The other night as we finished reading about Ananias and Sapphira in For Such a Time as This, one of our daughters sighed happily. “I love when they tell stories I’ve never heard before,” she said.
And I know what she means. The Bible is full of so many stories—some of them whole worlds tucked into two or three verses—that I often come across passages and feel certain I’ve never read them before. “How does that happen?” my husband wondered the other day as he read the story of King Joash for what felt like the first time. “It’s like I’ve never read this story at all.”
Maybe we’re just indifferent readers, or maybe it’s a curious work of the Spirit, to mute certain stories for us until just the right time, and then bring them blazing forth in full choral glory. Scripture being what it is, with the properties it has, I think it’s the last one.
And so, I have a certain fondness for children’s books that veer off the beaten Noah/Daniel/David path and tell stories like this one, the story of Paul and Silas in prison. This story is striking and powerful, but because Scripture is filled with striking and powerful stories, it is sometimes easy to overlook this one, short as it is.
Bob Hartman draws readers into it through sound—the sound of singing, of an earthquake, of the jailer drawing his sword—which makes this book fun to read aloud but also invites young readers into the scene. Hartman doesn’t just tell the story but creates an experience around it, vivid and animate and accessible, and filled with memorable characters.
Like all the Tales That Tell the Truth books, this one is illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, who continues to be one of my favorite illustrators. The way she captures the energy and expression of the figures, the way she uses symbols to show complex things (like the sounds of singing, or an earthquake, or a soldier drawing his sword) makes even a Philippian jail hospitable for young readers.
These books continue to be among my favorite picture books for our family, and, as always, I’m eager to see which story they plan to tell next.
The Prisoners, The Earthquake, and the Midnight Song: A True Story About How God Uses People to Save People
Bob Hartman; Catalina Echeverri (2020)
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book 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.