Kids Bible Review: The Illustrated Bible for Little Ones

There appears an endless choice when it comes to children’s Bibles. If only there were an objective ‘best’ one. But each family and each child has different needs. Accuracy? Number of stories? Length? Illustrations?

So how should you choose one that’s right for you? Here, we attempt the first of many reviews of Kids Bibles, using a set of criteria to help you choose one that will meet your needs.

The Illustrated Bible for Little Ones by J Emmerson-Hicks is a recent favourite of mine. I was looking for something quite particular, and this happened to meet most of my needs. So lets take a look.

Intended Age

It’s loosely described for ages 5 and under, which seems accurate. The blurb on the back suggests little ones will enjoy the pictures, whilst older ones will enjoy reading for themselves.  Our almost 3 year old has enjoyed this for probably a year, and I could see her reading it with some help at an older age.

Length of readings

Each story (with a handful of exceptions) is contained on a single page, in one column. It’s short enough not to lose concentration, and manages to capture a good deal each story in a very concise manner. It’s been great for a short reading before bed with young children. The consistent length of each story is a major plus when it comes to including reading as part of a routine, as well as for attending to short attention spans.

Ease of reading

It’s a simple read, but not overly simplified. There are enough bigger words here that it doesn’t feel childish to read. It will stretch vocabularies of older kids, but it doesn’t use unnecessarily complex words. It hasn’t felt boring or burdensome to read, and there isn’t a feeling that every story is the same in language.

On the flip side, the reading isn’t especially memorable. There’s no real sense of poetic flow to the words. But it is good, simple writing that’s easy to read.

Breadth of stories

There are 130 ‘stories’ here. It’s quite a lot in the children’s Bible field, which means it gets to cover a lot of stories that others often miss. As well as the usual suspects, you’ll find stories of Elijah, Hezekiah, Esther, Philip and the Ethiopian, and Peter’s dream of the unclean animals. Even more, it attempts to adapt a handful of psalms – something I’ve not often seen in children’s Bibles (except perhaps for Psalm 23).

There is a great breadth of stories here, and it’s a real strength. What it really lacks, however, is anything about the new creation. After concluding the Acts story with Paul in prison, there is one final story concerning Paul writing his letters, and then it finishes. It’s a rather abrupt finish, and it very surprising, given the number of stories already covered. It’s perhaps the only real unfortunate oversight.

Illustrations

The illustrations take up 3 quarters of the double-page spread for each story. They are very vibrant, and nicely drawn. You may have your own particular tastes, but these are modern and engaging for young readers. Characters are easily identifiable, and consistent between stories, so children can follow along with who’s who. They’re colourful and detailed, but not excessively so. Some of the nicer looking images in kids Bibles that I’ve seen.

Biblical Theology

Some kids Bibles attempt to show the over-arching narrative of the Bible and how it all fits together. This one does not. Apart from multi-part stories (eg. Joseph’s story is 13 parts long), these are largely isolated stories without any real attempt to connect it all to the bigger story of God’s work. If you’re looking for a solid Biblical theology, you won’t find it here.

Gospel accuracy

Ever picked up a story book on Noah, and found that the reason for the flood is completely ignored? Some kids Bibles do a lousy job at communicating sin, preferring to retell ‘classic’ stories, or emphasising a moralistic reading. The Illustrated Bible for Little Ones does a decent job. It certainly doesn’t hide any of the messy details, but neither does it give any real sense of a need to respond ourselves. It doesn’t particularly moralise, but nor does it bring any compulsion to repent. It plays a pretty straight bat here.

Thought provoking

The stories are simple enough, and there are no guided questions to follow up with children. The short length of the stories makes it quite easy to adapt and make up your own questions to engage further with the story, but (as on the previous point) there is no real feeling that you are challenged as a reader.

Aesthetically pleasing

It’s a nice size to hold, pictures are large and vibrant, and it looks really nice. The padded cover is nice, and the design, consistency and feel of the pages are all excellent.

Overall

I really like this Bible for a number of reasons. Short and to-the-point stories; beautiful images; pleasant reading, and breadth of stories are all great pluses. It’s lack of anything on the New Creation is major oversight, but otherwise it’s a well designed kids Bible, and what it does, it does very well.