I want to thank Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a copy of 365 Great Bible Stories in return for my honest opinion.
Children’s Bible storybooks often treat the Bible as just a collection of stories–each with a moral–that are completely unrelated. Yet, the Bible is the story of God, of His relationship with us, and of our relationship with Him.
It’s refreshing to find a Bible storybook that treats the Bible as a story… all of which points us to the Savior, Jesus Christ. 365 Great Bible Stories by Carine Mackenzie (Christian Focus Publications, 2011) is such a storybook.
The book is divided into six sections: Creation, the Fall, the Flood and the Exodus (Genesis-Exodus); Joshua, Judges and the Kings (Numbers-2 Chronicles, Psalms, and Jeremiah); Prophets, a Prophetess, a Queen and a Priest (1 Chronicles, Ezra-Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, and Luke); The Life of Jesus (Matthew-John); The Apostles and the Early Church (Acts); Epistles, Revelation and God’s Word (1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, and Revelation). When was the last time you saw a children’s Bible story book take on Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or 2 Thessalonians? I often wish we saw storybooks that covered the Books of Poetry, the Books of History, and the Epistles in more depth (if at all). Mrs. Mackenzie doesn’t explore every book of the Bible, but she does introduce children to parts of the Bible that are generally untouched in storybooks…..
Each story is short and consists of one page (about 3-4 paragraphs). There is a picture and a “Think” or “Pray” section with a few sentences for reflection.
The stories are written in a conversational manner, and occasionally the narration explains some aspect of the story so that children will understand better. For instance, story number 26 (Esau Sells His Birthright – Genesis 25) explains what a birthright is. Without this knowledge, it can be difficult to understand why selling a birthright for a bowl of soup would be a poor choice. The stories are not self-contained, but build upon the stories before them (just like in the real Bible).
There are several stories that address specific theological issues, such as number 10. God Three in One – Genesis 1, John 1; and number 365. Jesus – The Sin Bearer – Hebrews 10.
Sticky issues for younger children are not ignored, but are left open for parents to explain. The story of David and Bathsheba contains a good deal of information, but does not specifically name David’s sins, nor does it become explicit. The parent who does not wish to address lust and adultery could simply explain that David took something which did not belong to him.
The “Think” or “Pray” section at the end of each story contains a helpful point about the story which either points children to Jesus, or causes them to reflect on some other point. For example, the Esau Sells his Birthright story ends this way: “THINK: Esau was Isaac’s heir. This meant he was to inherit the family possessions after his father’s death. God’s people are heirs of God with Christ. We should value this inheritance.” (Carine Mackenzie, 365 Great Bible Stories, page 33)
It helps some to know that Christian Focus Publications is a Reformed publishing house. They are coming from a confessional theology rather than a decisional theology, so the reflections point children toward Christ and toward repenting and following Jesus. The “Pray sections” contain suggestions like “Thank God for giving you His Word. Ask Him to help you to read it with eagerness every day.” (pg. 348) You won’t find any heavy-handed presentation of the salvation prayer.
The pictures by David Lundquist are simple and colorful (pastels, I think). They often focus on an object or scenery, but also include people. I am happy to see that the people are not cartoons, nor are they all western and white. (Perhaps this is my own personal pet peeve.) The people often have Middle Eastern features, and the Queen of Sheba definitely hails from Africa. Again, it’s refreshing.
Those who feel that pictures of Christ violate the second commandment can be assured that there are no direct pictures of him. (Nor are there pictures of angels, or of God the Father). The closest thing I saw to a picture of Christ was at The Wedding in Cana, when you see the back of his head.
There are several reoccurring pictures throughout the book which signal to children that a theme is being addressed. For example, a lamb picture indicates a salvation story while a dove picture is paired with stories about the Holy Spirit.
My Evaluation ~ And an Addition to Bible Road Trip
I like 365 Great Bible Stories by Carine Mackenzie. The book is recommended as a read-aloud for ages 5-7 and for up to age 12 as a read-alone book. The pictures don’t encompass the page, and there is too much text to make this suitable for young toddlers. However, I think that it’s a great resource for families with preschool and kindergarten aged kids.
I will be using this as the text for Bible Road Trip’s new Preschool and Kindergarten read-along section. So, if you have younger children and plan to participate in that, you’ll want to get a copy!
You can find 365 Great Bible Stories at:
- Amazon: 365 Great Bible Stories: The Good News of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation (Colour Books)
- Christian Book: 365 Great Bible Stories
- Exodus Books: 365 Great Bible Stories
More Books for 4-7 Year Olds Reviewed at Thinking Kids
- Return of the White Book: True Stories of God at Work in Southeast Asia by Rebecca Davis
- Words About God to Help You Worship Him by Nicholas Choy
- Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers: The Gospel, The Scripture, The Mission, and The Trinity by Joey Allen
- Bugs: Big and Small God Made Them All by William Zinke
- 44 Animals of the Bible by Nancy Pelander Johnson
- The Priest with the Dirty Clothes by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Thinking Kids Book Review Indexes
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.