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Book Review: The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm, Illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker

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Our family loves picture Bibles, and in a home filled with children ranging from one to six years old, it’s pretty easy to see why. The Big Picture Story Bible is both one of the more substantial picture Bible’s we own while also somewhat paradoxically being one of the shortest in length. With 453 hardcover bound pages and measuring around 9 x 9 inches, The Big Picture Bible is big.

Not only is this popular children’s Bible filled with big pictures, but it also focuses on the big picture of God’s over-arching plan for redemption through His Son that is present from beginning to end of the Bible. Focusing on the themes of Jesus’ Kingship, God’s holy book, and God’s special place, young children are given a fly-by voyage through the sections of scripture that best illuminate these themes.

Retold in author David Helm’s words in an easy-to-read font and vocabulary at a grade 2/3 level, this Bible is easy for the two-and-three-year-old crowd to understand and dig into when read aloud, as well as being simple for early readers to move through under their own steam.

One of my favorite aspects about this Bible is that Helm skillfully depicts the endless disobedience of God’s people, his loving discipline, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit to finally change the hearts of God’s chosen people. Scripture references aren’t provided for the 26 parts of this title, which is likely because of the huge sweep across time

The Big Picture Story Bible is easy to read through quickly to provide small children with some ‘hooks’ for future biblical knowledge. Whenever I came to the end of a section, my little ones asked for another, and another; each part can be read aloud in approximately 15-20 minutes. Helm integrates questions into the text that ask children what they think is going to happen next, and prompt them to remember events that have already occurred. My daughter’s love contributing their thoughts, so this was one of their favorite parts of our daily readings.

My oldest daughter is more familiar with the full body of Bible stories and the details associated with them, so she was disappointed when her favorite details and stories were skipped over in this overview. She’d suddenly announce, “Hey, that’s not fair! They just skipped the part about the golden calf!” as we read about Moses and the Ten Commandments. Helm does write in broad sweeps and leaves much uncovered – if your children are really into detail, this likely isn’t the best choice for you, but for preschoolers unfamiliar with the larger plan and scope of salvation, this is a friendly, engaging option.

Illustrator Gail Shoonmaker’s brings the text to life with large, loose watercolors with clearly delineated pencil borders. They created a lot of interest for my younger children, who were always asking what was going on in the pictures. The jewel-toned paintings feature some great points-of-view, showing worshippers looking up to heaven as though from God’s perspective looking down, of those surrounding the cross as though from the perspective of Christ, and so on. The characters are depicted in mainly Caucasian skin tones (always a annoyance), and the highly stylized hair on some people was a bit distracting. Those two points aside, we all greatly enjoyed Shoonmaker’s work that so enlivens the simple text.

The Big Picture Story Bible is a great choice for parents of children with short attention spans who are just cutting their teeth on picture Bibles. With an average of four sentences on each page, and lots to look at visually, there’s no way little ones will lose interest as the story proceeds. My children always scamper over to the couch when I open its pages, and I’m sure yours will too.

About Jennifer Bogart