Do you ever try to have a conversation with a friend while your children are present? You start telling a story, and then you have to jump up to change someone’s pants or stop the baby chewing that wellie, or to break up a fight over a balloon, and an hour later you’re still only half way through. I’m always impressed by parents’ determination to make it to the end of their story, come what may. This level of perseverance is great training for something, I’m sure.
Well back in July I started to tell you something about Christian books for children, and then I got distracted by the school holidays, night feeds, reading a book about beauty, pureeing carrot, settling my child into nursery, inheriting a toddler group, cleaning up sick, that sort of thing, and here we are in October. I never did finish what I was trying to say and now I feel it may be an anticlimax. That’s the thing about the interruptions – they really pile the pressure on for the punchline of your story.
So really all I wanted to say was that children’s books do vary in their helpfulness. I’m sometimes surprised by the choices people make, especially when they have so few words to play around with. For example, we have a board book about the parable of the lost son. It’s mostly a great book: colourful; clear; simple. I like the fact it includes the older son, as sometimes children’s versions do omit important details (like the part where Jonah has a tantrum under a vine). But look at this page – I’ll let you figure out which bit I wasn’t so keen on:
This is a story about the Father’s heart for the lost. Jesus said in Luke 15:20, that “while [the son] was still a long way off”, the Father ran to his son. So why, oh why, did the good people who made this book, decide to write that he was nearly home? Before I was saved by God’s astonishing grace, was I nearly with the Father? No, I was still a long way off.
You might think I’m being pedantic. Fair enough, you don’t need to analyse every board book you have. But it’s good to have your eyes open. We had quite an unhelpful book about the rich fool, which ended with, ‘this is why we should share.’ I can’t show you a picture of that because I binned it. Children are so naturally legalistic*, I don’t want to feed that by strapping a moral lesson onto the end of a parable. The rich fool teaches us to be rich towards God, which yes will no doubt end up in us sharing, but that’s not the main thing I want the children to take away from the story.
So, can I just encourage you to have a little read of a book before you buy it for your child or read it to them? Someone recently gave us a book by Carine Mackenzie called Joseph’s Coat, which is incredibly concise so great for little ones. (And it doesn’t end with, “so share your corn.”) We’ve also got some lovely Susie Poole board books. My favourite is Always Near Me, which is based on Psalm 139. These would perhaps be good gifts for a toddler group or something. I’ve just ordered a book about Christmas from Tenofthose.com which looks great but I can’t tell you about it properly because it hasn’t arrived yet. (I ordered with it some books on Martin Luther so that we can celebrate Reformation Day on 31st October, but it turns out I’m not the only Tenofthose customer to have that bright idea, so they are waiting for more stock to come in.)
If I figure out what to do about Reformation Day, and I don’t get too distracted by space hopper incidents or butternut squash, I’ll tell you all about it.
Meanwhile, I would recommend the Beginner’s Bible (Good Book Co.), the Beginner’s Bible for toddlers, and the Jesus Storybook Bible. We have the Beginner’s Bible bath book, which is the story of creation and is waterproof. It’s also good for babies who like to chew books. Hope this is helpful. Any questions?
*By legalistic I mean that children love to be rewarded for good behaviour, and so they would like to be really good and have God love them for it. When actually they are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy. (By the way, we grown-ups are like that too.)