The 12th Day of Christmas gifts: Some great Children’s Books and Bibles (Be sure to go to the end for two great adult books about kids’ books—and a 50% off savings on a wonderful children’s Bible.)

Very early on in our parenthood we came up with the idea to explain
gift-giving at Christmastime (we didn’t pretend to believe in Santa) by teaching
how the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, which, naturally, led us to the liturgical
calendar’s celebration of Epiphany. Ha—what a deal! We got to shop for our
kids after the grandparents and aunts and uncles gave our little ones
gifts, during after-Christmas sales, and had 12 whole days to figure out how to
put together our own family gift-giving ritual. And, more than 25 years later,
we do much of our family gift exchanging on the 12th day of

We think it is a fine tradition, moving from the slow and sad season of
Advent into Epiphany, and we invite you to think about how you can celebrate the
whole season of Christmastide. It not just to buys you some breathing room in
the stress-inducing week, or allows you to listen to the great theology of
Christmas carols a bit longer, but to help young ones understand the importance
and flow of the season. It isn’t just over after a big blowout day on the

So, here are some suggestions for children’s books. I hope it doesn’t sound
pushy to suggest you order something now and find a child who needs a gift on
Epiphany. (Most Protestant kids don’t even know what that is, so you can
introduce them to this celebration of Light in a creative way.) We have tons of
other great children’s books (and, of course, books for older readers, middle
schoolers, or teenagers) so call if you’d like some recommendations for other

Here is a great choice for just this occasion:

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Come Worship With Me: A Journey through the Church Year Ruth Boling,
illustrated by Tracey Dahle Carrier (Geneva Press) $19.95 We love to promote
this lush book of church mice learning bout the major holidays of the liturgical
calendar. It has a bit of whimsy, lots of great, rich color, and tons
educational aspects as traditional Christian symbols are explored. Great for
pre-schoolers up to inquisitive early elementary children. The same
author/artist team have done a companion volume, with the same church mice, by
the way, which is a brightly rendered study (by way of story) of Advent,
Christmas and Epiphany called Mouse Tales: Things Hoped For
(Westminster/John Knox; $16.95) which is also a real treat

How about children’s picture Bibles?

There are so many, and most are fun and lively and cartoony; I appreciate
whimsy and of course understand that the vocabulary and language need to be age
appropriate and understandable. Yet, too many dumb it down, or market the
stories as if they are mere stories; disconnected and silly. That it is a
serious matter to break open God’s Word and that it is to be read coherently
seems almost to escape some well-intended creators of children’s

Yet there are plenty of really good ones out there, and the variety of
illustration and tone is a delight. We have oodles of different ones and many
have something unique to commend them. It is fun to look at them all and recall
reading them out loud. Actually, I think the paraphrase story approach can be
helpful for adults, too, so we think families should have several, if they can
afford them, and read them together.

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Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name Sally
Lloyd-Jones/illustrated by Jago (Zondervan) $16.99 This is our hand-down
favorite for ages 4-8. That she sees the coming of Christ as the center of the
unfolding drama is so helpful; it removes the stories from being mere morality
tales or sentiment, and moves towards this sturdy sense that Jesus is the key to
God’s redemptive work among His people and in His world. Kudos to Sally and to
Zondervan for doing it! (By the way, we have the new deluxe edition of it which
comes slip-cased with an audio CD, a male British voice doing the reading of
many of the stories, which is pretty cool for $24.99.) She has other books, too,
including some specific Bible stories, and some more general-market books. She’s

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories Tomie dePaola (Puffin) $10.95
This large sized

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paperback includes many Bible
stories straight from the NIV, without paraphrase or comment. The artwork is
classic dePaulo, with his quasi-medieval, signature style. Mr. DePaola, a devout
Catholic and one of the great children’s illustrators of the late
20th century, has given us a book to be treasured and enjoyed. There
are bright colors on every page, with illuminations and symbols and small
drawings even on the pages that are mostly text. There are over 30 stories told
(and a Bible index in the back, which is helpful especially for Sunday school
teachers.) Other pages are nothing but pictures. Very nice and a special gift
for anyone that loves his other good work like Strega Nona or St.
, or Nana Upstairs.

