The Jesus Storybook Bible
Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write this review. We’ve had a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible since my (now 5-year-old) daughter was two, and she and I have read it from cover to cover at least twice. I guess I’m just wary of recommending story Bibles in general (not that it’s stopped me before!), because none is theologically sufficient on its own. It’s probably best to own a couple – in our house, it’s the JSB and The Big Picture Story Bible) – and let them complement one another, with lots of actual Scripture being read alongside. But I want to go on record and apologize for not including this book in Aslan’s Library sooner. I’ve planned to, ever since we started the blog. And I’d love to see others get their hands on this little gem.
I was won over the first time I picked it up and read, on the very second page, “But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.” Each story recounted in the JSB emphasizes what God is doing at that moment, as well as how each episode reflects God’s ongoing work of redemption that will culminate in Jesus. I especially love how Sally Lloyd-Jones honors the real history that happens in the Old Testament, and still captures the provisional, waiting, not-yet-fulfilled sense of longing that pervades Israel’s story.
The overarching metaphor is that God is telling a Story, and – joyfully! – it is a true fairy tale in which the Prince rescues his beloved and takes her home. If that sounds too squishy or romantic to you, bear in mind just how stern and dangerous the best fairy tales and fantasies are. This is not a Disneyfied Jesus. In fact, I think “story” is a great metaphor for children to work with. They intuitively love a good story and know how stories work; small children are also especially good at imagining themselves in stories. And that’s the life of discipleship, really: waking up from our slumber to find that we’re in God’s story, and we had better figure out our part.
While the theological emphasis is tight and focused, the prose maintains a loose, breezy tone. It’s really best for reading aloud, I’ve found: most of the stories are told in a witty, conversational tone that adapts well to a parent willing to get into it. The account of the Crucifixion is somber, rich, and moving. And honestly? The scene when Jesus arrives in the Upper Room after his resurrection is worth the price of the book. (“I’m hungry,” Jesus said. “What’s for lunch?”) I really appreciate Ms. Lloyd-Jones’ ability to capture how the Biblical story moves from the tragic to the comic to the utterly joyful.
This would be a fabulous little book to pick up with your child during Lent, since every story looks forward to when Jesus will finally come and make things right. It captures the hope of the season well: God is active now, and God is coming to rescue us.
A quick note on usage: my daughter and I began reading the JSB out loud when she was about 3 1/2. She was too small, really. So for a year or so, we mostly read The Big Picture Story Bible, which I adore. She’s 5 now, and can read The Big Picture Story Bible to herself. The JSB is now our primary read-aloud alongside narrative passages of Scripture and a children’s psalter. While the illustrations are fabulous, it’s got pretty long sections of text, so if your child has trouble sitting for long stretches you might want to wait. Most children will need to be strong middle grade readers to read it alone.