February 3, 2015
Reading and writing Bible stories for children
Recently I received review copies of two Bible storybooks from Tyndale Kids: My Keepsake Bible, which I reviewed on the Bible Reviewer blog, and Bible Favorites: One Sentence Storybooks, written by Nancy I. Sanders and illustrated by Hannah Wood.
Both of those editions have a fresh approach for presenting Bible stories to young children as I discussed a bit on the earlier review, but here I want to talk about the small boxed set of 10 stories told in one sentence because the author and artist managed to achieve an enviable level of simplicity.
That sounds odd, but try it!
Try taking a complicated Bible story and compressing it down to its essence.
Then try writing the story in one sentence.
Impossible it seems, and yet the writer managed to do this, not by including details but by removing everything except the most basic aspects of the story while giving the impression of far more.
To give you an example, the first story in the set, entitled The Sun and the Moon, encapsulates creation. The little booklet opens with the text, “God’s hand” and has a drawing of a hand on the opposite page. Next “God’s hand made the sun” shows both on the adjacent page, followed by “God’s hand made the sun and the moon,” then “God’s hand made the sun and the moon and the earth.”
Those few words put across the larger idea that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.
Besides providing young children with that important information, the little booklet has a page with key words to help sight-reading-spelling-recognition, followed by “One Truth to Learn,” “One Verse to Say” or memorize, and “One Prayer to Pray” with a child as you read.
That basic format continues for the other stories in the set, which includes:
Two Mice and the Ark
Moses and the Bush
David and the Giant
The City Wall
The Star and the Kings
Jesus on the Water
The Good Shepherd
The Sad Son (aka prodigal)
The Angel and the Cave
Each story is written super tightly and well with lively drawings that also have few lines, but I wish the set had a different story for King David. I’ve noticed this same decision made for several of the Bible storybooks I’ve reviewed where the single story of many possibilities shows little David overcoming the big, bad Goliath. It seems to me that, if only one story can be included for David, it might be one with a more positive impact, for instance, his care for the sheep, his loyalty to King Saul, his confession of wrong-doing, his poetry writing, or something that does not involve hitting, as here, or killing, as shown in other Bible storybooks for children.
Despite my disappointment over that choice, here and elsewhere, I very much appreciate the choice to include the story of Jesus’ walking on the water. Told in a single, highly effective sentence, the story comes down to this:
in the boat
walk on water.
Surely anyone of any age who reads that sentence will recognize that something amazing is happening! something unique that only God can do.
That simple sentence also reminds us, as poets and writers, that we don’t need to embellish or strain for effect but to get the facts straight and keep it simple, so the truth of the story can come through as happens in this highly recommended set.
©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of 27 traditionally published books in all genres is on a mission to help other Christian Poets & Writers through blogs, writing resources, and e-books such as the Christian Writer’s Guide and Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry.
Bible Favorites: One Sentence Storybooks, set of 10 small paperbacks