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm, illustrated by Gail
Schoonmaker (Crossway) $22.99 Its organizing philosophy–the historical
redemptive approach which emphasizes the unfolding drama of the whole of
Scripture—is somewhat like The Jesus Storybook Bible. The book is
large-sized, thick and heavy, but has fewer words on the page, and a more
classic sort of pastel art. It is ideal for very young children, younger
kindergartners, and pre-schoolers. A great way to show the big

365 Bible Stories for Young Hearts Lion Hudson (Crossway) $17.99
They say this is for ages 5 and up and, again, has that sort of coherent
feel…. I like the colorful, but standard, artwork on almost every page. The
size is nearly 9 x 9 and the explication of each passage is more than adequate.
It has a ribbon marker, too.

Children’s Bible in 365 Stories Mary Batchelor, illustrated by
John Haysom (Lion Press) $16.99 I am not exactly sure why, but this is the one
we most often sell, the one we have recommended the most over the years; we
trust the tone and reading and vocabulary and realistic, traditional art.
Perhaps not the most artful or provocative, but it gets the job done with age
appropriate language and solid explanations of the Bible story. This Bible
storybook contains many of the “bridging” stories that connect the better-known
stories (especially in the O.T.) making it very useful for more thorough Bible
knowledge. Can be read aloud to younger ones, but is best suited for middle to
older elementary readers or hearers. It is indexed, too; notes the book and
chapter reference for each story.

The Lion Day-by-Day Bible Mary Joslin, illustrated by Amanda Hall
(Lion Press) $19.95 A

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younger version of the Mary Batchelor collection but with a
tremendously rich aesthetic look. The text is simpler than Batchelor’s, but is
not at all babyish. (And each day’s reading includes a prayer handsomely designed into the margin.) Clear sentences, but some stretching vocabulary make it
suitable for older 4’s to about age 10 or so. Reads aloud well. Each double page
spread has appealing and colorful visuals, though not always a “scene” from the
story. There are 365 stories, one to a page, with each one accompanied by book
and chapter reference and a sentence prayer. A “Story Finder” index helps to
locate specific stories by topic, theme or event in the liturgical year. This is
really very, very artful and wonderfully attractive.

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The Bible for Children Murray Watts, illustrated by Helen Cann (Good
Books) $23.99 Beautifully illustrated in an evocative, dynamic style with an art
piece for almost every story. The appealing page layouts are enhanced with
illustrated borders on the two outside edges making it one of the nicest
children’s Bibles’s in our collection. It is hard to pick just one, but this may
be our true favorite
; wish we could show you samples of the page spreads. The language is descriptive and artful, yet very clear.
(We appreciate the attention to the age appropriateness of it all, too, with
some sensitivities shown about the violence and such, unlike many kid’s Bible
story books.) The stories do flow one to the next, and often assume that the
readers/listeners remember the events or characters of the preceding story.
Contains an index of people and places in the back. Great!  A joy to behold.

NIrV Discoverer’s Bible for Young Readers (Zondervan) $22.95  The NIrV is the “reader’s
edition” which means it is not a new or different translation (like, say, the
TNIV) but just a young-readers version, adapted from the NIV by a group of
language specialists who were very aware of vocabulary and syntax and such. They
did change the NIV text a bit, but not so much that it isn’t considered a real
NIV Bible. It brings it down nearer a 3rd grade reading level instead of the
typical 8th or 9th grade level of the standard NIV of the revised
TNIV. This particular edition (although there are others) has a nice, fairly
large 12-point type, making it good for early readers (or for reading aloud.)
There are about 30 pictures scattered throughout, but it is not a picture Bible,
just a nice edition of the real Bible for younger children. This Young Discoverer’s edition, with some pictures, nice type face is also available in the NIV.

Adventure Study Bible
(Zondervan) This is a real “study Bible” for

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aged-kids that comes in either the younger NIrV or the standard
NIV, which has maps and jungle-themed (VBS-looking) art throughout, with side
bars and “did you know” factoids and all kinds of clever and creative aids for
middle elementary students… What a fun, fun way to help students learn to
study, read-up on extra background stuff, and learn to think about ways to apply
the insights of the passages to daily living.
  They’ve got a variety of covers, some devotional books, too, even audio stuff in their “adventure” line.  Go here for the full listing.

