Andy Peck is pleased that many children are going to have a better idea of the narrative within the Bible
Title: My Big Story Bible Tom Wright (SPCK)
Age range: five years plus
Reading age: Primary age
It seems that every Christian publisher has its ‘Bible stories for children’ book. Theologian and renowned Bible scholar Tom Wright is concerned that too many of these tell the stories as if they are designed to give a moral principle like with Aesop’s Fables, but don’t give the child a sense of the sweep of scripture from Genesis to Revelation and the overarching story of God looking to be with and eventually live with the people he has made. He is particularly keen that’s his own grandchildren pick up on this element and so no doubt writes it with them in mind.
So as well as the standard stories: creation, Noah’s ark, Joseph’s coat, Joshua and Jeriho, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den, Jonah and the bIg fish, we have other less popular bits: the promises and warnings to Israel from Deuteronomy, the story of the prophet Hosea, the division of Israel into two kingdoms for example.
The book is hardback, A4 size and each story has a colour picture illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia. As perhaps befits a New Testament scholar there are more New Testament stories than Old (73 to 67!)
The style, tone and language would suit reading to an infant age child (pre-school possibly). Many stories have a ‘What else in God’s big story links up with this?’ And includes a page number from the book. There is some hint to the grand narrative, but despite Tom’s stated aim in the introduction, this is not emphasised.
What I liked
Amen to the idea. Too many youths and adults have to unlearn the ‘what a fun story’ method of Bible reading when they get older and of course many simply drift away around Secondary school, without every truly connecting the dots. So encouraging an understanding of how it all fits in is a vital and commendable project.
Although not my preferred style the artwork is vibrant and will draw children in. How many of us imagine Bible characters the way they were depicted in a story book?
What I didn’t like
I think the links could have been clearer. It still comes across as a series of stories albeit far more and some unexpected ones. I would have liked more explicit explanation of what was happening in God’s overall plan. For example in ‘The suffering servant’ (from Isaiah 52/53) the image on the facing page seems to be of Jesus, but the text doesn’t say this explicitly other than a link to ‘Jesus crucifixion’. A line that ‘this predicted the death of Jesus many hundreds of years later’ might have given explanation.
Scholars differ on what happened when, but some kind of timeline chart would have been good, if only for the adults to know where they are in the overall story.
Thoughts for parents
I would read a book giving the broader narrative (eg. The’According to Plan’ by Graeme Goldsworthy or ’A Passion for God’s Story’ Phil Greenslade, or ’The Bible Course manual’ by Andrew Ollerton) and provide your own explanation to go as you read the book. If the child reads it on their own, then ask them what they made of it, and fill in any blanks.