I’d like to thank Christian Focus Publications for sending me Children’s Stories by JC Ryle in return for my honest review, and also for providing a book to give away!
Have you ever read children’s literature that’s a couple of hundred years old? It has quite a different tone than the literature of today! So, too, do the seven stories in Children’s Stories by JC Ryle (Christian Focus Publications, 2001, 2008, 2015).
JC Ryle (1816-1900) was the first bishop of Liverpool in the Church of England…..
The seven stories (or children’s sermons) in the book each begin with a short Scripture. Ryle then expands on the Bible story or Scripture with his own application for children.
Overall, I very much like the book. It addresses subjects we don’t often see in 21st century children’s books, such as the difference between heaven, hell, and earth; the consequences of sin; contentment; and seeking the Lord. JC Ryle clearly articulated the consequences of salvation versus those of a godless life. He strongly urged children to follow Christ in all they do.
One hesitation with the book was that I did think there was more emphasis on “being good” than on sanctification or holiness as the result of justification. I sometimes felt like the book took on the tone of moralism (which honestly is pretty typical of 19th century children’s literature). That said, there was a good deal of the gospel threaded into the narrative. As an adult, I hear that gospel thread. But I will read this to my kids to be certain they hear it as well. It’s true that we are to progressively become holy as we follow Christ. It is also true that we must be called and saved before we are able to do any more than wash the outside of the cup. It is Christ who washes the inside.
My kids read a wide range of material, and we are constantly discussing the issue of justification and sanctification. I would be concerned about some of the older works of literature that place such a high value on outward obedience were I not certain they were also clearly hearing the gospel on a regular basis. (Please don’t hear me say that I don’t teach obedience or godly values. We did teach those even before our youngest two showed the fruit of regeneration. Character is important, and fear of the Lord is vital.)
I liked the narrative nature and thought process Ryle added to small sections of Scripture. For instance, I’ve always cringed at Elisha’s rebuke of the mocking children (you know, where he curses them and they’re attacked by bears – 2 Kings 2:23-24). In fact, I’ve always seen Elisha as a somewhat scary figure. Ryle spent a page explaining that Elisha wasn’t angry or vindictive, but only pronouncing God’s judgment on the children. (I guess that makes sense. He was, after all, a prophet.) Ryle then makes the points that: God notices children, it’s wrong to mock good people and their faith, and that sin brings sorrow. All interesting points, with an interesting perspective.
I really liked this book and will absolutely read it to my children. Before doing so, I will remind them that we are able to follow Christ only because He has enabled us to do so. I am interested in discussing Ryle’s take-away points with my boys. Overall, I really appreciate the subjects covered in the book and the compassionate, non-condescending tone Ryle uses.
Be sure to enter to win a copy of Children’s Stories below! The giveaway closes on May 8, 2015 at 10am PST.
Children’s Stories by JC Ryle
You can purchase Children’s Stories at
Some more Christian Focus books for the family reviewed at Thinking Kids:
- History Lives Christian History Series by Brandon & Mindy Withrow
- Wielding the Sword: Preachers and Teachers of God’s Word by Linda Finlayson
- Tough Questions About the Bible by Joel R. Beeke
- Guarding the Treasure: How God’s People Preserve God’s Word by Linda Finlayson
- God’s Special Tent: The Story of the Tabernacle and What Came After by Jean Stapleton
Or just check out the Thinking Kids book review indexes for:
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.