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In The Beginning Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by James Kandt
(TommyNelson) $17.99 There are just oodles of creation stories, and some are
stunning, but a bit mature; others are stunning but a bit weird. This is
fabulously done, great, colorful, creative and big, big art, with very lovely
text. This author is a favorite of ours, and this simple telling of the days of
creation is fun and thoughtful, in a very simple manner. It has a full page
spread at the end of Colossians 1:16. Bright silver end papers (with some rich
blue stars) make this really nice.


Creation  Gennady Spirin (Zondervan) $14.99  This is one of the most visually stunning and truly interesting picture books of the creation narrative of which
we know. This “Master Illustrator” series is extraordinary, and the artwork in this one
evokes a sense of the spectacular art of the high Middle Ages. The renowned
Russian illustrator is known especially for his work in fairy tales, mixing
contemporary Russian styles with those of the Renaissance.

Creative ways to teach values, character, creative and hope

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Big Thoughts for Little People: ABCs to Help You Grow Ken Taylor
(Tyndale) $14.99 This is a classic Christian alphabet book, now re-designed with
a whole new fabulous look which is playful and nice. The pastel art of the
children is more multi-cultural and kind of upbeat, a little silly, and yet
very, very sweet. It is an ABC book and some might think the faith lessons are a
little moralistic, but it is for really young children, so we think it is great.
There are discussion questions after a small lesson, and one Bible verse per
two-page spread. It is made for interactive use, of course, and there is lots to
look at, pictures jam-packed with motion and stuff and lots of color. The artist
now lives in Croatia!

I Am A Promise: I Can Be Anything God Wants Me To Be Gloria Gaither,
illustrated by Kristiana Stephenson (Zonderkidz) $14.99 Here it is, the
re-issued, newly designed kids book that goes with the famous kids song. Yep,
this is about vocation and calling, very few words on the page, but a lovely
rhyme and tons of colorfully drawn kids doing various careers and jobs. It is
rooted in God’s call, His promise, and His love for each of us. This is
fantastic, and the art is colorful and fun, although fairly standard fare (which
isn’t bad, just nothing unusual.) Shows kids learning and reading and loving the
world….the art draws forth the “career” aspect very nicely, while the simple
words remind us that we are God’s promise, living under His purpose. Includes a
CD of the song. Love it.

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Fool Moon Rising Kristi Fluharty, illustrated by T. Fluharty
(Crossway) $14.99 This new book is nearly genius, I’d say, although the metaphor
may be a tiny bit mature for a three-year-old. (They say 3-7 on the back,
though.) The fabulous art has the look of a recent Disney or Pixar movie,
maybe…a close up of a large planted and a cartoony kid. Great looking picture
book! The story is basically about a “crime of cosmic proportions” where the
moon is stealing the sun’s glory! This rhyming tale teaches children about the
importance of humility and the dangers of pride (I guess) but more, to honor GOD
in all things. That is, we get our glory from His greater glory. I have told
customers this is John Piper for pre-schoolers. It really is about the greatness
of God which transforms us from prideful to proper humility. Wow, what


The Tallest of Smalls Max Lucado, illustrated by Maria Monescillo
(TommyNelson) $16.99 Lucado has a way with words, and his children’s
parables–many about self-esteem, God’s acceptance, of trusting the love of our
creator, have been real winners. This one seems to be drawn from his most recent
adult work, Fearless, and is just a wonderful, wonderful story about
being chosen, despite not fitting in. Learning about God’s unconditional love is
what matters most and this parable—done with pretty edgy, modern illustration,
is one of his best. The illustrator is from Madrid, Spain. Great!

We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World Stuart Stotts,
illustrated by

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Terrance Cummings (Clarion Books) $18.00 I hope you know the
history of this song, the courage of the students at the Highlander School who
sang a new version of it in 1959 when the police had cut off their electricity
during one of their raids. I get choked up every time I hear of it, or in those
rare times I’ve heard Pete Seeger tell of it before a protest crowd. This book
traces how a variety of songs gave courage and strength to anti-slavery
movements, the underground railroad, the civil rights efforts, and, later, how
women’s and worker’s rights movements used the song. It has bright art, lots of
archival b/w photography, and tons of inspiring stories. And, yep, there is a CD
of none other than Pete Seeger doing the song. Stuart Stotts is the son of a
Presbyterian seminary professor who himself was very active in the civil rights
struggle of the 1960s and learned much of this first hand through his father’s
courageous and faithful work. The illustrator is a graduate of Parson’s School
of Design.

