Tag: bible stories

The One O’Clock Miracle | Alison Mitchell

At the start of the year, I knew nothing of the series “Tales that Tell the Truth.” I had never seen Catalina Echeverri’s artwork, nor heard of Alison Mitchell or Carl Laferton.

But that changed when I read The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. Not long after reading that book, I found The Storm that Stopped, and felt a sudden conviction that our family must own these books. All of them. Immediately. These books are beautifully told, truthful, well made, and worth reading dozens of times. We needed them.

The One O’Clock Miracle was the next to join our collection:

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

The One O’Clock Miracle tells of the young boy Jesus healed, through the perspective of his father, who walked miles and miles to meet Jesus, only to hear the words, “Go. Your Son will live.”

But Alison Mitchell isn’t content to simply retell the biblical story. Instead, she uses the story as a lens through with readers can view Jesus: the sub-title, “A True Story About Trusting the Words of Jesus is the perfect summary of her purpose here. The story is fun to read, but by the end the end of the book, it shows us something new about trusting Jesus, something we hadn’t seen before.

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations are, again, full of energy and charm. And I’m pleased to report that, though our collection is growing, there are still more “Tales That Tell the Truth” out there for our family to collect.

And collect them we will.


The One O’Clock Miracle
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2015)

Miracle Man | John Hendrix

I imagine reviewers for large publications opening white-covered galley copies of newly released books, their minds empty of expectation. I imagine—wrongly, I hope—that they read with a sort of professionalism, exploring major themes and images with an air of detachment, and I laugh. Because I enjoy being a highly-biased reviewer: I get to dive whole-heartedly into a book by a beloved author, announcing to myself as I do so, “I want to love this book.”

If I know nothing about the author, then it’s usually the illustrations that provoke this longing in me: a beautifully illustrated book makes me desperately want the story to do them justice.

Such was the case with Miracle Man.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

I wanted so badly to love John Hendrix’s book—the cover alone was persuasive—and oh, dear reader, I do. I love it. I love Miracle Man so much that I bumped it up eight spots on my publishing schedule just so I could share it with you immediately.

Miracle Man follows the life of Jesus through his miracles, showing an interpretation of who he was as an incarnated man that fits well with Scripture but creatively reveals aspects of how his nature as the Son of God may have overflowed the bounds of humanity. Hendrix renders Jesus’ words as part of the illustrations, not part of the text, so everything Jesus says arrests your eyes and causes you dwell on every letter of every word. He made the deliberate choice to portray Jesus himself and infuses the illustrations with details that (I’m not ashamed to admit it) made me cry because they are so awe-inspiring.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

My favorite example:

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

Jesus’ footsteps are filled with live, growing things, as though the sole of his foot is so infused with life that its imprint causes the earth to burst into flower out of season.

Yes, I wanted to love this book. I wanted to so badly that I would have overlooked some slightly lackluster prose for the sake of those stunning illustrations, but I didn’t have to. There was nothing lackluster to overlook.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

And now, I want desperately to love every other book Hendrix has written.


Miracle Man
John Hendrix (2016)

One Wintry Night | Ruth Bell Graham

As a new believer, I was seventeen, wore combat boots to church, and approached the Bible as I would any other book: I opened it, flipped past the table of contents, and started to read. I treated the Bible as a single story, at times confusing and downright unlikable, because I didn’t know any better.

One Wintry Night | Little Book, Big Story

I know now that many Christians advise new believers to begin with something easier to read and saturated with the Gospel, something like John or Galatians—I have, on occasion, done the same myself—and as a result, many Christians go for decades before meeting the bit players of the Bible or confronting the fine points of the Mosaic Law.

But when we approach Scripture like that, it becomes easy to see the Bible as a collection of story fragments that may or may not fit together to form a cohesive whole, and so I am thankful that I came to books like John or Galatians only after wrestling through the Old Testament with its laws, prophets, and poetry. After months spent reading the genealogies, detailed descriptions of things measured in cubits, and all that stuff in Ezekiel about the “likeness of living creatures” and the “likeness of a throne,” I was hungry for good news.

I didn’t know to put it this way then, but what I longed for was the Messiah.

One Wintry Night | Little Book, Big Story

And then, I reached the New Testament. I sat in an armchair in a cabin by one of Minnesota’s thousand lakes with the door open, the screen door closed, while the smell of breakfast drifted through it from my aunt and uncle’s cabin, and I turned the page from Malachi, to the title page—THE NEW TESTAMENT—to this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ . . . “ (Matt. 1:1). Now that was a genealogy I could appreciate. The morning light perked up; the song of the birds crescendoed. I held my breath and read on.

One Wintry Night | Little Book, Big Story

Ruth Bell Graham takes a similar approach to the story of Christ’s birth in her book, One Wintry Night: she doesn’t treat it as a story separate from the rest of the Bible, but as part of a larger story (the big story). The premise of the book is this: a boy named Zeb gets caught outside in a snowstorm. He finds sanctuary with a neighbor, an old woman who tends to his sprained ankle and tells him the Christmas story to help pass the time until the storm dies down.

