Once upon a time: a storybook bible

I received this book from the publisher to review. I did not receive any additional compensation for my review, and all opinions are my own, and are an honest assessment of my views on the book.

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Once upon a time: a storybook bible, Illustrated by Omar Aranda, is published by Zonderkidz.

The tagline on the front cover is “The bible is not a fairy tale. Every great story happened once upon a time.”

I’ll admit to coming to this review with some trepidation. Putting bible and fairy tale in the same sentence even in a negative makes me a little wary. The cover presents an almost “Disney-fied” picture which didn’t help.

But sometimes being aware of your own predisposition is a valuable place to start as a reviewer.

The book is separated into two sections: Old Testament and New Testament. There is no hint as to the writer who took these biblical stories and rewrote them. But, this is apparently by design as each story ends with a small panel with a gilded frame surrounding a biblical verse and reference. The copyright panel tells us that these quotations are from the New International Version (NIV). Even still, some, like the one cited as being from Matthew 14 is rather more paraphrased than a quotation. Many of the others in the New Testament section include questions for reflection or discussion: “What do you need help with in your life?”, “Say a prayer to God and have faith”. Each of the stories also begins with a quotation of one biblical verse.

This is not a simple retelling in modern child-appropriate language. There is certainly poetic license taken by the writer – and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Action is emphasized, and God is often described as “friend” of the stories’ characters. The Lord’s prayer has also been paraphrased somewhat.

Theologically, it is notable that Adam’s wrongdoing is glossed over in the “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” whereas Eve’s is included. I suspect this is a matter of poetic license and keeping the stories to approximately three (3) pages each, along with some unconscious complementarianism peeking through. Mostly, though there is nothing beyond a mainstream reading apparent.

The Old Testament stories cover: creation; Adam and eve; Noah’s ark; Joseph in Egypt; Moses being rescued from the Nile as a baby; Moses crossing the Red Sea; the battle of Jericho; Samson, Ruth and Naomi; Hannah praying for a child (Samuel); Samuel hearing God speak; David and Goliath; David crowned as King; Solomon’s wisdom and the temple; Queen Esther; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego;  Daniel and the Lions; and, Jonah and the “big fish”;

The style of the illustrations is reminiscent of soft film – rounded and gentle. The Lions in Daniel and the Lions look positively friendly. Mary post-delivery looks like she was never pregnant at all; The style is similar to “The Lion King” or “Mulan” in terms of coloring and style. There is a distinct effort made to make the “scary” parts less scary. There is no image of Jesus on the cross, for example, though this is described in the text.

The New Testament Stories cover: Mary being visited by an Angel; the birth of Jesus; the Wise Men and Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Jesus; the Baptism of Jesus by John; Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer; Jesus feeding the 5000; Jesus walking on water; Jesus restoring the sight of a blind man; Zacchaeus the Tax collector; Lazarus being raised from the dead; Jesus enters Jerusalem; Jesus being raised from the dead; the great commission; Jesus’s second coming.

The appropriate age for this storybook bible is around 6-10 years. It would be particularly attractive to those children who are excited by animated movies, fairy tales and adventure stories.

Can be purchased where all good books are (published by Zondervan): The Storybook Bible.

Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer.  She is proudly Team Rabe. You can follow her adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook.  Quotidian Home is a place of comfort from which to show hospitality, of joining with friends for food, fun, laughter, and tears.


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