February 02, 2006


My First Read and Learn Bible. Little Shepherd/Scholastic. $9.99.

Jesus Gives His Blessing. By Eva Moore. Little Shepherd/Scholastic. $3.99.

Joseph’s Amazing Coat. By Teddy Slater. Little Shepherd/Scholastic. $3.99.

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam and The Lord Is My Shepherd. By Hans Wilhelm. Little Shepherd/Scholastic. $5.99 each.

     There was a time, not very long ago, when major publishers incorporated religious books into their regular lines.  Golden Books did so, for example, when it was part of Simon and Schuster.  Nowadays, though, religious books seem to come mainly from publishers with an overtly religious orientation and particular message; and when a general-purpose publisher does offer such books, they have their own identification to keep them separate from the rest of what the publisher offers.  So it is with the Little Shepherd line from Scholastic, whose five new titles tell Bible stories, primarily from the New Testament, for a young audience.

     My First Read and Learn Bible, for ages 3-5, actually splits its eight stories between the Old and New Testaments, but since there are more books in the Old than in the New, the leaning is in a Christian direction.  Parents wanting to introduce young children to familiar Bible tales will find them told in the simplest possible form in this sturdy board book: Creation, David and Goliath, the birth of Jesus, Jesus and the little children, and more.  Stripped to their essentials and simply illustrated, these stories, as prepared by the American Bible Society, work well as a child’s first exposure to Bible tales.

     Slightly older children, ages 4-8, who are just learning to read, will find more details of two specific stories in Jesus Gives His Blessing and Joseph’s Amazing Coat.  In addition to telling the stories of Jesus’ healing powers and Joseph’s coat of many colors and prophecies to the Egyptians, these books present some interesting facts that can help modern children understand the ancient tales better.  At the end of the story of Jesus, for instance, is a note that teachers in Jesus’ time sat while teaching, with listeners in a semicircle around them.  At the end of Joseph’s story is an explanation that the Twelve Tribes of Israel were named after Joseph’s brothers and his sons.

     These three Little Shepherd books are more instructive than preachy.  Hans Wilhelm’s two works are aimed at the youngest children of all – up to age three – and carry specific messages.  Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam tells children to behave certain ways because Jesus wants them to: “Jesus wants me to be loving,/And kind to all I see…Serving Him moment to moment;/Then liv[ing] with Him on high.”  The Lord Is My Shepherd is a highly simplified retelling of the famous psalm: “Even in the darkest valley,/I am not afraid./No evil can come to me.”  Prettily illustrated, featuring a baby duck in one book and a little lamb in the other, these works should be useful to parents who want to start conveying specific religious methods to children at the youngest possible age.

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