Reading with Pearl: Children’s Bibles

I realize the topic of Bibles for children is pretty specific and perhaps not widely interesting but it’s an important one in our household so I thought I’d share what I’ve found/learned in the past two years.

First, there are lots of bad children’s Bibles out there but I’m not going to focus on that today. While there are many stories in the Bible that are not exactly appropriate for young children, there are also too many versions of the Bible for children that really whitewash what the true story is all about or even present versions with theological inaccuracies. The following Bibles are some of our current favourites. Meaning I approve of them and Pearl enjoys them too!

The Jesus Storybook Bible:

This is maybe the most popular one I’ve seen around the internet and that many people i know have. The illustrations are unique (and I like that Jesus isn’t Blondie McWhiterson) and the story is well told. The whole book definitely focuses on Jesus, bringing each story back to the central tenet of the Christian faith: that God sent His son to die for our sins. Some of the stories take a little bit of liberty in added details but not in a concerning way. While this is definitely an abridged version, it does cover the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, which I appreciate.

I bought this one for Pearl to start reading together at Advent last Christmas. She loved looking at the pictures but would never let us actually read to her from it. So I simply left it out in her room and with her books and she was able to look through it when she liked until she finally allowed us to touch it and read it to her. Just recently at Easter, we used this Bible to read the Easter story to Pearl during Holy Week.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories:

This one was given to Pearl by my brother and his wife (who are both very knowledgeable in the field of children and the church). They started her with volume 3, which has the creation story and later gave her volume 1. I believe there are five volumes in total. These books are great for the stage Pearl is in right now. The stories are very simply told, have the right amount of repetition, and hold her attention well.

Little Fish Books About Jesus:

There are eight little books in this series, all about Jesus or depicting His parables. These are books I had when I was a kid and when my parents were clearing out old boxes, they brought along three of these. I know we had more of them but who knows where they’ve gone to in the last twenty years. While it seems that the books are only available through the UK (we had the Commonwealth edition but they don’t seem to ever have been distributed in Canada), I was able to get used copies in terrific condition quite cheaply through abebooks.com. Pearl likes the small size of these books and I like how well the stories are told. Also, they’re easy to throw in to my purse for going out and about.

If you have any recommendations for children’s Bibles, I’d love to hear them!

Reading with Pearl: Sandra Boynton

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Sandra Boynton is currently one of Pearl’s favourite authors. Her books are colourful, goofy, and full of animals. While Boynton has many, many books for children, the ones pictured above are the titles we own.

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Pajama Time!

Boynton uses lots of rhyme and song to keep the books entertaining and fun to read. Pearl will ask for the same one over and over again and though nothing holds up well the 20th time in a row, I find Boynton’s books fun to read too. Pajama Time! even helped us get through a period where Pearl hated putting on her pyjamas at bedtime. Reading the book together made the whole process more fun.

Blue Hat, Green Hat

Blue Hat, Green Hat

Pearl loves the animal characters and so we bought her Doggies for Christmas. It’s very simple – full of dogs and counting  – just right for her current stage.

Reading with Pearl: Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis

Two by Carson Ellis from Candlewick Press

Two by Carson Ellis from Candlewick Press

I shared my love for Carson Ellis’ picture books back in July (here) but since she has since come out with a new children’s book, I thought I’d talk about her again.

Du Iz Tak is a creative and unique story, beautifully illustrated in Ellis’ distinctive style. What really sets this little story apart though is that it’s written in a made-up language. It’s the tale of a group of insects who find something unexpected growing and how they interact with it.

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The action, as far as it’s seen through the illustrations is fairly simple and easy to follow and the dialogue is fun to read out loud. It’s short and repetitive and the meaning isn’t difficult to figure out but the made-up language means it can really be whatever the reader wants it to be. It’s a unique idea and one that lends itself to endless story-telling possibilities.

Pearl is a little young to understand the concept of a fictional language or to offer many of her own suggestions but she likes looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy the various accents I’ve put on while reading Du Iz Tak to her so far.

