Episode 8 – Choosing a Bible Storybook

In this episode my husband Pastor Dave Brown and I discuss choosing Bible Story Books. 

Books Recommended in This Episode


Pastor Dave Brown

Terrie: Welcome to Books that Spark a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. I’d like to introduce you to our guest today. His name is pastor Dave Brown. He is my husband, and he has been a pastor in the ministry for over 35 years, 15 of those years, he was a missionary pastor in Taipei, Taiwan. He has a website called Finding God and speaks regularly about prayer, our search for God, and seeking after God’s heart with all of our hearts. And we’re going to talk to you today about Bible story books for your kids. Dave, thank you for joining us today.

Dave: Thank you.

Terrie: When we’re looking for Bible storybooks for our kids, there are about five things that I consider.

1. We want to check the publisher or the source. Some of the publishers I highly recommend for Bible storybooks are B and H Kids, which is a part of Lifeway, David C. Cook, Zondervan or Zonderkidz, and Beaming Books. Those are four good resources.

2. Check that the stories are true to the Bible that they stick with, what the Bible says, and don’t take too many liberties or a poetic license, and you can do that by looking at the pictures as well. And that brings me to number three—

3. Make sure the pictures are pretty and are interesting and are going to keep a child’s attention because the little kids are going to look at that book over and over again because of the pictures.

4. Think of the developmental age of your child. That’s always the case with any book we buy, but we also need to consider that with our Bible storybooks. And you need to think about whether you want them to read it by themselves or with you. And so you think of those kinds of things. And that goes to number five—

5. Consider the size and shape of the book. If you’re going to be reading it together as a family or reading it before bedtime together, then you want possibly to have a bigger book that you can share. Some of the Bible books are bigger in size than others are like a paperback novel and are small. And so they’re just for someone who’s reading on their, then the last one is

6. The educational element. Do you want one that has questions for discussion at the end of the story? Do you want extra facts added in sidebars or bubbles or whatever to make it more fun? Do you want it to be very straightforward? A very simple five minute devotional type of one to two pages, long story. So, look at the educational elements, look at the way it’s formatted to see if it fits your needs exactly.

First, I want to ask you why is it important for us to read Bible stories?

Dave: Well, Bible story is, especially when you’re really young help capture your imagination. And I remember as a child, you know, my grandmother used to read Bible stories to me and it stuck with me and my parents always had a Bible story book in my bookshelf. So on rainy days, that was a book that I commonly pulled out and led to read stories about David and Goliath and Daniel and the lion’s den and many others that let, I just loved reading about and that spoke about God. So, they’re really good for little kids who can’t sit down and actually read through a Bible and get something every time. Definitely a good way to start.

Terrie: I know you were not raised in technically a Christian home. So how did having that Bible story book affect your coming to Christ?

Dave: Even though I grew up in a home where we didn’t go to church and we weren’t Christians, my parents would have told me that we were Christians and we went to church once a year. We were one of those kinds of people. So there was always this essence that we believed in God, but we didn’t know anything about him. And you know, reading the Bible stories helped me to actually know something about the Bible in a way that I was able to sit down and actually have a motivation to read something. You know, we as kill it as kids, we love reading stories of heroes and people who defied the odds and different things like that. Like David and Daniel and others, Samson, and, you know, those kinds of stories captured my attention and I loved reading them. And they were written in such a way that, you know, that it was, it was in a story format. So I absolutely enjoyed that. And I spent most of my life reading those and I believe God used those moments for the time when I finally did come to Christ to kind of give a foundation and push me in the right direction, because I had that basis of knowing these stories and these you know, these events that actually happened in history.

Terrie: Yeah, the same for me, my grandfather, well, I was raised in a Christian home. My dad was a deacon, and we went to church every Sunday from the time I was born. But my grandfather had a whole set of records that told Bible stories and it had sound in the background. It’s like listening to a radio show that had the Bible story acted out. And I just fell in love with the word of God because of those stories. And so, Bible stories can have a profound effect on a child’s development and on preparing them for a future relationship with God and a love for the word of God. I believe it’s a very important thing. We also show them by reading from these stories that they matter to us and we can start teaching them to that. These are historical stories. These, like you said, these are things that really happened in history.

So, I’ve done some research on several different Bible storybooks. And what I’ve found is no matter what, when you get, you’re going to have something to criticize and that’s because these are not the word of God written out by inspired by God writings. These are people retelling stories. And every time I read one, some of them, I think they’re just, they’ve told the story so beautifully. And so well, and then another time I’ll read in the same book, man, I would have said that so differently. I could have done that better or whatever. And I’ve read many comments from parents who’ve said the same thing or how they would say it differently, or they didn’t think it was well done or they left out something they felt was important. I did try to avoid the ones that changed the story. And I don’t understand that I don’t like the Bible story books that take liberties, you know, maybe they consider it poetic license.

