By / May 26

As a dad to three children now between the ages of 16 and 12, I’ve been thinking about Bible storybooks for a number of years. During that time, not only did I read many such books to my children at various ages, but I also had the privilege of writing a preschool storybook Bible and accompanying curriculum: God’s Love: A Bible Storybook (2012, the Kindle version is available for free). Trying my hand at writing a book of Bible stories for children helped me appreciate the challenges of summarizing the stories of God’s Word in a way that faithfully captured both the events (facts) and their connections to the rest of the Bible (themes). 

Some storybook Bibles focus on mainly retelling the facts of biblical events, while others also add an emphasis on a passage’s thematic connections. Some more “thematic” storybooks showcase the gospel or Jesus, while others highlight God’s love or “how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden” (see below). In addition to the descriptions below for each storybook, I’ve also assigned a “Thematic” score to each book. (A “1” indicates the book has practically zero interest in themes/connections, but sticks with retelling the facts of the stories. A “5” indicates that the stories, while attempting to be factually accurate, also significantly emphasize how the stories fit into the larger story of the Bible, often using a particular theme.) I’ve also added information about the ages each book might best fit. 

(Note: The score for “age” is based upon the youngest age at which the book is aimed to be read. With one exception—The Action Bible—the age score indicates the age of a child to whom a parent is reading a book, not the age at which children would read the book for themselves.) 

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones 

This beautifully written and illustrated children’s story Bible has become a classic. The stories focus on Jesus and the beauty of the gospel—it’s like reading the best Tim Keller sermons, but for kids. (The author, a member at Redeemer in New York City, where Keller pastored for decades, gladly acknowledges his influence.) You may enjoy this storybook as much as your children, or even more. The book features 21 Old Testament stories and 23 New Testament stories, with each story spanning about 5-8 pages, featuring lots of illustrations, and a few paragraphs of text. 

Age: +4 read to/+9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 4 

2. More than a Story (two volumes: OT & NT) by Sally Michael 

If you’ve ever visited a historical site, you’ll know how an expert tour guide can make all the difference. With decades of Bible study and teaching, Sally Michael now puts a masterful guide to God’s Word in your hands. Packed with Scripture, this book is more than a story because it tells the true story of what God is doing in his world. If you use these books, you can lead your family on a life-changing tour of God’s Word. Volume One features 90 OT stories and Volume Two features 66 NT stories, with each story spanning about five pages and containing a few small illustrations and mostly text. 

Age: +6 read to/+9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

3. Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos 

Catherine Vos, wife of the famous theologian, Geerhardus Vos, brings a steady hand to faithfully retelling the stories of the Bible. First published in 1935, the Child’s Story Bible has stood the test of time, having been recently redesigned, with 26 new color illustration, by P&R Publishing. The book features 110 OT stories and 93 NT stories, with each story spanning about three pages of mostly text. 

Age: +5 read to/+8 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 1 

4. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm 

If you want your child to get a glimpse of how the whole Bible fits together, this is the storybook Bible for you. The author, Pastor David Helm, has taken the best of biblical theology—as taught by scholars like Graeme Goldsworthy—and summarized it for very young children. The fun and age-appropriate illustrations also help children see connections among the stories. The book features 11 OT stories and 15 NT stories, with each story spanning about 10-20 pages, each of which contains an illustration and just a few sentences. 

Age: +2 read to/+6 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 5 

5. The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski

Beautifully illustrated, this storybook faithfully retells Bible stories but always with a one eye on the gospel and the other on how it applies to life. Covering 156 stories, each one spans two pages, features bright and colorful artwork, and contains 5-7 paragraphs of text. Each story ends with a few questions to discuss. 

Age: +5 read to/+11 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

6. Seek and Find Bible Story Board Book by Sarah and André Parker 

This board book, Seek and Find by Sarah Parker (and illustrated by André Parker), will captivate young imaginations with stories from the Old Testament (volume one) and the New Testament (volume two) as they seek and find dozens of “hidden,” fun elements in each captivating illustration. This series, the Where’s Waldo? of Bible storybooks, mixes Bible learning with hours of fun! Each volume of this board book covers eight Bible stories, with one paragraph of text and lots of illustrations. 

Age: +2 read with. 
Thematic Emphasis: 4 

7. Bible Stories Every Child Should Know by Kenneth Taylor 

Some Bible story books are more story than Bible—but this wonderful update of Kenneth Taylor’s classic lets the Scriptures speak. Parents and children will love the simple and direct retelling of stories from Genesis to Revelation. With fun illustrations and family discussion questions, Bible Stories Every Child Should Know points even the youngest hearts to the good news of Jesus Christ. The book features 120 stories, with each story featuring several illustrations and spanning about 2-3 pages. 

