ESV Seek and Find Bible. Crossway Bibles, 2010. 1,888 pps. Ages 5-up.
The Action Bible. David C. Cook, New edition 2010. Illustrated by Sergio Cariello. 752 pps. Ages 9-up.
Some of you already know that my mother recently went to be with the Lord. It was a process that, though excruciating for her and my family, was eye-opening in many ways. For instance, part of the body’s shutting down process meant that she lost her ability to see and talk clearly fairly early on. She didn’t lose her ability to listen until the very end. And that meant we could talk to her and minister to her with hymns and Bible verses and just simple I love you’s during what must have been the most difficult time in her life.
I can’t help but wonder if this was a grace planned by the Lord. At the very least, I have come away with a fresh appreciation for the power of the Word–and a new desire to teach it to my children. As Janie pointed out to me recently, I am raising two children who will likely have the opportunity to minister to me (and probably others) in my last days and hours. Will I give them the Word? Will I arm them with that invisible strength that has sustained His people for all of time, in life and death?
First, my favorite Bible for budding readers: ESV Seek and Find Bible. This is a real ESV Bible translation. What makes it so extraordinary, though, is that it mixes short one- and two-page illustrated stories within the actual text. It’s like a Bible with a story Bible inside it. Many kids’ Bibles have explanations or bios alongside the text, but I haven’t seen any other with such robust and theologically rich storytelling.
This means that when your child reads the actual Bible text of Jonah’s life, he can also read an engaging and illustrated summary that will hit the high points for him. Thus, it mimics the way a child would learn if an adult were reading the text to him and stopping to interpret–which is not only a natural way to learn about Bible stories, but also the perfect way to increase a child’s vocabulary and reading skills. (For more on how to read hard books to kids, see my intro to our Pilgrim’s Progress Mission Adventure series.) Of course, I haven’t read every single summary, but I have read quite a few, and all the ones I have read are very good. Many Old Testament summaries help children look forward to Christ, instead of falling prey to the moralism so common in many story Bibles. (And fyi, I found out this morning that Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition also recommends this as his ideal first Bible for kids…here’s his review if you’re interested in what he found compelling.)
Second, The Action Bible for kids. To begin with, this isn’t a Bible. There are only bits and pieces of actual Bible text within, and you won’t see any of them in quotes. For that reason it doesn’t compare to the selection above. That’s what it’s not…but what is it? I’d say it’s a picture book on steroids; essentially it’s a comic book treatment of a story Bible. Sergio Cariello, the illustrator of the book, actually worked at Marvel and Caliber Press in earlier years, where he illustrated comic icons such as Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Captain America…the list goes on. Personally, I don’t have any allegiance to comic books. They aren’t my cup of tea. But I like the fact that this story Bible uses the comic book form and its strengths–bold strokes of character and action, a willingness not to shy away from the reality of good and evil–to help make history come alive to kids, especially boys who might not otherwise spend an afternoon curled up with a Bible.
Just like any story Bible, you’ll find a focus on the events of Scripture at the expense of most of its arguments, poetry, etc. For instance, your kid won’t find critical teaching like the Christian’s relationship to the law in Romans, or the meaning of the signs and symbols of the Old Testament. But he will get a good sense of the flow of redemptive history, as well as how exciting and dynamic that history really is.
I don’t have any insight into Cariello’s personal faith tenets, and at 750 pages, the story’s theology is difficult to assess. However, this one passed by three point test–how it presents the Creation/fall, redemption, and the new heaven and earth. Adam and Eve are real people in a real place, and their fall is a real event which led to death and our cursed state even today. Christ’s death on the cross is presented in its events more than its meaning, but Cariello uses the scene of The Last Supper to provide spiritual context for the events:
So Jesus makes a new covenant between God and people who believe in Jesus. When we take the bread and cup in the name of Jesus, we remember that God sent His Son to save us from our sin and give us eternal life. (The Action Bible, p. 623)
In the closing chapters, we are given a vision of the new heaven and new earth–both real places, not just spiritual nirvana. I’m not particularly fond of the illustrations here; they seem a bit too cartoonish. But nevertheless, they pass my theology test.
My guess is that Cariello expects lots of non-Christian and nominally Christian kids to read this Bible. He ends with an altar call, “Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Will you let him in?” Which really sums up the Baptisty flavor I get from the entire text. And while it’s not the approach I would have taken myself, I suspect that this will be a uniquely helpful resource for young boys and even adults who aren’t traditionally readers.
Are you interested in more comic book presentations of Bible stories? Try Janie’s Pow! The Comic Book Surge. Or for more on how to choose Bibles and story Bibles for kids, see Buying Your First Story Bible or our roundup of posts about Bible Gifts for Kids.
What do you think about comic book presentations of the Bible? Are they something you’d consider using in your own home?