But I think when you’re dealing with the word of God, you don’t want to take poetic license to the point that you’re changing what the story actually says. For instance, one Bible story book had at creation that on the, that when God said, let there be light, he created the sun, and we know he didn’t create the sun until later the that was just light separated from dark. That was not the creation of the sun. And so, either someone didn’t reread their Bible to know what they were writing before they wrote the story, or they just made up their own thing. And I think that’s a problem. So, I found Bible story books that I liked the best for different reasons.

The first one is 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible by Ura Miller. And the pictures are very realistic. And I love that because I think if we’re going to help children understand that these stories are real, that they need to have pictures that look real and are not all cartoony. And the other thing I like about this, each story is on one page. And then it has the actual scripture that goes with it. So, if you want to look at the scripture, you can, and then it has a thought for the parents, either a Bible verse or a question or a thought. And then it has a few simple questions for the kids to kind of evoke some conversation between the parent and the child. So, that was one of my favorites.

And then the other one that I liked was it’s like a comic book. It’s a paperback. It has, but it only has black and white drawings, but they are realistic drawings. I shouldn’t say comic book because they’re not comic pictures. They’re more realistic pictures again. And this is the 365 Read Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories. It’s by Barber Publishers. It has, again, the stories are one to two pages long, usually one page long. And there’s one for each day of the year. So, you can use it almost like a devotional book. And it also has the scripture reference. And it also has a question at the end of each story. And so that’s another one that’s and it’s more paperback. So, it looks, it has the look that would be more appealing to a little bit older elementary kid. Wouldn’t you say? Yeah. And then I think this first one would appeal more to the younger kids. And my favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible. Every story whispers his name written by Sally Lloyd Jones and illustrated by Jago, but this one is much more colorful. The drawing is not really cartoon. It’s more stylistic. What would you say?

Dave: Kind of makes me think of a children’s story based out of, out of Europe. I’m trying to think of the girl Madeline. Oh yeah. Madeline. It kind of reminds me of Madeline. Caricatures and so it’s kind of unique in that way.

Terrie: That’s really pretty. And I’m drawn to this kind of artwork, I think is why I like these two [book and coloring book]. And so, the stories are fairly short. Because there’s so many pictures, they do cover more than just one page. They actually cover several pages and, you know, they’ve taken a few liberties, for instance, this one picture shows is an Eve, Adam—Eve holding the snake. And I don’t think that that ever happened, but the drawings are well done. The stories are told really well, and it’s really beautiful. I think a child, any child would just enjoy looking at the pictures, even if they couldn’t read it for themselves. When the parent isn’t reading it, I think they would look at all the pictures and it does cover a lot more of the stories. Well, with the 365, you’re covering most of the stories, but it does cover the Old and the New Testament. And they do have some Bible verses in here that have been paraphrased by the author and they do acknowledge that, that they are paraphrased and then others are just quoted. And then there’s also some quotes from some other great Christian leaders and writers. This is published by Zondervan and or Zonderkidz. And there’s been over a million copies sold of this Jesus Storybook Bible.

Another one that I think is beautifully done. I would think it would work for a little bit older elementary up through middle school. Even I think a high schooler would enjoy this book. It’s called The Promises of God’s Storybook Bible: The Story of God’s Unstoppable Love by Jennifer Lyell. The artwork is beautiful. The way it is written is very well done. This is of all the story books I’ve read. It’s the most straightforward, right? From the scripture of just telling the story as it’s written in the scriptures. And so, I do like this book a lot.

Now for the very young child, there are some very cute board books and lift-the-flap Bible story books. That would be good to have for the very young child when they want to read and look at the pictures and on their own a little bit, or with them in your lap.

One is the Lift-the-Flat Bible Stories for Young Children by Andrew J DeYoung and Naomi Joy Krueger, and illustrated by Megan Higgins. And this book is very well-written, and the pictures are very simple, colorful pictures with little questions and information along the way, talks about how God asked Adam to name the animals. There’s not a lot of detail in the story. It’s just a very simple telling of the stories, but I think it’s very well-done, and it is published by Beaming Books. And they’re one of the publishers I really like. I think they do a good job.

Another one for you—this is for level one readers. So, this would be a K, one, two level book. It’s called I Can Read My Illustrated Bible for Beginning Readers, Level One from Zondervan and illustrated by Peter Francis. And so, it is an illustrated Bible and has few words so that the young reader can read the story.

For instance, for Genesis 1-2, it says, “Long ago, there was no world. There was no sun, there was no moon.” Then you go to the next page. “God said, I will make the world. So, God made the earth. God said, I will make the sun and stars. He said, they are good.”

Now this one doesn’t put in every part of it because in between there would have been the separation of the land from the water. But it still has quite a bit of detail, enough detail that it’s well done. And I think a young reader would enjoy being able to read it on their own, but even a very young child younger than that would enjoy having it read to them. So that’s one that I would recommend.

And then one last one for the really young reader, Early Readers Bible by V Gilbert Beers.

And this one is as 64, easy-to-read Bible stories. And this one, I really like. It’s by Zonderkidz. And again, it’s made where if it’s like a first grader, they could read most of this, definitely by second grade, they could read this on their own, but it’s got enough of a text that it would be fun to read to a child. And the pictures are simple, but very colorful. So, children would enjoy looking through the book. It’s definitely not the full Bible. It’s not the full story, but it does a good job for the very young reader.