The story is told in chapters and so makes a good devotional for Advent, beginning with the story of Creation and ending with the Resurrection. Graham writes clearly and well, and that clearness of tone pairs well with Richard Jesse Watson’s illustrations. The dust jacket says that he spent four years preparing the illustrations for this book, and it shows: they are highly intricate, delicate and lifelike, so much so that it is hard to flip past the beautiful double spreads to continue the story without pausing to study them closely.

Advent is a season meant for looking not just at the Christmas story itself, but at the way it fits in with the whole of Scripture, and books like One Wintry Night know this. In the opening pages, the old woman says:

“The first Christmas happened almost 2,000 years ago,” she began. “That’s when the angel appeared to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. But the story doesn’t begin there. It couldn’t have because the angel called Jesus a ‘savior,’ or a rescuer. Someone must have been in trouble.”

The story as we know it begins at the very beginning of the Bible.


One Wintry Night
Ruth Bell Graham, Richard Jesse Watson (1997)

What’s in the Bible? (Videos) | JellyTelly

Vischer

Way back in this blog’s beginning posts, I wrote a bit about What’s in the Bible? I told you that it was awesome and that you should watch it, but that was over a year ago and now it’s a cozy sort of season when movies and fleece blankets are in high demand, so I thought I’d give the series its very own post—even though it’s not a book, but a series of movies about the book.

What’s in the Bible? is a series of 26 episodes that works its way through the entire Bible, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, it tells the creation story and shares a stellar retelling of the Book of Ruth, but the overall focus of the series is less on the celebrated stories of the Bible and more on the great, overarching story of the Bible. What is actually in the Bible? Why does it matter to us? What’s in the Bible? strives to answer those questions with creativity and sincerity (a great combination when dealing with anyone, little or big). The mind behind it all belongs to Phil Vischer, of JellyTelly (and formerly of VeggieTales). He briefly explains the vision of What’s in the Bible? here:

As you may remember from my post about his book, Sidney and Norman, I think very, very highly of Mr. Vischer. He appears on the show as a sort of anchor for an eclectic cast of puppets (which features, among other things, a Sunday school teacher, a news anchor, and a pirate), where he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but speaks to kids as though they can and should understand what the Bible says about tricky topics like sin, salvation, and theological doctrine. Take the show’s explanation of the Trinity, for example:

 

Our daughters love these videos. My husband and I love them, too, and through the show’s vivid illustrations we have both learned a lot about key aspects of the Bible. The episodes that touched on Paul’s back story or the silence between the Testaments switched lights on for both of us, and now our daughters tend to do things like, oh, list the books of the Bible in order just for fun. The show is full of catchy songs (a song about the Pentateuch—sung on a riverboat!) and great topical segments (A Pirate’s Guide to Church History!) that go far beyond the traditional fare of Christian children’s programming.

Take this song about the book of Judges (yes, Judges):

Oh, okay, and our favorite song about Leviticus (yes, Leviticus):

 Now, where you can you find this excellent series? If you live in our area, you can request copies of the DVDs at the public library, but by far the easiest way to watch them is to subscribe to JellyTelly. The monthly fee is cheap and grants you access to all 26 episodes of What’s in the Bible? as well as a variety of other shows and games that our family has yet to explore. (Do I sound like an infomerical? Don’t worry, this is not a sponsored post—none of my posts are—so it’s simply my enthusiasm for this show that you hear taking on a cheesy radio-announcer persona.)

JellyTelly’s mission is “be a tool to help raise the next generation of Christians so they know what they believe and know how to live it and to help launch the next generation of Christian storytellers.” I love that vision and see it succeeding marvelously through What’s in the Bible? 


What’s in the Bible? (DVD series)
Jelly Telly

Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories

There is a spectrum of Bibles available for kids: at one end sits the actual Bible; at the other, the lovely picture books that give a faithful retelling of a single Bible story, many of which have appeared on this blog. In the middle sit the quality story Bibles like The Jesus Story Book Bible or The Gospel Story Bible. (I have banished from the spectrum books that are vacuous and cute, and reduce stories like “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” to a moral tale told in rhymed couplets from the spectrum. I’m a snobby book blogger. I can do that sort of thing.)

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories sits just inside the spectrum, spine to spine with the actual Bible. It doesn’t point each story back to Jesus, but trusts that its readers have grown past the need for that and tells the stories in slightly adapted passages from the NIV translation, framed by dePaola’s gorgeous, full-page illustrations.

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story

If your child is ready to move past story Bibles and into the realm of Scripture itself, Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories serves as a great bridge: though we prefer the ESV for our family readings, the NIV makes a nice introduction to the language of the Bible for kids that find the ESV too ponderous at first. It is also a great reference for tackling specific stories as they come up in conversation. (Not only that, but it is somewhat of a classic, so it’s easy to find secondhand.)