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Praying With Our Feet Lisa Weaver, illustrated by Ingrid Hess (Herald
Press) $12.99 Thank goodness that the Mennonite Publishing House continues to
bring overtly Christian books about peace and justice to our families and
children. Here is how they describe this fun story: “A big group of friends get
together to go on a special walk. They want to remind their neighbors that war
doesn’t bring peace to our world. They know that Jesus wants us to love
everyone. Jesus even wants us to love our enemies…The walkers wear shoes of all
sizes, colors, and shapes. They’re praying with their feet, walking with the God
of peace.” Given the current administration’s commitments to war-fighting, it
may be helpful to get our children aware of what peace marches are, and why some
Christians join them. Sadly, this book will be only more valuable in the months
to come. Happily, there are delightfully upbeat pictures, lots of text, making
this a great book to teach about these themes. Nice!

The Flower John Light, illustrated by Lisa Evans (Child’s Play)
$16.99 This is an enigmatic

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story about a boy in a drab, gray city, who finds a
book in the library that says “Do Not Read.” Of course, when he sneaks it home
and opens it, he sees pictures of something called flowers. He can’t imagine
such things in his dark futuristic city of concrete. He finally finds some seeds
and continues his optimistic struggle to grow plants. A deceptively simple and
haunting story, mysteriously illustrated. Books really can work magic, can’t

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The House Roberto Innocenti, illustrated by J. Patrick Lewis
(Creative Editions) $19.95 If this mature and stunningly illustrated picture
book–there is no text on most pages, except a few poetic lines over dates (from
the point of view of the house itself)–doesn’t get nominated for a Caldecott
Award, I will be surprised and disappointed. With intricate detail (think Brugel
the Elder, but not as scary or weird) this traces the history of a stone house
and its plot of land, starting on a rural hill in 1900, as the house is built,
becomes a home, is expanded with

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outbuildings and stonewall fences, is
abandoned, left in disrepair in the woods, is re-purchased, fixed up, ands the
environment changes, into a…well, you’ll have to see the last fun frame for
yourself. I can’t help but think of the powerfully moving song “If These Walls
Could Speak” (popularized by Amy Grant.) Do places matter? Can walls speak? Are
there stories here? What a thoughtful and suggestive book this would

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14 Cows for America Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
(Peachtree) $17.95 This may be one of the most stunning picture books in
years—both the breath-taking art and the sheer power of the story that is both
sentimental and weighty. After the horrible bombings of 9-11, word got back to
some Maasai tribesman in rural Kenya about this tragedy in the United State.
They could hardly imagine (literally) and wanted to help. In their culture, a
cow is a sign of life, literally and mythically, and an elder tribesman was
dispatched to find the American ambassador. The tribe wanted to give the United
States people a cow. A few more were donated by other poor Maasai
warriors—these are their most prized possessions, offered as profound act of
friendship to a grieving people. When the story became known, Wilson Kimeli
Naiyomah (a younger man in the tribe) was promoted by Oprah, obtaining a science
degree from Stanford, and was awarded a Rotary Club Peace Fellowship; he is soon
to take up a degree in international peace studies. This art and text in this
book is wonderful and we highly, highly recommend it.

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The Sudan Project: Rebuilding With the People of Darfur: A Young Person’s
Melissa Leembruggen (Abingdon) $10.00 This book is colorful and
bright with tons of full-color pictures of Africa and close-ups of African
folks. It is arranged as an alphabet book, but (like many of our favorite
alphabet books, it has content that will attract children up to middle
elementary age or older.) Although the book does not back away from the horror
of war and injustice and poverty, its theme is of hope, and about ordinary
people around the world, who have reached out to provide help. The profits of
the book go to the Sudan Project at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church
and UMCOR.

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A Year in Art: The Activity Book (Prestel) 24.95 This is a truly
spectacular book published by one of the world’s leading art presses, a book
that could sell for nearly twice the price! It allows children to explore and
respond to the world’s great masterpieces every day of the year through games,
puzzles, coloring and other activities. From African masks to European paintings
to modern American art, this beautifully produced hardback activity book will
inspire children and adults alike. By the way, the sweet (fuzzy) cat on the
front? It’s an Andy Warhol.

