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Christian parents looking to introduce toddlers to the Bible should look at The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible (New Growth Press, 2017). It grew out of family pastor Jared Kennedy’s desire to “help toddlers and early preschoolers hear the good news of God’s love for them clearly expressed in ways that will speak to their young hearts.” In 52 stories, equally divided between Old and New Testaments, Kennedy uses the theme of “Promises Made” and “Promises Kept” to lay a sound theological foundation.
Each brief story includes Scripture references and a simple application question. Illustrations by Trish Mahoney employ basic shapes, smiling faces, comparisons, and counting games to enchant little listeners. The promise motif works well: Kids know the value of a promise. A parent’s commitment to go out for ice cream inspires hope. Disappointment reigns when the shop closes early. Broken promises can bring tears. Unlike human parents, our good and all-powerful God always keeps His word (Numbers 23:19).
Kennedy’s wording is conversational and age-specific, while remaining theologically sound. Here, for example, is the beginning of the Flood story: “Adam and Eve had children, and their children had children. Instead of doing what God said was right, all those children did what they wanted all the time. Now the whole world was in trouble. God was sad because of all the bad choices people were making. God said, ‘I will cover the world with water. I’ll start over with one family.’ God chose Noah and his family.” There’s total depravity, righteous and sovereign choice, in terms little ones can understand and build on.
Mahoney’s illustrations are simple, with basic single-tone colors and friendly faces. Some might find them childish; I find them childlike. Most of the New Testament stories picture Jesus, but not in shining white (an itinerant first-century preacher does not trudge the dusty roads of Galilee in a spotless robe!). On the very last page, though, He appears not only in white garments but on a white horse (see Revelation 5) with a sword to smite the devilish dragon. By that point, both you and your kids should feel like cheering!
The 52 stories, each four to six pages long, can be read or reread at the rate of one per week. They include Scripture references (all OT stories have at least one NT reference), end with a simple application question, and include attention grabbers like this fact about John the Baptist: “He ate bugs!”
The return of Adam Raccoon
Cartoon character Adam Raccoon gave 1990s parents and children (3 to 8 years old) some fun stories laced with subtle Bible teaching. Adam learned life lessons the hard way, landing in constant trouble—but King Aren, representing Jesus, came to the rescue every time. For example, Adam in Adam Raccoon and the Flying Machine tried to build an airplane based on personal preferences: It crashed. Then he learned to follow King Aren’s directions.
Now, author Glen Keane has teamed up with a new publisher, Green Egg Media, to offer the titles in a slightly revised format. Maps offer more detail on Adam’s territory, but the Bible verses are gone, so Christian parents can bring in their own. Keane, who has been an illustrator with Disney, has comics in his DNA: His late father, Bil Keane, did the Family Circus cartoons in newspapers for many years. —by Russ Pulliam