This review is part of a larger series reviewing a crowd-sourced list of popular children’s Bibles for early readers. Read more here.
Thanks to all of you who submitted your feedback on what children’s Bibles you use in your home, church, or community. In the next few weeks, we’ll share the full results of the survey and dialogue about the three most commonly used Bibles:
- Growing in God’s Love: Story Bible by Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim
- Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu
- Spark Story Bible by Patti Thisted Arthur
In the meantime, here’s our conversation about a new release: The Peace Table: A Storybook Bible by Chrissie Muecke and Teresa Kim Pecinovsky.
Jo: I really enjoyed this Bible. It addresses many of the things that I’ve been craving in children’s Bibles in terms of biblical accuracy, prayers that don’t feel extremely childish and the ability to address a lot of the hardship of the Bible. It also covers a lot of Scripture that I don’t see in many children’s Bibles.
Amy: I 100% agree. I like the range of this Bible. It covers so much territory, and it uses language that is appropriate for children. There are some stories they omit because they truly can’t be told in a way that’s appropriate for children, but nothing here is “dumbed down.”
Jo: Yeah, I really enjoyed how they didn’t pull punches. It still honored the story for what it is. I always get nervous about how they talk about people like Hagar and Bathsheba and even the woman at the well. There’re so many people in the scriptures, especially women, that have been twisted in a certain way. But in this Bible, you can feel that was written by female authors and female theologians who are doing the additional work and it really pulls together a comprehensive view of Scripture.
Amy: Definitely. Even some difficult stories are tackled in a straightforward way. Did you have a favorite?
Jo: Yes! The way they portrayed Hagar shows how they honor each story. Hagar is often either omitted from children’s Bibles or relegated to the background. The authors attribute (the name of God) El Roi to her and appropriately describe God’s promises to her and her son. But the story also says Hagar had no choice. And it’s so important to address the injustice of her story and what Abram did – especially in our world, where we need to talk about consent and how to love our neighbors, even when the Bible doesn’t always show that.
Amy: I agree. This Bible has a definite point of view. It’s meant to be used alongside the Shine curriculum, with its emphasis on peacemaking and raising the next generation of peacemakers. I liked the idea that you have these “peace paths”; you can show children a way to find peace inside of themselves or to make peace with others. It takes you through the Bible thematically, from the Hebrew Bible to the stories of Jesus and beyond. As someone who previously planned Sunday morning activities and curriculum for children, I could see this approach resonating with children. So, I love the fact that the publishers are explicit by calling it The Peace Table, suggesting gathering around a table to relive the stories that lead to peace – a really powerful image.
Jo: I completely agree. Similarly, their approach to prayer is really important to me, with the example that they have an extra section with all these different types of prayer. They have a little labyrinth and other finger paths for kids to follow. But most of all, I love breath prayers and they have all these options for breathing. One of the stories recommends how can you make your own breath prayer. To put the ownership of prayer into kids’ hands at such an early age is so important because kids might not realize that prayer can be a part of literally everything we do.
Amy: I love that for parents as well! Parents and grandparents would sometimes say to me, “Oh, it’s so sad there’s no prayer permitted in the schools anymore.” And I would always say, “Well, we don’t need permission to pray, right?” I love giving children the tools to pray when they are in a tough spot or a sad moment. If they’re in public, and they might feel too shy to pray noticeably, this Bible has reminded them that they have within them everything they need to talk to God – a breath prayer is a beautiful way to do that.
Jo: I love that they have ample resources in the back such as maps and historical facts. It really allows within a single book for those curious kids who ask, “How long did Jesus walk from Jericho to Jerusalem?”
Amy: Yes, these resources would be so helpful to parents, Sunday school teachers and kids. So, let’s talk a little about what age group you see this working for.
Jo: I would say advanced third graders and probably fourth or fifth graders. The book uses complex words and topics with difficult illustrations. One example is in Jonah. In Jonah chapter four, Jonah says “Well God, I want to die,” and that’s usually left out of children’s Bibles. But the Peace Table includes an image of Jonah being grumpy under a tree and being very, very frustrated at what’s happening. That’s not necessarily something to put in the hands of our littlest parishioners without an adult next to them to have a bigger conversation.
Amy: I definitely see this working with a wide range of ages in a supported way. Younger children could appreciate this as part of the curriculum or on Sunday mornings. I would want it to be more of a supported experience with their teachers, with the idea that as they become older than they are familiar with the pictures, they’re familiar with the stories and they can start reading it on their own.
Jo: I completely agree. It’s not something that I would want in our earliest classrooms, but it addresses so many stories that we don’t hear every week, and this could be a kind of string that ties together earlier education and older children.
Amy: You touched on the illustrations, so let’s discuss those a little bit more. First, they’re gorgeous! Multiple artists, multiple techniques. I love the Psalms — the technique is a sort of mosaic created from different tactile materials.
Jo: I really enjoyed some of the Mexican artists that they brought in. To see Mexican art and experience represented through the plants, the wildlife and the dress is valuable for me. They emphasize at the beginning that “God with us”— and what does it mean to see God’s story through the lenses of our own experiences and our own cultures? It’s a nice reminder that there’s no one way to view a story, because we’re all coming to the story with our experiences, our own lives, our own cultures, and to see those cultures represented well is really, really neat.
Amy: Absolutely. It reminds us that the image we offer creates expectations. If we show Jesus as looking northern European, it prevents kids from really engaging with their own cultures or understanding Jesus as a Middle Eastern Jew. And I love that there were so many ways that these stories could be viewed based on the cultural background of the different artists.
Jo: I love that. In the same way, there are not really any two artists that look the same. You’re excited to kind of see what the illustrator is going to do. It keeps interest.
Amy: But the flip side that you alluded to earlier, is that some of these illustrations are really challenging. When my children were little, part of what drew them into wanting to hear a Bible story was the whimsical, accessible pictures that presented Jesus as jovial and welcoming – maybe even a little bit goofy. You don’t really get that here, which is why this isn’t “baby’s first Bible.” Maybe at first, we want to expose children to a more good-natured Jesus. Then when kids already know Jesus a little, this is the Bible that makes them want to want to go deeper and engage with more challenging depictions.
Jo: Absolutely. As an adult and as an educator, I appreciate that this Bible doesn’t water things down. As a parent, I imagine it could be really intimidating. This book is going to require an investment of time as a parent.
Amy: You mentioned this earlier, but there are stories here that we don’t normally see in children’s Bibles.
Jo: I think the understanding of the authors is that this is not the only Bible you’ll get. For example, there is only one story that covers the death of Christ. This can’t be the only book that you’re using to talk about Scripture and religion with your kiddo. So, I understand why they did it, but there is something to be desired, especially in the Gospels around the Passion.
Amy: That’s true. I appreciate, however, that there are a lot of stories of the early church. It’s not uncommon to run out of time after Easter, and so in Sunday School we might only share a few stories of the early Christians – Paul, maybe Lydia– perhaps a single letter as an example. There’s quite a bit more here!
Jo: There was so much in the book of Acts, which I was so pleased to see. The Peace Table has so many stories from Acts, the Epistles, and even Revelation.
Amy: It sure does. Lots to talk about, Jo — thank you! I’m excited to delve into more children’s Bibles together.
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