When our girls were little and some of them still didn’t exist, having a baby every two or three years felt just our speed. We weren’t a four-under-four-sized family; we were a pace-yourselves-and-aim-for-one-in-diapers-at-a-time family. Clothes moved pretty easily from one daughter’s dresser to the next, just trickling from room to room, as one daughter outgrew them and passed them on to the next one.
Before you read this next part, let me make this clear: we do not regret this. We loved having a very capable eight-year-old around when our fourth baby was born, and we have loved watching the girls’ friendships blossom at all different ages. There is something truly beautiful about watching these four very different girls love each other through all their various seasons of growth.
But I must say: this year has been a weird one, as we’ve had an eighth grader and kindergartener, plus two in between. One child prepares a speech on Charles Dickens for the school speech meet; another prepares for show-and-tell. One gets her braces off (!!); another is still missing front teeth. We’re living in four very different worlds here, and there are days when that feels a bit disorienting. Wonderfully disorienting, but still.
And so I am always profoundly grateful for the books that meet our whole squad right where we’re at—the ones that, like The Biggest Story Bible Storybook, are deep, thoughtful, and funny enough for the eighth-grader, but also bright, joyful, and clear enough for the kindergartener.
We’ve loved the various iterations of The Biggest Story, from the original version to the ABC board book, but this is by far my favorite. Author Kevin DeYoung and illustrator Don Clark expanded the original book into a full story Bible, filling in stories and adding more fabulous illustrations. But they hold fast to that thread of The Biggest Story and keep sight of Jesus and the work God does through him as they tell the story, and they keep sight of their audience. This is one read-aloud we’ve all enjoyed immensely.
So this summer, as my daughters do everything from hunt snails in the backyard to ride bikes across town to play D&D with their friends, we’ll gather in the long, slow evenings to read this book—a sweet point of connection for all of us, whatever our age.
In February I had the sort of realization I hate having: I had forgotten something. Last year swallowed up a lot of things, and as it passed, we noted and mourned a lot of those losses. But this loss bobbed to the surface one morning, as startling as a shark fin in a smooth sea: This was supposed to be Josie’s preschool year.
Preschool, in our house, is a small affair. But for each of our girls so far, this year before kindergarten has been the one where I make playdough from scratch at least once, introduce them to the alphabet, collect snails with them, read all those picture books I want to read with them, and occasionally break out the super-messy art supplies with nary a thought for our floor.
But we were well into February by the time I thought of this. All the upheaval of starting a new school year under Covid protocols and, well, just surviving and tending to everyone’s needs—it had shunted this thought so far to the back of my mind that I’d noticed its absence, something felt off, but I hadn’t been able to name it. That morning I got out my giant binder of preschool magic, assembled a bag full of books to read together that month, and I began making lists.
I am utterly, profoundly, abundantly grateful that God brought this to mind when he did. Josie and I still had four months together to read and play and make messes in the garden while the older girls were at school; she still had hours each day when she knew she had me to herself. And every school-day lunchtime we had our routine—not, as formerly, she eats at the table while I tidy the dining room around her or something, but: we sat down together; we read a Bible story and a picture book. We took our time over them. It was delightful.
And so Jared Kennedy’s The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible became the stem of our time together, with everything else branching off it. The readings in this book are short but honest and deep, and they ask great questions of us. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations (have I mentioned yet how much I love her illustrations?) represent some fairly abstract ideas in ways that make sense to young readers. They’re symbolic and beautiful.
A friend described this book as “The Jesus Storybook Bible for even younger readers” and I think there’s something to that. But though it works wonderfully for toddlers, it doesn’t work only for toddlers: Josie, at five, picked up on big questions and mulled them over as she finished her peanut butter and honey sandwich. As we read, I saw her putting down roots in the truths of our faith and learning to know God a little better for herself.
School is out now and our house is full again with the daily bustle of sisters. But those mornings with Josie still feel like a gift—one we savored then, and one we’ll continue to savor in the years ahead.
I don’t know what you thought when you saw the title of this book, but I thought, “Yes, a new one!” I have long loved Church History ABCs and Reformation ABCs and, frankly, everything I’ve ever read by Stephen J. Nichols or seen by Ned Bustard, so I had a hunch I’d love this book too.
But I also thought, “Oh, nice, Bible History ABCs—as in the history of the Bible.” What it is, though, is much better than that: Nichols uses the alphabet as a framework for telling the entire story of Scripture, from Adam to Zion. It has all the fun wordplay of the first two books, as well as more of Ned Bustard’s illustrations, which are somehow always just what a book needs.
Bible History ABCs includes a bunch of bonus material in the back—the sort of thing I like to get distracted reading while trying to tidy up our books—and tucked away in those last pages is a little spread about the history of the Bible. (Well played, sirs.) So this is not just an engaging look at the story of Scripture, but a thorough look at the story of Scripture. And it’s a book our family will revisit often, I can tell.
Disclosure: I did receive copies of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so
Finding beautiful, theologically sound Bibles for kids is, to me, like finding volunteer sunflowers in a flowerbed given over to weeds: you know you’ll find flowers in that bed, of course, but somehow you don’t expect them to be so flashy and radiant.