Age: +4 read to/+7 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 1 

8. The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story, illustrated by Sergio Cariello 

This is a Bible comic book, which dramatically retells stories from the Bible using exciting illustrations by Sergio Cariello. The text for this award-winning book is penned by authors (unnamed), writing for the publisher: David C. Cook. Middle-grade readers will enjoy over 230 stories, covering both the Old and New Testaments. Each story lasts about 2-4 pages and states which Bible passage the story is based upon. 

Age: +9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 2 

9. The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung 

Like God’s Big Picture Bible (mentioned above) but for an older readership, The Biggest Story also focuses on telling a unified story of God’s Word. In 10 chapters, this stunningly illustrated book tells the story of “how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden” (the book’s subtitle). This book is a work of art (illustrations by Don Clark), and its unifying gospel message will fill hearts with wonder and worship at its beauty. Each chapter is packed with illustrations, spans 10-12 pages, and contains about 35-45 sentences. [Note: Kevin DeYoung has also published, The Biggest Story Bible Storybook, also illustrated by Don Clark, which includes 104 stories and spans 528 pages!]

Age: +4 read to/+8 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 5  

10. The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy 

Once I started reading The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, I could hardly stop. Jared Kennedy retells favorite Bible stories with a freshness and clarity that toddlers and preschoolers (and their parents) will love. Open this book with your little one, and watch eyes light up, fingers point, and smiles start to spread. Every page pops with bright colors and playful illustrations. Best of all, each of the short chapters will point your child to Jesus. The book features 52 stories, with each story containing 15-20 sentences, featuring lots of illustrations, and spanning about 6 pages. 

Age: +3 read to/+6 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

Bible Storybooks—Honorable Mentions:
The Tiny Tots Bible Story Book by John Walton and Kim Walton
The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell
The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook (from The Gospel Project) 

By / Dec 8

More Than a Story is a new kind of Bible resource for children — taking children on a chronological journey through the Bible with a God-centered, gospel-focused, discipleship-oriented, and theologically grounded perspective. Though the Bible is full of stories, it is more than a story; it is the authoritative Word of God that, throughout its pages, proclaims and magnifies the majestic character of God, his work in this world, and his plan of redemption for sinful men through his Son, Jesus. 

Truth 78 is releasing the New Testament volume of More Than a Story just in time for Christmas 2021. The book’s author, Sally Michael, answers a few questions about this helpful resource below.

More Than a Story has a different feel from other Bible books written for children. Why is a book of this type and tone so important? 

Sally Michael: We have many children’s Bible resources consisting of collections of key Bible stories written in an engaging manner. But what seems to be lacking is a comprehensive overview that covers the breadth and depth of the message of the Bible. The More Than a Story Old and New Testament volumes attempt to fill in those gaps, giving children a solid foundation of the manifold character of God, the plotline of the Bible, and key Bible doctrines in a child-friendly, engaging, yet respectful manner. It also incorporates many of the non-narrative portions of the scriptures. Children need to be exposed to the wisdom of Proverbs, the comfort of the Psalms, the warnings and promises of the prophets, the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the reminders of the gospel and instructions for Christian living in the letters, and the Revelation of the glories of the Coming King who will make all things new. Children need a solid foundation of truth to develop a strong faith. 

While the Bible is full of fascinating and exciting stories, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is the authoritative, clear, necessary, sufficient Word of God. So, the tone of the book, though appealing to children, is also respectful and honoring of the Bible. There is an appropriate sobriety regarding the seriousness of sin as well as glorious, exalting joy in the redemption bought by Jesus. I have tried to treat the truths of the Bible in a manner worthy of God’s Word while still being engaging with children, interactive, and creative. Many actual texts from the Bible are included so that children can experience the power of the Word of God and become familiar with the text of the Bible, God’s actual words. 

How does your experience as a Bible teacher determine the tone and focus of this book?

SM: In my experience of teaching children who grow up in the church, I have often seen a sketchy knowledge of the Bible and a simplistic understanding of its teachings. I have also noted that it is not unusual for children from Christian homes to have head knowledge without heart engagement. One of the most frightening verses for me in the Bible is Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

I am at heart a teacher, not a writer. Writing is just a medium to expand the scope of my teaching. So, when I am writing to children, I am intent on teaching them solid, life-giving truth. I am very intentional to teach a logical scope and sequence, to present accurate knowledge, to ask the hard questions; to teach children to think and draw conclusions, to see themes and patterns in Scripture, and to accurately interpret the text. But good teaching is not just dumping information in the minds of children — it is helping them to interact with that knowledge so that they see the connections between the Bible and their own lives; it is helping children to wrestle with the hard truths and the glorious truths to engage their hearts.