Long out of print and now–hip, hip, hooray!—are now again


Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and
Tales of the Restoration David & Karen Mains (Lamplighter
Publishing) $25.00 each These books are each a collection of shorter pieces in
the classic fantasy style–ancient promises are recalled as the faithful work
against the Enchanter and his power over the once beautiful city. As you might
guess, the Mains have a full-orbed Kingdom vision, helping children or teens see
the overall theme of creation-fall-redemption, with the redeemers graceful
rescue plan setting off massive implications for one and all. These are some of
the most beloved books among parents we have served over the years who now can’t
wait for grandchildren to someday read them to. It is interesting, too, how
these have caught the appeal of college-age students, who like the allegory, the
lovely illustrations, and the way the theological vision of God’s redemptive
work in His Kingdom can be seen in these fantastical tales.

(Note: for a few years in the late 90s these were available as cheap
paperbacks with truly awful artwork that made the stories look terribly cheap.
These re-issues are of the original ’80s hardcovers, with the original art.)

And two just for the adults:

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up General editor

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Eccleshare , (Universe) $36.95 Selected and reviewed by leading
international critics, this thick book is colorful and nearly 1000 pages! It is
a must-have resource for any parent or teacher—or anyone who loves great
books. (I hope you know this, but some of the best literature ever has been
juvenile fiction.) This is arranged by age group, and looks at everything from
the world of Spot with Eric Hill to Vera Williams urban landscapes, to
Hogswart’s School to Narnia and Middle Earth. Yes, there are 1001 entries, so I
can’t even begin to describe this wonderful collection. A perfect book to dip in
to when you have a few spare moments, or to wade through, making lists of what
you have or haven’t yet read.

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Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book: Life Lessons from
Notable People from All Walks of Life
edited by Anita Silvey (Roaring
Brook Press) $29.99 Okay, this isn’t really for children, but some of our
customers here and of course our staff got a real kick out of it. Famous (and
some not famous) people weigh in on how certain kids books effected them,
lessons that were learned, ideals and hopes and dreams gathered from their
favorite children’s books. I opened it up when it first came, and read Edon
Lipson describe her sense of the meaning and dignity of work gleaned from
Little House on the Prairie and I was hooked. The next entry was entitled
“the wonder of the ordinary” written by the editor of Slate, Emily
Bazelon, from Little House in the Big Woods. Wow. Another was by Jay Leno
was on Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and I was nearly brought to
tears reading Louis Lowry tell how she learned the power of words when her
mother cried while reading to her The Yearling. From Steve Forbes to
Julia Alvarez, from Julianne Moore to Roger Ebert, some of the contributors are
not children’s writers. But many are and, oh, to hear what book most influenced
Maurice Sendak or David Macaulay, Jack Prelutsky or Chris Van Allsburg, Betsy
Byars or Jon Scieszka—what an education! The book thankfully has a nice
excerpt of the book being discussed, making this a truly great reading
experience and a very useful resource for educators.


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3 thoughts on “The 12th Day of Christmas gifts: Some great Children’s Books and Bibles (Be sure to go to the end for two great adult books about kids’ books—and a 50% off savings on a wonderful children’s Bible.)

  1. Wow! What a fabulous list! I don’t have any children in my life now, but I will bookmark this list and come back to it later.
    I will add that the NIrV is a great translation for ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) learners, especially if you can find it as a gift Bible (and not one obviously geared toward children). Highly recommended for international students!

  2. Thanks for the list! I love the updated version of Big Thoughts for Little People. We loved two Bible storybooks that you didn’t mention–The Read and Share Bible and the Jesus Book. Have you read them? What did you think of them?

    …THANKS for asking about The Bible for Children (Good Books) done by Watts. I’m sorry we weren’t more clear about the age level (as we intended to be…too much to say about each one. Oops.)
    It is a bit tricky to say as the “reading aloud to” age and the age with which a child can read herself is different. This has fairly basic sentences, but some vocabulary words that are more complex and descriptive (“angrily” “terrified” and such.). They use the big words of the names of other nations and characters in the O.T. (Midieonites, Xerxes, etc.) and it doesn’t shy away from complex stories. We seem to think it is suitable for older elementary ages although the color is bright and vibrant so little kids would enjoy looking through it. Yet, the art is mature enough that it isn’t “baby-ish” and wouldn’t embarrass a middle schooler. It’s pretty classy, we think making it useful for older kids. Still the reading level is for middle or older elementary grades (not pre-school.) There are well over 200 stories, and although not comprehensive (of course) it really does cover a lot of ground. We think it is one of the best.

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