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!


Elizabeth Turner said...

very helpful - thanks!

Sara said...

Thanks for this post, Amanda. I'm 39 weeks pregnant with my daughter & she only has the first book you reviewed. I will show this post to Austin and maybe get her book #3, too. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Jamie said...

Thank you for this. There are so many children's Bibles to choose from!

The Rupps said...

So here's what I'M wondering: Bright can read now, and needs his own "real" Bible. Wanting my mom to buy him one this week and send it to us in her Christmas box.

I'd like it to be the real deal, but maybe in a cool, colorful leather or something? And somewhat thin so his small hands can easily handle it?


Any leads?

Amanda said...


I'm all about readability for kids (and adults) and would recommend the NLT (New Living Translation). Here's a few links to some leather-ish ones (just by looking at reviews I think I like the Hands On Bible the best):





Otherwise, for those who are stuck on the NIV, I lean towards the TNIV (changes all the "mankind" to "people" and stuff like that (doesn't change the content, just reflects the original Greek better).

I don't know if Bright likes to take notes in his bible, but there are some really fun ones out there with huge margins so you can journal or jot down notes as you read. Like this one here:


Unknown said...


Thanks for this post. Casper is 19 mos and, after your insightful rec, is getting Tutu's "translation" for Christmas from his Uncle Micah and Aunt Lydia.

Merry Christmas to your beautiful bunch!


Andy Rowell said...

Andy Rowell, from Duke here. Amy is coming in January to Taylor University to teach. She is not as crafty as you but really relational! Her email is rowell.amy@gmail.com and she is teaching "Ministry by Women in the Contemporary Context" and coming the first and third weeks of January.

Here is my post about children's Bibles. You have done an excellent job in your review. We will get the The Lion Read and Know Bible by Sophie Piper! I hadn't heard of it.

Here is my brief review of Bibles for Kids:
My Favorite Bibles for Kids ages 2-5

Our kids are 6, 4, and 18 mos.