“Can we read some more?”
These five words are music to a parent’s ears (or at least this parent’s). When the kids are excited about a book, we definitely like to indulge them. My girls and I love the Chronicles of Narnia series, for example, and every time I finish a chapter, the request to read the next one immediately follows. (And they’re always disappointed when I say “no”, but I’ve got a good reason—it takes me 20-30 minutes to read a chapter out loud!)
A few weeks back, we started reading Kevin DeYoung’s latest, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. As we prepared to read it, I wondered what the kids would say about it—would it be one of those books they really enjoy or one they listen to because Mom and Dad want to read it to them.
I mean, this is a book that is kind of risky: it’s essentially a miniature biblical theology for children, a story connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Jesus’ death and resurrection to the new creation, by an author not known for writing books geared toward children.
In other words, it’s the kind of book that people would never expect to work.
And yet, it does. Really, really well, in fact.
Honesty and accuracy can be child-friendly
One of the great difficulties I have with a lot of Bible storybooks is that, in an effort to keep things clear for kids, the author often winds up sanitizing the stories of the Bible. This is why there are so many board books with smiling Noah and a boat of happy animals. DeYoung doesn’t do this, thankfully. Instead, he strikes a very good balance, aiming for a child-friendly and entertaining read that also happens to be honest about what’s in the Bible. Combine that with Don Clark’s terrific artwork, and you’ve got a pretty cool book on your hands. Check it out the opening of the story:
Pretty cool, right?
Clark knows what’s going to fit the subject matter of the book (which is harder than you’d think) and uses color, shapes, and negative space extremely effectively to communicate and connect with the reader. The opening pages of the story of the garden are lush and rich (as seen above), but when the story turns, the tone changes. Colors become muted. The page design gets a bit more sparse. And neither Clark nor DeYoung shy away from being honest about things like Cain murdering his brother:
This is the kind of thing I want to see more of in children’s Bible storybooks—not that they become gruesome affairs, but that they don’t pretend things aren’t the way they are in the Bible. I don’t want my kids to experience a sanitized version of Scripture. I don’t want them assuming that everything is always happy all the time, because if they believe that they’re going to be pretty disappointed. They need to know that the Bible recognizes people as they are—a jacked up mess—and even so, Jesus still came to rescue us.
Did my kids like it?
We read the book over the course of about three days with the kids. The plan had been to use it to switch things up with our family Bible time as part ofour daily routine, doing a chapter a day, but we wound up flying through the first three or four chapters in about 15 minutes. The second night, we read all the way to the last one, and saved that one for the next night to build anticipation (more on that in a second).
And the kids loved it. I asked my oldest what she liked most about it, and her response was, “Everything.” When I pressed for more information, she kept going back to that answer: she really did like everything about the book and was only going to keep telling me that. (Maybe not the most helpful feedback, but still…) Our middle daughter is actually the one who made us wait to read the last chapter on its own—not because she didn’t like the book, but because she didn’t want it to end so quickly! (That, by the way, is about the highest praise you’ll ever get out of that particular child.) And our son was just happy to be there (he’s three, so the book was more or less just pictures to him—but he liked those, too).
If you’re looking for a book to introduce your kids to the story of Scripture, The Biggest Story is one you’d want to strongly consider. It’s honest and faithful to the Bible, but balances that well with a kid-friendly tone and beautiful illustrations. I’m glad to have been able to share this book with my kids. I hope you’ll enjoy doing the same.
Title: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Author: Kevin DeYoung (illustrated by Don Clark)
Publisher: Crossway (2015)