Book Review: The Fox at the Manger by P.L. Travers

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The Fox at the Manger – P.L. Travers (Virago Modern Classics, 2015)

This 20th century Christmas fable comes from the author of Mary Poppins and offers a similar quaint story with a British flavour. The story is really made up of two parts – the opening set is set on Christmas Eve at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The first Christmas Eve service since the end of World War Two. St. Paul’s, miraculously, still stands, though surrounded by destruction. Our narrator is there with three small boys. While the formalities of a Church of England holiday service may no be foreign to most readers, anyone who has tried to keep a child quiet during a solemn occasion will be able to sympathize. (And as someone who was at one point a child in Anglican services, I sympathize with the boys too.)

The boys are inquisitive and curious and on leaving the service ask why there were no wild animals present at Jesus’ manger. In response the narrator says that there was and she tells the story of the fox.

The story here in the second part of the book is more fable – talking animals, cunning fox, surprisingly articulate baby Jesus – than story and I doubt it would capture the attention of most children today. It does have a decent idea behind it of all being welcome in Jesus’ presence though and I can’t argue with that.

While I did read the book aloud to Pearl, she’s too young to expect real engagement over a book this long. It will be interesting to try it again in a few years, maybe as a bedtime story leading up to Christmas. What Pearl did enjoy were the pictures scattered throughout. The engravings of animals by Thomas Bewick weren’t created for the story but this edition matches them together nicely and it adds some visual interest.

If you’re looking for a Christmas Eve story slightly off the beaten track, this might be it.

Merry Christmas!

Reading with Pearl: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A Child of Books - Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (Candlewick Press, 2016)

A Child of Books – Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (Candlewick Press, 2016)

I love just about everything from Oliver Jeffers that I’ve gotten my hands on. (The Day the Crayons Quit is probably my favourite.) His illustrations are unique and his stories are fun and whimsical and often hilarious. His most recent book, a collaboration with the artist Sam Winston doesn’t disappoint. While A Child of Books definitely leans more to whimsy than hilarity, it retains that Jeffers charm, as well as showing off Winston’s talents.

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The story is short and simple – a girl floats away on a sea of stories and convinces a boy to journey with her through words and tales. The art combines pictures and words – words lifted right out of famous children’s stories. Each page is fascinating to look at and while young children might not recognize the opening pages of Peter Pan it can still offer a great jumping off point into some of those bigger novels.

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I think this book is a great edition to the library of any book-loving child.

Reading with Pearl: The Ferryboat Ride by Robert Perry, illustrated by Greta Guzek

The Ferryboat Ride - Robert Perry, illustrated by Greta Guzek (Nightwood Editions, 1993)

The Ferryboat Ride – Robert Perry, illustrated by Greta Guzek (Nightwood Editions, 1993)

This is a thoroughly West Coast book. All about riding the B.C. Ferries, an experience well known to anyone who lives on our little peninsula here. Pearl rode the Queen of Surrey for the first time when she was just three days old, on her way home from the hospital in Vancouver. Fittingly, we barely missed the previous ferry and had to wait two hours for the next one, sitting in our car, first in line. We told Pearl that she had better get used to waiting around for ferries.

Robert Perry’s simple rhymes, accompanied by Greta Guzek’s distinctive illustrations show an idyllic view of this trip. And it is a beautiful trip. While locals may complain about our marine highway, the ride can be as magical as this children’s book portrays it. It’s not uncommon to spot whales, to wave at kayakers, or to simply enjoy the sun and wind on the deck.

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Guzek’s style is instantly recognizable and she’s a Sunshine Coast artist who’s well known in these parts. Nightwood Editions is also based here on the Coast. While the book obviously appeals to locals, I think it’s charms would translate well to anyone who likes being by the sea. I’ve given it as a gift to people with children in order to encourage them to come visit!

Reading with Pearl: Janet & Allan Ahlberg

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One of the fun things about being a parent is getting to re-discover things you yourself loved as a child and being able to introduce them to your own kid. The books of Janet and Allan Ahlberg definitely fall into this category for me.

My favourites by the Ahlbergs were the Jolly Postman series – books filled with letters and jokes and funny references to classic tales. While Pearl’s still a little young for the Jolly Postman, she can definitely enjoy other offerings from Janet and Allan Ahlbergs.

