On August 4, I became the proud daddy of baby Madeleine. Thank God, while she came about three weeks earlier than expected, mother and baby are doing just fine. I’m still taking in all the emotions and experiences that come with fatherhood, and something tells me there’s a blog post ahead on the subject (that for the first time in a while won’t be a book review). Stay tuned for that 🙂
I’ve been reviewing a lot of grown-up books, but with the arrival of baby girl I’ll be looking for children’s books to review. In many ways, the need for great Christian children’s books is more critical than ever.
We live in a world where it’s harder than ever for new parents to raise their children in Christ. I have to admit, that’s one of the things that terrifies me most as a new parent. The United States I grew up in was still at its core a Christian nation–even though they weren’t teaching the Bible in schools there was basic agreement of civics and morality that was shared between parents, the schools, and the church. And they happened to coincide with the teachings of Christ. Love thy neighbor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Blessed are the peacemakers.
But somehow in the last 50 years even those things that seem to have been common sense are now somehow controversial. What at one time had been a partnership between parents, schools, and church now is now anything but. Parents distrust schools because they feel certain educators are more interested in pushing a social agenda than teaching their kids. Schools distrust parents because so many of them fail to discipline their kids at home leaving it to the poor teachers to deal with it. The church in far too many cases grows more and more irrelevant because they become too insular and irrelevant to the needs of their congregations at a time when their congregations need them the most. And of course, the child is the one hurt the most in all this.
As a parent, I know I can write off the schools as a place where my little girl is going to learn basic morals or civics. I’m going to keep praying that my church continues to examine itself and becomes the kind of place that my little girl can really experience the love of Christ in. But I realize that the bulk of the responsibility is going to be on me, as it should be, to model for her what Christ’s love is all about and to teach her as much as I can.
It’s because of this that I’m thankful for books like the one I’m reviewing today, the Say and Pray Bible: First Words, Stories, and Prayers by Diane Stortz with illustrations by Sarah Ward.
The book is just the right size for little hands; about 5 x 7 x 1 inches. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout. It’s perfect for toddlers aged 3-5 who are just learning how to read; on each page there’s a title, a 2-3 sentence “story”, and about 7-10 word bubbles that accompany the colorful illustrations.
To call this book a “Bible” is a bit of a misnomer, but I think the author and publisher probably used the word figuratively. The book does go through 20 child-friendly stories in the Bible (Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, etc.). There are no more than 20 words on a page, so this is less a storybook than it is a book for you to read along with your toddler as he or she points out pictures together identifies and learns individual words like the names of animals or Bible characters. The onus is really on you as the parent to know the stories in advance to describe the illustration or in case your inquisitive little one starts asking questions about it.
The pictures are wonderfully drawn and will be appealing to most children. The animals are cute and scenes are all simple yet beautifully colored. The Bible characters are cute without being inaccurate (the picture of the Good Samaritan shows him of a different skin hue than the others; characters like Abraham and Ruth wear simple clothes and sandals; Joseph’s coat of many colors is really, really colorful; and so on).
Each story also has a Bible verse associated with it and a short one-sentence prayer (the “say and pray”). It’s of course not deep theologically, but does start to introduce your toddler to the concept of reading the Bible and prayer. Of course whether our toddlers continue this depends largely on how much we do it ourselves.
The book is a “board book” so each page is made of thick, durable card stock. The cover is even a little plush. The book is solidly constructed and will almost surely become a favorite of your toddler.
What I love most about the book is that it really is age-appropriate–it steers clear of theology and deep exegesis and controversial topics and sticks with something really simple and basic–simple illustrations that will help you tell stories from the Bible.
This is definitely one I’ll be reading with my little one, and hopefully many times. Highly, highly recommended.