Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Big Picture Story Bible

by David Helm
illustrations by Gail Schoonmaker
Crossways Books, 2004

We have a child raising challenge in our house- while our children are both very smart, they are slower than average in the area of communication. But like all parents who take the spiritual development of their children seriously, we want them to start learning their Bible. We were puzzled how to begin...until our daughter started to read, and Grandma found this book!

First, the illustrations are beautifully done. Brightly colored, interesting use of perspective to fit story and emotionally expressive, the illustrations alone provide a lot to talk about.

The adaptation of the Bible story is extremely well done too. Although many details and even whole stories are left out, there is just the right amount of text on each page for beginning readers to be drawn into reading themselves. The author has done a great job selecting stories and details to highlight (and sometimes interpret) the big themes of the entire Bible. God made people in His image to rule creation in loving ways, but Adam and Eve chose to "not let God be king over them"...and so it went. God's plan to redeem and restore His people is highlighted in each story, and the purpose God has for us is made clear through the repetition of themes of obedience, leadership, and the fulfillment of God's gracious plan.

The drawback to this book is it's size. It's approximately 9 by 9 inches and over an inch thick. My daughter is carrying it everywhere and it's awkward, for example, trotting through the airport with it tucked under her arm or dangling it from the handy ribbon bookmark. But if your child is willing to just read it, that might not be a problem.

We'll be using this one for awhile...and I'm enjoying sharing important truths with my child at a level she can understand.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What does love look like?

by Janette Oke
Bethany House, 2001, 32 pages

reviewed by Jeanette Dykstra

It’s very hard for shy little Emily to be the “new girl” in a first grade class. This book details how Emily is welcomed into her new class and how she tries to be unnoticed after a kind introduction by her new teacher. She listens to her class discuss “things that are real but which you can’t see.” Love is given as an example and the class decides to try to draw the idea of love. The different pictures the class comes up with are very interesting and can certainly instigate some discussions between the adult reader and the listening child.

One picture shows two girls – one holding a broken chocolate bar and handing a big piece to her friend. A boy in class, Bradley, has drawn a big brown square because love is like a big, big blanket, big and warm enough to wrap up the whole world. A girl on crutches shows a picture of a big circle because to her a circle has no rough edges to hurt people or corners for anyone to get pushed into.

The happy feelings illustrated on the many pictures make Emily feel more at ease. Then she gets up to show her picture. Although still a little nervous she goes up to the front of the class and shows her picture. Now everyone is looking at her and her picture, and suddenly her new teacher begins to clap. Then the children join in. Emily’s picture is about the ultimate love, God’s love of mankind. Everyone agrees that her picture of a cross should go up on the special merit board.

This book is a great learning tool and beautifully illustrated by Cheri Bladholm using a real grade one class as models. As a former teacher I found this book to be “real” and not contrived. I would gladly have used it in my classroom or as a grandma to read to my grandkids.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


by Carlo Collodi
Puffin Classics, 1996, 262 pages

The first read-aloud I remember enjoying (because my teacher read it to us, her class, in school) is Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. The hard-edged morality of the book is far better than in the Disney movie, as Pinocchio learns about the consequences of sin, rather than about “believing in yourself.”

The original story starts with a fight between two old men in an Italian town when a block of wood insults one of them and (of course) the offended party assumes that it is the other senior who has called him names. Two things about this opening show the difference between Collodi's and Disney's versions. In Collodi's version, ordinary people fight, because they are sinners like you and me. (Don't worry; they do reconcile - eventually.) Secondly, children are sinners, too. Pinocchio is conceived and born in sin; he is a brat even as a block of wood before he is formed into a puppet.

Collodi's version is not a story of a puppet who becomes a real boy by showing his true heroic character. Instead, it is a bildungsroman - a story of a rather wooden personality growing up by learning to see his own immaturity through suffering. The book of Proverbs tells us that the way of the transgressor is hard. For Pinocchio, it sure is. How much better, though, for kids and their parents not to have to learn that the wages of sin is death through personal experience, but instead by, for instance, seeing a foolish puppet get hanged (and rescued - there is grace in this story, too!).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You Are Special

by Max Lucado
Crossway Books, 1997, 31 pages

reviewed by Jeanette Dykstra

This is not the usual sugary “you are special” kind of book. It is an interesting little story about a small village peopled by wooden puppets. They have all been made by the woodcarver who lives in a small hut above the village. Each one of the puppets has a bunch of gold stars and gray dots which they put on each other throughout the day. Popular, good-looking, athletic and smart puppets get a lot of gold stars, whereas the shy, average-looking, clumsy and ordinary puppets get mostly gray dots. Punchinello is in this last group and he doesn’t think much of himself. The more gray dots he gets the worse he feels. Until he meets his maker.

It is an especially good book to read with small children (ages 5-7) who are not in the “in” group. It gives these children a different way of coping with their lack of popularity and their clumsiness. Their “maker” values them as His unique creation and He loves them. With this reminder, the awkward child can cope better.

You can buy You are Special at by clicking here.