Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 05/13/2011 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Combines authentic biblical text and realistic illustrations - an excellent resource for any Christian family.
Any family routinely using storybook Bible editions for their devotions or bedtime storytimes finds there are fewer of these products available than there are bedtimes. Experiencing this phenomenon ourselves despite cycling through some of the storybook Bibles two or three times, my wife and I scouted around for a Bible storybook or children's Bible that would last a bit longer and retain biblical fidelity to the text in "adults' " Bibles. We soon found an eminently suitable solution in Good News Publishers' ESV Illustrated Family Bible.
I recall a notable Evangelical blogger gently pooh-poohing the style of art in this book, but I much prefer the realistic approach that Freus has taken to the near-stick figures and cartoonish images of some other storybook Bibles. These realistic graphics - except perhaps for the sallow, lank-haired Caucasian Jesus - endow children with a much more true-to-life concept of how the scenes would have appeared to witnesses and bystanders. Moreover, I would suggest these realistic images underlined that what the text narrates and describes actually happened.
As might be expected, the selected texts are derived mainly from the narrative sections of the Bible. As such, we miss most of the prophets, the wisdom books, the epistles, and 99% of Revelation. But these omissions are understandable. Paul's travels, for example, are not comprehensive, but they do not need to be in a book like this. What is included adequately demonstrates the general pattern of Paul's journeys. Interested readers are then free to consult a "real" Bible. Jesus' life and ministry comprises almost 40% of the text. I also much appreciated that the editors didn't shy away from difficult storylines. An episodic table of contents is included so that certain stories can be easily located.
This brings me to a few minor issues. One, I appreciate the artistry of Freus' panorama of ancient Rome, but it struck me as incongruous appearing inside the back cover, directly after selections from the book of Revelation - a decidedly anti-Roman book! Two, we admittedly used it almost every day for about nine months, but the hardcover binding failed to hold up. It didn't go through anything more arduous than opening and closing once a day. Three, I understand that the text remains true to the ESV, but I did find myself substituting many synonyms for difficult words when reading to my two older children, ages six and four. Not always, mind you, because I take every opportunity to enhance their vocabularies.
While my children and I were making our way through this book I regularly recommended it to other families, and I still do. It's well worth the investment even if it wears out by the time you finish it.