These are the two books that we have in our collection, both board books (perfect for my not-always-gentle little girl). Each Peach Pear Plum is a rhyming story filled with fairy tale characters like Cinderella and Baby Bunting. Kids familiar with fairy tales and classic children’s rhymes will find lots to recognize and each page contains a simple search-and-find.

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Peek-a-Boo (or Peepo for the UK audience) follows a baby through his day, talking about what he sees. The illustrations are full of interesting details and are delightfully old-fashioned.

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These are favourites in our household and will be, I think, for years to come.

Reading with Pearl: Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

IMG_7125(Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)

Steve Jenkins does all kinds of creative and interesting books for children about the natural world. His book Actual Size lets children get up close and personal with wild animals in a unique way. The premise is simple but fascinating: every picture of an animal in the book is the actual size of that animal in real life. From the pygmy shrew on the first page (2 inches long) to the saltwater crocodile (23 feet long) whose head and jaw folds out over three pages, each animal is shown in its true-to-life size.

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A crocodile is bigger than my dining room table.

Obviously some of those animals are shown more completely than others but it’s a really fun way for kids to see just how big (or how small) some of these creatures are. You can compare your tooth size with a Siberian Tiger or your eyeball with a giant squid or imagine how many dwarf gobys could fit in the palm of your hand.

For any kid interested in animals and the natural world, Jenkins’ art is a great, simple introduction.

Reading with Pearl: Home by Carson Ellis

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Home – Carson Ellis (Candlewick Press, 2015)

Pearl’s favourite books are the ones with the stock photos of babies. You know the ones, generic babies of various ethnicities doing generic baby things like taking baths and wearing hats. She loves them and coos over those babies like she’s looking at herself. (Which I guess is the point.) I, on the other hand, am a sucker for a well-illustrated children’s book. Hopefully Pearl will grow in her art appreciation.

We were given this beautifully illustrated picture book as a gift when Pearl was just a few months old. I recognized Carson Ellis‘ work from her illustrations for The Decemberists but didn’t know that she had done so much art for children. (She also did the illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society.)

This book is simple and sweet and really all about the illustrations.

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Ellis presents different homes – some realistic, some whimsical – each one intricately portrayed. It feels like it should rhyme but it doesn’t. With an older child it could spark a fun or thoughtful conversation about where people live and how different those places can be. We’ve got everything here from a Slovakian duchess to a raccoon so there are endless imaginative possibilities and that’s one of my favourite things in a book for children.

Reading with Pearl: Puppies Are Special Friends

Last summer, shortly after we bought our house, my parents also moved. Since we were moving into a larger place and they were down-sizing, they brought me a few boxes from my childhood, mostly books. Being in the middle of moving and having a newborn, those boxes went into our crawl space where I mostly forgot about them.

A couple of weeks ago I finally pulled out the boxes and sorted the books. Some that Pearl can enjoy now, some to store away for when she’s older, and some to simply get rid of.

This book initially went into my Give Away pile but Pearl rescued it and fell in love.

Puppies are Special Friends - Joanne Ryder, illustrated by James Spence (A Golden Book, 1988)

Puppies are Special Friends – Joanne Ryder, illustrated by James Spence (A Golden Book, 1988)

She loves dogs. Loves dogs. Real dogs, pictures of dogs, the small wooden toy dog she has that she cuddles right up against her face.

I remember this book from my childhood but I could not tell you where it came from. It actually has my brother’s name written in the front page which makes me think it dates back to the time when he and I were begging our parents to get us a dog. (The very early 1990s.)

The book is mostly facts about puppies. Example: “Puppies change as they grow. When they grow up, they will look more like their parents.” Real mind-blowing facts. There is also some practical advice. “Puppies need fresh food and water to stay healthy.” In case you didn’t know.

Another fun fact: “Puppies and people can learn to be friends.”

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Um, I know that. You told me in the title that puppies are special friends.

There’s certainly nothing wrong or incorrect about any of this it just doesn’t make for a particularly scintillating read. Which makes sense, because Pearl can’t read. She coos with great delight over the pictures.

Like this fantastically 80s-style youngster and his poodle:

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Actually, Pearl may have a thing or two to learn about dogs.

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