Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Zondervan, 2007
Intended Audience Age level:4-7; Reading level: Ages 9-12; 350 pp.
This, as the title implies, is a collection of interpreted Bible stories. Interpretation will be involved in any re-telling of a Bible story or in the selections we include or omit. Lloyd-Jones is clear about her interpretive stance. She anchors her approach in the teaching of Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27) and unfolds the story of God’s secret rescue plan for his children from Genesis to Revelation. It’s like a fairy tale, though a true one, or an adventure story with a young Hero from a far country, or a brave Prince, who rescues his beloved. The result is the story of the Bible seen through a conservative, evangelical lens with a “once upon a time” quality.
After an introductory statement about what the Bible is (not rules, not heroic biography, but one big story of God’s love), she selects stories from the Old Testament to fit her purpose. Each Old Testament story ends with anticipation. After the tower of Babel: “People could never reach up to Heaven so Heaven would have to come down to them. And one day it would.” Or at the conclusion of the sacrifice of Isaac: “Many years later another Son would climb another hill carrying wood on his back.”
The New Testament stories extend from the birth of Jesus through Pentecost, Paul, and Revelation with the theme of the secret rescue plan continued. The story ends with “to be continued” and a reminder that saying “yes” to Jesus makes this story your story too. Through both testaments the phrase “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” is a constant refrain about God. On the whole this book breathes a warm desire to involve children in this story.
Lloyd-Jones is a gifted story teller (see The Tower of Babel, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Naaman, the leper) but more important than words in a preschool picture book are the illustrations. Jago is a gifted artist. His simple, sprightly drawings enliven and enrich each story. Every page is a full color spread with layout, words, and pictures making an engaging whole. One effective ploy is to turn the book horizontally and open it, thus doubling the page height. The tower of Babel stretches tall across two pages, a scheme repeated with Moses on the mountain, Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den, the angels’ song, the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the resurrection.
To fit her interpretive purpose, the author condenses, expands, combines, omits, and adds non-biblical details. In the story of the Garden of Eden, for example, the serpent is introduced as Satan, a fallen angel who wanted to be God; there’s another explanation of why the tree of knowledge was forbidden; the snake tempts Eve to doubt God’s love not question his command; God drives Adam and Eve from the garden for their own protection; and as Adam and Eve leave the garden God whispers a promise, “I will come to rescue you.” There is almost more interpretation than narrative.
The Ten Commandments are condensed to a few words and called “Ten Ways to Be Perfect,” while the Lord’s Prayer is expanded to a full page. Christ’s agony in Gethsemane is eight paragraphs in contrast to the two verses in the gospels. There’s no suggestion that the author’s imagination is involved in the extended, agonized prayer which is really a statement of substitutionary atonement.
Each story is interpreted as a type of Christ event, a foreshadowing of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It’s a thoroughly biblical approach, beginning with Jesus, himself, through Paul and the early church fathers, but one that should probably come later with children. One of the first questions to ask about any scripture is, “What did the story say to the original audience?” Typology tends to stifle the search for this answer and a collection of stories for children should be opening doors for future study. Those who hear these stories, then in a few years read them for themselves in the Bible, may have trouble connecting the two. The scripture references cover several chapters rather than verses and it’s difficult to compare stories with the Bible.
The age for which this book is recommended is four to seven. Five to eight fits comprehension and attention span better. Be aware that in selecting this book you are getting excellent art, some good story telling, and lots of interpretation.
Review prepared by guest blogger Virginia Thomas