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story


Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories
Tomie de Paola

The Advent Jesse Tree | Dean Lambert Smith

If it seems like I’m getting an absurdly early start on reviewing Christmas books, I apologize. Please consider it a kindness to you, because I love finding new Christmas books and traditions but loathe finding them on December 21 and having to try to remember them by November of the next year. I wanted to give you a head start.


I love Advent. The hymns and prayers of quiet expectation create a counterpoint to the holiday noise of stores, streets and schedules. The sense that the season isn’t now, not yet, but is on its way, lends our home a building suspense, one that is marked out daily by our favorite Advent celebration: the Jesse Tree.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Here is the Jesse Tree in a nutshell: you start with twenty-five ornaments, each decorated with a particular symbol (I made mine with cheap ornaments from Michael’s and a gold paint pen). You gather a bunch of bare branches and stick them in a jar. Pinterest will tell you to spray paint your branches and nestle them into a twine-wrapped, be-ribboned jar, but ignore Pinterest. Pinterest is crazy. Bare branches in a Mason jar work fine.

Now, for every night of Advent, read a passage from The Advent Jesse Tree, and put the corresponding ornament on your makeshift tree. Got it? Those are the mechanics of the celebration.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

But the heart of it is in the readings, each of which draw a different story from the Bible to its final conclusion: Jesus. You begin in Genesis and read on to Jesus’s birth (with a peek forward into Revelation), stopping at the end of each story to remember who the story is really about. Abraham? Noah? Ruth? No. Jesus.

This book also includes hymns for each night, and questions for your children. There are readings for children and readings for adults, so you can customize this for your family. The hanging of ornaments is a simple routine (and a good one for the littlest hands), but it anchors our Advent in Scripture and reminds us that the heart of the holiday hubbub is not family, food or gifts, but the Giver of all of those good things.

Every night we are drawn back to the manger to rejoice in the work that God has done over centuries, thousands of years, in bringing his plan into effect: He came down as a child, made Himself—the Creator of everything—small, so that we could be magnified in him.

That is worth waiting for. That is worth remembering. That is worth celebrating.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Read More About The Jesse Tree

For more ideas on how to make (or where to buy) Jesse tree ornaments, read my post, “A Quick Guide to Jesse Tree Ornaments.” You can also read more about our family’s Advent traditions in the post “Advent: What It Is and Why We Love It.”


The Advent Jesse Tree
Dean Lambert Smith (2011)

Adam and Eve | Warwick Hutton

When illustrating the story of Adam and Eve, one must confront that Obvious Question: just what kind of fruit did Eve eat?

No, no. Forgive me. I jest.

What I meant to say was, “Adam and Eve were naked. How does one handle that gracefully in a children’s book?”

Or, in other words, what did it look like to be naked and unashamed? (Before the Fall, I mean. We’re confronted fairly regularly with what folks think that looks like now, and I must say, that is no subject for a children’s book.)

The fact is, one can only use so many strategically placed leaves and limbs before the images begin to feel contrived, and yet one cannot have Adam and Eve simply stride around in their birthday suits. Right?

Adam and Eve | Little Book, Big Story

I picked up a copy of Warwick Hutton’s book at our local library, thumbed through it briefly and took it home. It wasn’t until I sat down to read it to my four-year-old that I realized that Hutton disagreed on that point: in his telling, Adam and Eve can and do stride around in the buff. And I think he made the right call.

As I reread Adam and Eve, I began to realize that while his depictions of Adam and Eve are, well, anatomically correct, there is a certain delicacy to his style that ensures that there is nothing vulgar about them. Instead, his images display an honesty that I didn’t realize had been missing from the other versions I’d read of Creation and the Fall. All those branches and oddly positioned animals may have been obscuring an important aspect of the story.

Adam and Eve were naked, yes, but they were also unashamed. Hutton’s depictions communicate that in such a way that I can’t help but realize that, if anyone is uncomfortable with this, it is me—not Adam and Eve (at least, not at first), and certainly not my daughter, who loved that book from the minute we sat down to it.

Now, full nudity is not all that Adam and Eve has to offer. Warwick’s images of Creation are striking—some of the best I’ve come across—and his imagined Garden of Eden is a place that I would very much like to explore. Through clean lines and watercolors, the way he places light in each picture is not only striking, but expressive. (Watch Adam and Eve move from the central places of light to the outskirts, in the shadows, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Adam and Eve | Little Book, Big Story

There is one more point that I must put out there: Hutton depicts God as more than a mere beam of light or misty cloud. He does it with that same delicacy, as no more than a cleanly outlined figure, but some folks may not appreciate that. I, for one, found it delightful to see Adam and God walking through the garden as companions, and devastating to see Adam and Eve standing, chastened, before him after the Fall.

So, would I recommend this book to every family? No. You know your children; you know where your line of comfort is drawn. But I would encourage you to give it a chance. Read it a few times, and see if you, like me, find yourself struck down with a longing for all that we lost in the Fall.


Adam and Eve
Warwick Hutton (1987)