And I think that the prayer of every good Bible teacher is that the will of the child is influenced to trust in God. So, when I write, I am actually teaching. I intentionally try to inform the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will.

You’ve noted that one of the goals of More Than a Story is to teach children Bible study skills. Have you found that parents don’t feel equipped to do that? Is this difficult for churches, too?

SM: I think we underestimate children, and we certainly underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit. Children can be taught to look at a text, ask questions of the text, define words, wrestle with the meaning of a text, draw conclusions, and discern truth. The simple skills of observation (What does the passage say?), interpretation (What does the passage mean?), and application (How does the meaning of this text apply to me personally?) can be learned through prayer and practice. Children can make amazing connections when they are taught the Bible, and the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and is faithful to bring forth fruit.

In my former church, a little 2-year-old girl learned the verse, “No one can serve two masters.” At 3 years old in the preschool department, the teacher was teaching about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. She asked the class, “Should they bow down to the statue of gold?” This little girl became very agitated, and she jumped up and said, “They can’t! They can’t! Because of that verse.” She was pointing to a card with the recognition symbol for “No one can serve two masters.” 

As to the question, “Are parents and the church equipped to do that?” Absolutely! They can ask who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. They can help children to apply Scripture by answering the questions: “What should I think? What should I be? What should I do?” The question is not one of equipping but of intentional exposure to the actual words of Scripture. Are we intentionally teaching our children to be Bereans who are “examining the Scriptures daily”? How often do we actually ask children to read a text and answer questions about it?

In More Than a Story, you aren’t afraid to ask children to look at sin and its effects. How do children process a topic like that? 

SM: Children are pretty matter of fact. They don’t have the emotional baggage adults have to cloud their thinking. They more readily accept hard truths than adults do because suffering and difficulty are not usually personal for children but rather academic.

That said, I think it is good for children to feel uncomfortable, even concerned about the right things. As my former pastor John Piper once said, “[I]f we don’t know what our real plight is, we may not recognize God’s rescue when it comes.” Randy Alcorn agrees. He writes, “Fear of Hell serves as a merciful call to repentance.”

We want children to feel the discomfort of being a sinner, of deserving the wrath of God. The cross is meaningless to a person who does not understand that he is under the just judgment of God. To minimize sin is to minimize Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. So, More Than a Story does present the essence, pervasiveness, and problem of sin. We are serving our children when we teach the seriousness of sin because their eternal souls are at stake. 

But we must also pair that sober news of judgement with the gloriously good news of the gospel. The goal is for children to treasure the Savior, run to him for rescue, and put their trust in his work on the cross. Yes, More Than a Story presents the bad news, but it also surely portrays the glories of God’s mercy, the incredible forgiveness for sin paid for on the cross, and the glorious message of the gospel. The good news of a merciful God permeates this book. It presents the good news as GOOD NEWS! 

Which biblical events in More Than a Story hold particular meaning for this very difficult year? 

SM: Rather than just pick a particular event I would say that the message of God’s providence, his faithfulness to his people, the pervasiveness of sin and the effects of the Fall, and the reality of future glory are the truths that hold fast our hope in these difficult times. I want children to know that God is sovereign and good, to know that all his promises are “yes and Amen in Jesus,” to know that weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning, to know that this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory steadies the soul and informs our emotions for the difficult times.

A story in the Bible that particularly illustrates this for children is the story of Joseph. The truth that God is always at work accomplishing his purposes and that what others meant for evil, God intended for good is so easy for children to see in the story of God’s faithfulness to Joseph and the offspring of Abraham.

What are your hopes for More Than a Story?

SM: My hope is that More Than a Story will impassion parents to take the spiritual nurture of their children seriously and that it will be a good foundation for them to understand how to do that.  My prayer is that this book will ignite in children a desire to seek God and that this book will lead them to the Book — the inspired, trustworthy, precious Word of God.

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 16, Truth 78 featured More Than a Story on their Zealous podcast. The Truth 78 leadership — David and Sally Michael as well as Jill Nelson — let us listen in on one of their recent conversations at the Truth 78 staff retreat. The end of the podcast includes a call to action for men from David and an explanation of the More Than a Story vision and how the resource is a great tool for families to begin with in their homes.