The Biggest Story ABC by Kevin DeYoung, ill. by Don Clark
DeYoung walks readers through God's plan for humanity and salvation as outlined in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation by using one sentence phrases that highlight and explain one term that starts (or incorporates for X) the letter of the alphabet. This is an exemplary work of summarizing the message of the Bible succinctly and doing it chronologically AND alphabetically. There are people who have written entire multi-volume doorstoppers to say what DeYoung says in just 26 sentences. Kids should find it attractive and adults should find it a good avenue to talk about God's plan of salvation through Jesus, how the Bible stories fit into that plan, and other basics of Christianity.
(There is based on a slightly longer book aimed at middle grades called The Biggest Story which is also really good, but I think I like the ABC adaptation even better.)
- Christian Families, Bible Classes, Sunday School Classes, Alphabet Book Fans, Picture Book Readers
The Case for Miracles: a Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural by Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel starts off his investigation into whether or not miracles happen, and whether or not it is reasonable to even believe they happen, by addressing the case against the miraculous with an interview of the editor of Skeptic magazine, Dr. Michael Shermer. Strobel then goes on to explore the opposing view, that miracles do happen, with interviews of other experts from a variety of faiths, including scientists, theologians, missionaries, and detectives. Along the way Strobel seeks to establish how a miracle can be well-documented, why some people - even Christians - are reluctant to believe in the supernatural, and what to do with miracles that don’t happen despite many prayers.
I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the way Lee Strobel has laid out this book. There are other books on miracles out there, but I feel like this is the most honest, respectful, well-researched, and yet easily readable text on the topic. (Obviously, Dr. Craig Keener’s monstrous two volume book on miracles is THE book on miracles out there, but I wouldn’t exactly call something that required two volumes easily readable. Strobel interviews him in this book, so you can get the super abridged version here.) Most books on miracles just relate stories of miracles that the author has heard about and are largely limited to the author’s acquaintances. Few if any will include comments on the reliability of the stories. Few will have the guts to talk to someone who genuinely doesn’t believe in miracles and have a civil conversation about why. But Strobel does. He approaches this more from a research perspective, and the modern miraculous stories that are included are largely shared by the interviewees and all are well documented. He also gets deeper into the heart of the issue. Is it reasonable? Is there precedence? What about the miracles in the Bible? Is every “miracle” really a miracle? Probably the most powerful chapter in the entire book is the final one talking about why God wouldn’t bring about a miracle in certain cases.
- Curious Readers, Natural Skeptics, Christians Seeking to Build Their Faith or Find Answers, Adult Readers (though it is definitely approachable to teens; there are also editions for teens and middle graders available)
The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross by Carl Laferton, ill. by Catalina Echeverri
This book gives an overview of basic points of the Bible to point out to kids how sin entered the world, how it separates people from God, and how Jesus' death and resurrection provides a way for that separation from God to be fixed.
A very succinct but kid-friendly way to explain how Bible stories relate, what sin is, and why Jesus died on the cross for sins. I was quite impressed with how good a job the book did in accomplishing these goals in just a few pages and in ways kids can grasp. The illustrations are great too, very fun and attractive and incorporates a historical feel accurate for the time periods.
- Christian Families, Bible Classes, Sunday School Classes, Picture Book Readers
Miracle Man: the Story of Jesus by John Hendrix
I think Hendrix himself best summarizes this book in his author's note at the end, "This book is based on the life of Jesus, as found in the Bible, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Miracle Man is my own version of this story. Though based on the gospel narrative of his life and ministry, it should not be confused with the authority of the actual Biblical accounts. The words of Jesus and the disciples here are not direct quotations but my own interpretations of his life and teachings on Earth. These interpretations are not from the head of an academic but from the heart of a disciple." (Side note: I strongly recommend reading the full Author's Note. It helps clarify Hendrix's purpose of this book and his reasons for writing are touching.) As he mentioned, many of the words that come out of people's mouths in this aren't quite direct quotations from any current version of the Bible. Most are really, really close or compounds of different passages. Think of it kinda like an illustrated summary of the heart of the gospels, the life of Jesus and purpose of his time on Earth all condensed into 38 pages. (No small task! Go try it. Only 1-3 sentences per page allowed.) Overall, Hendrix says his goal is to help these Bible stories come alive in fresh ways, and get people going back to re-read the originals. I think he accomplishes his goal quite well. The book is illustrated with both drawings and words in graphic design that sometimes are part of the text to be read so the pages require careful scrutiny. I love that Hendrix tried to make the illustrated people authentically Middle Eastern and the buildings and clothes authentic for Jesus' time period.
- Christian Families, Bible Classes, Sunday School Classes, Picture Book Readers
Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God through the Last Words of Jesus by Steven Furtik
Furtick looks at the seven last phrases Jesus said before his crucifixion, and looks at their historical, theological, and modern practical spiritual importance.
I found his historical notes interesting, the metaphor of the road to Emmaus used throughout was helpful and made good points come alive more, and his overall writing was very readable, approachable, and easily applicable to anyone's Christian walk. It wasn't fluffy stuff, but it wasn't so scholarly as to be hard to work through. It was a nice balance of relatable stories from his life, touches of Bible scholarship, bringing passages of the Bible to life for modern readers while conveying the historical understanding, and poignant questions to ponder were worked in as well as provided at the end of each chapter intro. A great read around Easter as the book focuses on Passion week events, but would be good any time really.
- Christian Readers Looking for Encouragement in Christian Life or Reflection around Easter, Adult Readers (though approachable for teens)
Simply Jesus: a New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright
Let me tell you a little story (I promise it's related). When I lived in Korea I went to see Shrek when it first came out in theaters. I went with a fellow American teacher, and we were the only foreigners in the entire packed out theater. 80% of the time we were the only ones laughing at the jokes in the movie. Why? It was because the Koreans just didn't get the American pop cultural references and so they didn't understand the joke to begin with. To get them to fully appreciate the humor in Shrek they would have needed a crash course in American pop culture prior to the movie to even begin to understand half the references. My friend and I got those references immediately because we had grown up in America and soaked up those things without even realizing it.
In the same way that the Koreans watching Shrek missed a lot of things the creators fully expected the American audience to get without any explanation, the Gospels are full of cultural references 1st century readers would have understood immediately without any explanation, but that we modern readers deeply separated by centuries of time and culture don't even realize we are missing. In this book, NT Wright gives a crash course in 1st century thinking. He tries to help us modern readers step into the shoes of a Hebrew living in the Roman empire and see Jesus through those eyes. He takes us back and sets the tone politically and culturally (as those living at the time would have seen it). And it is amazing the things we modern readers miss just because we are so separated from that culture.
- Biblical History Studiers, Christian Readers Looking for Encouragement in Christian Life or Reflection around Easter, Adult Readers (though approachable for teens)
That Grand Easter Day! by Jill Roman Lord, ill. by Alessia Trunfio
A retelling of the basics of the Biblical story of Jesus' resurrection in a rhyming cumulative story.
This does a surprisingly good job of conveying the main points of the various Biblical accounts of Jesus' resurrection in a very succinct format. The rhyme is well done, and the illustrations are gorgeous.
- Christian Families, Bible Classes, Sunday School Classes, Cumulative Story Fans, Art Lovers, Picture Book Readers