I requested the Just Like Jesus Bible Storybook by Stephen Elkins to review and eventually read with my children. I love the idea of a book that focuses on pointing out the characteristics of Jesus as examples of how we should encourage our children to live their lives. After all, part of why Jesus came was to show us the right way to live in relation to God and others. There is a reminder in the book that “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6, NLT) As an adult, I still have to remind myself of this, so why not get my children started in thinking about it at an early age?
The book is a padded hardcover, and the illustrations throughout are both beautiful and cute. The book looks at 40 character traits, such as being dependent, thankful, responsible, dependable, patient, obedient, and joyful. For each section, it starts with a Bible verse using either the NLT or the NIV, a story from the Bible (greatly shortened and retold for children), a “Jesus in Me” section (which looks at how children can apply the character trait to his or her life), a “Prayer for Today” where children can be led to ask God for help with the character trait, and a reminder of how “To be just like Jesus,” stating the character trait one more time.
I like the idea of the book and the layout of it. There were a few issues, however, to be aware of.
First, when the Bible stories are shortened and retold, they can lose some of the original meaning and, I think, create an unclear picture in children’s minds. For example, the character trait for working hard says this: “Jesus was always at work, even as a boy! One day, Jesus’ parents couldn’t find Him. They searched everywhere. Where was He? At work in the church!” (p. 91) It is very important to me to represent Scripture rightly, even if we have to explain things to kids. The story is taken from Luke 2:41-47. To me, calling the temple the church will only create a confusion that will have to be corrected later as our children grow up. Not a huge one, I’m sure, but I don’t want to create any confusion, if I can help it. Also, in the biblical account, Jesus is in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. I’m pretty sure that if I leave the book’s retelling as it is (saying Jesus was “[a]t work in the church”) it will create a very different picture of what was happening in my children’s minds.
Now, to be fair, the book does tell a better version a little later, stating that when Mary and Joseph couldn’t find Jesus, “they ran back to the city. They found Jesus at church, learning about God!” (p. 111) Also, the book is really less of a book focusing on Bible stories (despite the title) and more of a book about applying certain parts of Scripture to our children’s lives. But I still like it when the stories match up a little more closely.
The other issue is that not all of the application sections will apply to children without being modified. For the chapter on being dependent on God, it says, “Have you ever ridden in an airplane? You probably couldn’t see the pilot flying the plane. But you could still hear the pilot’s voice. In the same way, you can’t see God. But you can DEPEND on Him to guide you. His Word is true!” (p. 12) My children have never ridden in an airplane, so this illustration would not make any sense to them or connect with them. I would need to alter it to have an impact. I found a few places where I would have to adjust the section to connect with my kids better. If I had not read ahead to know this, I would have been caught off guard when reading the section to them.
Overall, the book is a wonderful idea, and I do want to read through it with my children. But I will definitely focus more of my time on another Bible storybook that needs less clarifying and adjusting for my children.
Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.