I'm excited to share a few comments on Richie and Susan Hunt's latest work My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms because one of the goals that I hope to accomplish through my book reviews is to highlight resources that address a widely variety of audiences within the church. To date, many of my reviews have addressed college-aged or older adults, and so it pleases me to point out this helpful resource for parents of preschool and elementary aged children (the publisher recommends ages 3-8).
This is a shorter book and is arranged in a "short story" format with each story taking up 2 pages. Each story begins with a verse from the Psalms which is connected to a letter from the alphabet as a major theme. Thus, "D" is linked to "Declare" in Psalm 96:3; "K" is linked to "Know" in Psalm 100:3, etc. From that point on, there is a story involving a family, children at Sunday school, etc. learning about the Biblical truth and principle that the Psalm is teaching. In each case, there is adult interaction with the children, either by a parent helping the children to understand a key point, a pastor explaining the answer to a question, or something similar. Each story then closes with a Bible verse connecting to Jesus and several discussion questions as well as a suggested topic for prayer.
There are a number of strengths to this work:
1) The format is brief and easy to use. I could see reading any of these stories with my family and briefly discussing them in a 10 minute span. Of course discussion will depend upon what questions your children ask and could last longer, but be reassured that this is a book written with children's attention spans and vocabulary in mind.
2) I really appreciated how the authors included male figures in the story. I think it is a sad commentary on our culture that men are rarely portrayed as being involved with or interested in their kids. Not so in this book! We often see fathers answer their children's questions, pastors helping the kids to understand something important, etc. Men, this is a book that will reaffirm your God-given role in your family.
3) As a pastor, I really appreciated how the truth highlighted in each Psalm was shown to link to Jesus in the New Testament. Biblical theology is a tool that is sadly lacking in many of our tool-chests and so I am glad to see it used appropriately and helpfully applied to children even at this early stage in their development.
4) I found the content to be very solid Biblically. The book is written by a husband and wife team who serve in a conservative Presbyterian church in Dallas. Though I am not Presbyterian, I appreciated the careful Biblical exegesis and that the stories didn't normally (though there are a handful of exceptions) seem "forced" to try and make some sort of point that wasn't otherwise there. Additionally, I was glad to see that the focus throughout the book was on developing a better understanding of God's character and how that understanding should prompt us to faithfulness. Too many children's books are all about morality and trying to teach kids to be good little boys and girls without telling them the reason for obedience.
5) I also appreciate that the stories do have some connections to one another. While each stands on its own, the characters are the same and sometimes there is a little bit of a connection between them which helps the book to not seem overly disjointed.
All of these good points said (and there are many more), there are a couple of things to point out not necessarily because they Biblically or theologically wrong, but rather because they are concerns which parents will want to be aware of.
1) Understand that oftentimes the stories can take on a "perfect world / Leave it to Beaver" style where the kids, though not perfect, always say they are sorry, where they are always excited to go to church, etc. A close parallel would be to Christian radio DJ's who seem to be a bit too excited about everything and have that 50's "shine" to them. Adults who have had anything less than a wonderful Christian upbringing may think some of the examples a bit too cheesy to be helpful.
While I would certainly agree that our world is too preoccupied with being "real" and "gritty" about everything and that the world is far too suspicious of anyone actually having a smoothly functioning family that honors God, some of the stories in this book almost go too far the other way. I assume that this has been done as an example of a family that is looking to be faithful to the Lord in all areas of life and I applaud the example, but simply be aware that the stories presented here are a bit one size fits all and adjust the examples (though of course not the Biblical truths!) as necessary.
2) Perhaps related to the above point, those who live in families that have gone through divorce, where both parents are absent, where relatives don't know Christ, etc. will have to do a bit more work to help their children to understand how to apply this book. Oftentimes the parental characters or the pastor is the one really driving the point home and while I agree with this, for those who's life situations are a bit more complicated understand that you will need to be ready to answer the inevitable questions that will arise. This isn't a bad thing, but just something to be aware of as you prepare to read this story with your children.
Final verdict: a great book, useful and helpful for bringing up children to know and trust Jesus Christ.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I wish to note that the publisher of this book, Crossway, provided it to me at no cost as a review sample. That said, my review is in no way influenced or controlled by them and thus I write my review of this book with honesty and integrity.)