So many children’s Bibles mean well, but by chopping Scripture into disjointed stories or by tacking a moral onto each one that points away from the Lord and toward the child, these Bibles dilute the beauty of Scripture and become like weeds. They may be the pretty kind of weed that you wish you could let grow, but you know you’ll regret indulging them if they sow seeds of self-righteousness or despair in a child. So, weeds.
But there are so many Bibles out there for children that are beautiful and complex, that stand well above the weedy undergrowth in the children’s section at the Christian bookstore. And in the three-and-a-half years since I started this blog, I have found quite a few of them—so many, in fact, that I decided to do something only people who love checklists do: I made a list for you. Of all of them. Organized by age.
This list is not comprehensive. There are a lot of wonderful Bibles out there for children, but I haven’t seen all of them in person or read them through with my kids, so I’m sticking with the ones our family knows and loves. And because our family is full of children 11 and under, my list is woefully short on anything targeted at children over age 11. Sorry about that.
These tiny re-tellings of Bible stories pack a lot of truth into a few short sentences. Each volume contains five or six stories, but they’re not told in chronological order. In fact, we own the first four, and with the exception of a few excursions into the Old Testament, they’re all mostly about Jesus. But these are great for beginning readers as well as toddlers. (They’re especially great for beginning readers who like reading to toddlers.) (Read the full review.)
If you don’t own this book, forget the rest of the post—no matter how old your children are. Buy this one. Even if you don’t have kids, buy this one. The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the stories of Scripture in such a way that “Every Story Whispers His Name,” and reminds us again and again of who Jesus is and why he matters. (Read the full review.)
David Helm walks through Scripture one story at a time, always keeping the big picture of Scripture in mind. Each story has its place in the greater story of Scripture, and the large format, short readings, and colorful illustrations make this a great Bible for toddlers. But the truth in it makes it a great fit for everyone else, too. (Read the full review.)
Kevin DeYoung’s book is a flyover picture of the big story in Scripture: in ten short chapters he moves from Creation to Revelation, looking at Jesus through a new lens in each story. Also worth noting: I love Don Clark’s illustrations in this book. (Read the full review.)
The big people and the little people in our home love this Bible. Machowski doesn’t shy away from the less popular corners of Scripture, but includes over 150 stories in The Gospel Story Bible. They’re well-told, pretty short, and finish with discussion questions. These readings are compact, but they go deep quickly. (Read the full review.)
This full-length Bible contains a neat coding system that builds beginning Bible study skills by teaching kids to look for context, to cross-reference verses, and to ask interesting questions about the text. It also has all manner of interesting maps and background information about the people and places in Scripture. (Read the full review.)
This Bible contains the full text of Scripture, as well as the familiar illustrations from The Big Picture Story Bible. We just bought it for our six-year-old, and it makes a nice transitional step from story Bible to full-length Bible. (Read the full review.)
Marty Machowski’s family study moves through the Old Testament chronologically, using short readings and engaging questions to introduce kids to every inch of Scripture. The accompanying book on the New Testament, Old Story New, is supposed to be good, too, but we’re still making our way through Genesis, so it will be a while before I can tell you definitively that it is good. (Read the full review.)
Marty Machowski again? Yes. His books are worth putting on any list about any kind of children’s Bible. The Ology is a systematic theology for kids (yes, you read that right) that introduces key doctrines in a clear way that connects for parents and children. This one, too, has short readings and solid questions, and I love it so much. (Read the full review.)
Okay, so this isn’t a book. What it is, though, is an amazing collection of videos that leads kids through the Bible chronologically, while answering questions and providing background along the way. Created by Phil Vischer, one of the original masterminds behind VeggieTales,What’s in the Bible? is one of our family’s very favorite resources about the Bible. (To learn more about where to watch it, read the full review.)
Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in November of 2016. But here it is, dusted off and ready for revisiting!May your park picnics be lovely, and may you find a new favorite Bible to share with your kids this summer.
Flaps are big at our house. We love lifting them, sliding them, peeking under them when we think no one is looking. (One of us also enjoys tearing them—alas!) We have a rather impressive stash of books with flaps (or books formerly with flaps), and we add to it whenever we can.
But Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Lift the Flap Bible is one of my favorite recent additions to the collection, and not just because it has flaps and we love them. Every time we read one of Lloyd-Jones’ books for toddlers, I am in awe of her ability to articulate the love and justice of our God in a few artful sentences. It is a feat that seems simple because the end product looks small, but every word in this sturdy Bible is hand-picked—not one is superfluous.
Tracey Moroney, too, illustrates these short stories with vibrant colors, and those flaps make her paintings interactive: the volcano erupts; the whale breaches; the waters part. This book is perfect for exploring with all five senses (because you know the little ones will try and taste it, too, and new books smell so good) and for sowing that first planting of the gospel in the hearts of the smallest readers.
Hi, I'm Théa! I review classic literature, poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, picture books—children's books luminous with grace and beauty. These are books our family loved and that I think you'll love too. Thanks for stopping by!
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