I grew up on The Beginner’s Bible. Someone had given my younger sister a copy sometime after it was first released, and though my reading ability at the time exceeded that of Zondervan’s bestselling children’s Bible, I often found myself flipping through its pages, reading dozens of stories in a sitting.
I’m not exactly sure what engrossed me about The Beginner’s Bible as a child. Perhaps it was the breadth of included stories, or the pace at which they are written (designed to be quick page-turners, an important attribute for the younger crowd!), or perhaps I liked the cartoon illustrations. Whatever the reason, I know from experience that kids like this book.
Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan, has released two new stories adapted and expanded from The Beginner’s Bible as individual paperbacks and illustrated by the same artists. David Battles Goliath retells the well-known story of the young shepherd David defeating Goliath, the Philistine giant, with God’s help and a trusty slingshot. And the story of Queen Esther saving the Jewish people during the Babylonian captivity is retold in A Queen Named Esther.
As far as stories go, these new releases are straightforward renditions of the Bible stories. The gory and unsavory details are, of course, edited out for the sake of being child-friendly (for example, A Queen Named Esther makes no mention of Queen Vashti or the hanging of Haman and his sons). And as in the original Beginner’s Bible, the pacing of the stories makes these good stories to read to the three-to-five crowd.
As an adult, I find the bubbly cartoon illustrations a bit silly (“Buddy Christ” comes to mind), but because I liked the book as a child, I’m willing to cut the illustrations some slack. The principle guiding the illustrators of The Beginner’s Bible appears to be to proclaim the Good News, but without scaring young children by a full account of the Bad News (i.e. sin, damnation, etc.). The Montessori program Catechesis of the Good Shepherd follows a similar principle, I understand, waiting to instruct children on the reality of sin and evil until they reach the age of reason.
Though released by a Protestant publisher, Catholics will find few if no objections to the content of these new releases. We already read The Beginner’s Bible to our three-year-old son, and I plan on adding David Battles Goliath and A Queen Named Esther to the book rotation. St. Augustine says in On Instructing Beginners in Faith, we should begin catechesis with a study of Salvation History. I’m happy to recommend these Biblical retellings from Zonderkidz as an aid toward that end.
Copyright 2013 Rhonda Ortiz
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