2 Stars Out Of 5
Not Bedtime Story Material for Little Ones
December 23, 2017
Well this was certainly not the review I thought I would be leaving on the book I read this week. In fact, I didn't even finish the book. (GASP.) That never happens.
Because I'm trying to grow a library of children's books for when kiddos come to visit, I asked to review 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories inspired by Jesse Lyman Harlbut's Story of the Bible. I chose this because one of my absolute fondest memories of my own childhood is the bedtime Bible stories my dad told me every night. Yes, you read that right. He told me the stories. He didn't read them from any book. He told them from his memory and made them full, rich, and memorable.
One issue I have with many Bible story books for kids is that they all tell the same main stories and skip some of the "lesser known" parts of the Bible. Dad never skipped. He told all the stories, and I think that was so wise of him. I think kids should grow up with a more complete understanding of the Bible. (This is all very important background for what I'm about to say.)
I launched into reading this book with great expectations, and at least where illustrations are concerned, it immediately impressed me. The cartoonish illustrations are cute and tastefully done, which is important when the book is geared to ages 3 and up. The stories are very short, which is also very important when you're dealing with 3 year olds and bedtime, right?
Now, I will say that one good thing about this book is that it left very few stones unturned on Bible stories. That was exactly what I was looking for, right? Wouldn't that make my day? Well, normally, yes. But the execution of the stories appalled me.
And yes. I chose the word execution on purpose. I have never seen a children's Bible storybook more fixated on all the deaths in the Bible than this one. And not just mentioning them, but describing them. And then after chronicling such a death, the story ends abruptly and apparently you are supposed to say a bright "Good night!" to your child and put him or her to bed.
Abrupt is actually another word that describes these stories very well. They aren't embellished at all. They are clipped and void of any kind of emotion or exciting description. And sometimes the words chosen are way above a three year old's vocabulary.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
There is a chapter about Israel's Cities of Refuge, and in part, the story says, "People sometimes kill others by accident. If this happened in Israel, they could be safe in these cities. This was a law of God that had been given by Moses. Before that, if someone killed another by accident, they too were killed. The dead man's relatives would kill them. It didn't matter that it was an accident." (The story goes on, but I think you get the point.) While all those things are true, this would not be what I would want to fill a kid's mind with right before bed.
Not long after that chapter is the one about Sisera the Canaanite general who fell asleep and "Jael drove a tent peg into Sisera's head and killed him."
I read half the book before realizing this just isn't one I want to add to my library. I appreciate the illustrations. I appreciate the inclusion of forgotten stories. I appreciate the full Scripture reference listed at the top of each chapter so parents can read the full story themselves if they want. But I think the storytelling lacks excitement, and I think the intense use of murder stories in a bedtime book is misplaced, especially for kids as young as three.
I think if parents wanted to tell these stories and encase them in words that offer the truth without offering fear, it would be better. Parents know their kids, know what they can handle, and could hedge the information age-appropriately. Then, as the kids grow, they can offer more detailed bits of the stories.
I like the idea of this book, but I just couldn't feel at peace with the presentation. I'm sad about that, but it's the truth.
* Barbour sent a copy of this book to me at no charge. All opinions are my own. *