthday. I'll post something sweet and cute and covered in cake soon, but first a gift for you music lovers.

Clara’s birth was so peaceful, so tranquil, so ideal…so boring. In the best kind of way possible. She slept. She nursed. She rested in our arms. And so John took advantage of the quiet time and constructed a mixed tape for me: Covers for Clara. I’ve enjoyed this CD for the past year and wanted to share the love. Feel free to argue with the selection. I will not, however, entertain any suggestions that the order of this playlist is not absolutely perfect.

Feel free to add your own suggestions. What was missed? Perhaps we’ll come up with a Covers for Clara II.

With a Little Help From My Friends--Joe Cocker (Surely you knew this song did not originate with “Wonder Years”.) Original: The Beatles

Something in the Air--Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Original: Thunderclap Herman           

Long Way Home--Mates of State (I love this song. Love it. I can only handle Mates in small doses, but I listen to this song on repeat.) Original: Tom Waits
We Will Becomes Silhoettes--The Shins (Love the twinges of harmonies) Original: The Postal Service
Wonderwall--Ryan Adams (Best. Cover. Ever.) Original: Oasis
All Mixed Up--Red House Painters            Original: The Cars
All Along the Watchtower--Jimi Hendrix Original: Bob Dylan           
Across the Universe--Fiona Apple (I really like the Rufus Wainwright version, though I understand why John went with Fiona. Wainwright is great, but he doesn’t add anything new to the song. He just sings it.) Original: The Beatles
Dreaming--Smashing Pumpkins Original: Blondie
Hurt--Johnny Cash Original: Nine Inch Nails

Technicolor Girls--Mates of State Original: Death Cab for Cutie           

Landslide--Smashing Pumpkins (This gives Adam’s “Wonderwall” a run for its money in terms of best cover ever.) Original: Fleetwood Mac

Wild Horses--The Sundays (I don’t breathe when I listen to this song. Make sure you check out their song “Summertime”.) Original: The Rolling Stones

Mad World--Michael Andres & Gary Jules (This song always makes me cry. Always.) Original: Tears for Fears

Silly Love Songs--Red House Painters (Take that, John Lennon) Original: Paul McCartney and Wings
Hallelujah--Jeff Buckley (Once again I need to mention my man, Rufus. I like his version quite a bit as well….this comment will make John mad. It did. He just read this and exclaimed: “Rufus does it because Buckley does it. His is a cover of a cover. Rufus is derivative”.) Original: Leonard Cohen

Plans--Band of Horses (John said this song probably belong on a “best” list, however, John needed a short song to fill the length of this CD and so Band of Horses it was. Oh yeah, this playlist will all fit on a standard CD) Original: Grizzly Bear            

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Goggle Lied: Or Where is Joe Wilson When You Need Him

Dear Google,

On Friday, October 28th you informed me that the stomach flu had a 4-72 hour incubation period. And so when Monday night came and I was symptom free, I rejoiced thinking I had dodged Sam's horrendous bullet.

I was wrong. YOU were wrong. 98 hours after the Sam's flu made itself known I was clearly not well. Had I known of my impending doom I would have never made the dinner I made last night. Speaking of which, if anyone wants a lovely and easy crock pot meal just click here...I won't be making it anytime soon.

The family has been pulling together to take care of their weakest member. Clara started holding her sippy cup by herself (yes, she is almost a year old and has only now reached this milestone). When a loftily aspired walk across the hallway forced me to unexpected lie down, Sam ran over and covered me in a blanket and then turned around and snatched a choking hazard from his little sister's hand.

"Thanks, Sam. You're a good babysitter." I told him.

To which he responded, "I'm part babysitter, part doctor."

Holly watched and fed my kids for part of the day. And despite John's meeting packed, teaching packed day he would sneak home for literally 10 minutes at a time to drop off Sprite or change a diaper. 

I would have been more prepared had Google not been so misleading. It all goes to show: “The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you can never know if they are genuine.” - Abraham Lincoln

And yes, we have picked out a living room color--thanks for the votes and a special thanks to Marcy for her photoshopping ingenuity. I'll fill you in later but I'm a bit preoccupied right now. I'm preoccupied with things like NOT EDITING THIS POST BEFORE HITTING "PUBLISH".