The one I found that is closest to just repeating what the Bible says in a way that children can understand would be the one that’s called The Promises of God’s Story Book Bible: The Story of God’s Unstoppable Love by Jennifer Lyell, and that one I was most impressed with how they told the stories. As far as the one that is the most poetic and beautiful as far as the illustrations is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd Jones. It’s the one that we gave away in our giveaway in July, along with its companion coloring book. And it’s one of my favorites as far as Bible storybooks go.

For graphic novel style books that you would want for older children to read on their own, the two best of those that I found were The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story Action Bible Series by David C. Cook and illustrated by Sergio Cariello and edited by Doug Mauss and the Epic: The Story That Changed the World by Aaron Armstrong and the B and H kids editorial staff, and Heath MacPherson. These two are done really well as like a graphic novel style of writing and art that would be excellent for an older elementary through high school child, especially one who isn’t reading their real Bible, but you’re wanting to get them started in understanding what the Bible is all about.

And if you have children who are even older in high school and older, and you just want them to read some books based on Bible stories, just to enjoy digging deeper into some stories, then I highly recommend Francine rivers. She has a series of books that are about men in the Bible and women in the Bible. I’ve been reading the ones about the women in the Bible. I love hers about Ruth. She has one about Mary, one about Bathsheba and went about Rahab [and Tamar called Lineage of Grace.] And they’re just amazing. And then there’s the one she has the ones of about several of the men in the Bible who were the like second in command, not the main character, but second in command [called Sons of Encouragement]. And she digs deep into their stories. Of course, it is fictionalized like historical fiction because we don’t have all the details that she includes in the story. But she did extensive research on the culture of the time and tried to be true to the biblical culture and to the scriptures in her retelling of these stories. Each of those also has a Bible study companion to go along with it. These are really good. I would recommend trying those out.

If you’re wanting to get a good Bible storybook, research it well. If you’re giving it as a gift, I recommend reading all of it or most of it before you give it to a child, just to make sure that you do agree with what’s being said. The child is looking at this as a storybook, and even though sometimes the stories were not told exactly right, by the time we get old enough to understand and look into the Bible, we find those discrepancies and throw out the falsehoods. I remember as a child when I was in Sunday school, we had a picture of Adam and Eve, and Adam was over there sleeping, taking a nap. And Eve was over at the tree, talking to the serpent and grabbing the fruit. And that picture stuck in my head for years and years and years. And I always questioned why God was upset with Adam poor Adam was asleep and Eve came over and gave him the fruit. He probably didn’t even know what fruit it was. This was my thinking when I was a little kid because of that picture. So, the Bible story pictures will affect our kids and they are man-made pictures. They are man-made interpretations of the stories. We do have to be aware of that. But what I did was then when I read the Bible and just read it for what it said, I realized, it says very clearly, and Adam was there with her. He just didn’t say anything. So, it’s more understandable why God was upset with him. He’s just standing there letting her talk to the serpent. And then when she hands him, the fruit he’s like, thank you. So, then it makes it more understandable. When we do give our children the Bible, we need to make sure that they are reading what the Bible says and putting some of these misconceptions out of their minds.

Dave: I would like to just mention too, when I was reading the Bible stories as a kid, the thing that did catch my attention were the pictures. And, and it’s what kind of drew me to it. I mean, think about it when you were a child, you know, you could have written a, read a novel, or you would have read car comics. Well, why did we read the comics? They had pictures and the pictures kind of helped with the story. And, and it, it drew us in, well, when you’re a little child, you kind of need that little bit of extra help to really draw you in. And I think like I like Terry was saying, you need to make sure that the pictures are telling the story correctly, as much as possible, but as long as you know, it, it does a pretty good job. And we like it. I think we’re fine. It’s just, and also understand it’s not a Bible translation, it’s a storybook, but the storybook definitely helps to point the child towards Jesus. And that’s the ultimate goal of them reading these things.

Terrie: Do you have anything to add as we finish up with Bible stories today?

Dave: No. I just think I think these were some really good choices. I remember the ones I couldn’t tell you the name of the one I read when I was kid. I do remember that it was bigger. It was like a regular you know letter sized, you know, paper, the book was that size. So it was a bigger book and some of these are smaller, you know? So that’s something to consider too, when you’re looking at kids, they, they like bigger books, I think, but otherwise these were good, good choices.

Terrie: Well, thank you so much, Dave, for joining us again, and thank you for joining us as our listeners. We hope that you were blessed today and that you got some ideas for choosing the right Bible storybook for your kids and can start sharing the Bible with them and opening up great discussions about our wonderful God and what his plan is for their life. Thank you for joining us for books that spark a podcast, celebrating books, spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. You can sign up for my mailing list to get weekly reminders of this podcast. And my blog, my website is terriehellardbrown.com. When you join my mailing list, you automatically have several freebies that you can download and enjoy with your kids.

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Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials. Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, and discussion. For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

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