Very young children typically start out with Bible storybooks rather than the real text, and My Very First Bible comes attractively slip-covered with My Very First Prayers. They are a handy size (4” x 5½”) to slip into a diaper bag or tote, and while not board-book sturdy the pages are thick and well-bound. Simple illustrations integrate seamlessly with the simple text that emphasizes God’s intense involvement with mankind and man’s responsive faith and obedience. The theology is not as profound as in The Jesus Storybook Bible, but the presentation of God as a loving, caring Father (echoed in the prayer collection) is appropriate for this age.
No recipes included: All baked goods are limited to the cover. This is the most recent of several editions of the International Children’s Bible, a simplified translation (third-grade level) with a slightly larger font size that may be a good choice for beginning or reluctant readers. Sometimes the translation is a bit too literal, making it more difficult to understand, perhaps, than an adult translation would be, but the ICB can be helpful as a supplemental translation. Twenty-four color inserts feature “Names of God,” “Bible Kids,” “How Do I Pray?,” “How Do I Know Jesus Loves Me?,” a “Bible Timeline,” and a place to enter “My Favorite Bible Verses.”
The signature feature of Grow! is the “Cross Connection,” 45 brief expositions of the Old Testament messianic prophesies and their fulfillment in Christ. This places Christ squarely at the center, where He should be. Other in-text features include applications, Who-What-When-Where-Why questions and answers, and each petition of the Lord’s Prayer treated separately. Preface and appendix materials include standards such as where to find Bible references for personal situations, but also theological questions and topical issues, maps, diagrams, and glossary. A page on the Ten Commandments titled “You Shall” contrasts the positive side of each commandment that the negative implies. The features make this ESV a solid transition for middle-graders into a real study Bible.
This Bible does use the updated version of the NIV, which includes gender-neutral language. Some parents may want to give it to their 13- to 17-year-olds who are new to the Bible and need a little orientation. Following the format of many NIV children and teen editions, it includes book introductions and in-text features emphasizing God’s promises and attributes, Bible principles that address teen concerns, and biblical character sketches. A reading plan, subject index, maps, and extensive (but not exhaustive) concordance round out the study helps in the appendix. A more scripturally grounded young adult may need more fuel for discussion and thought, such as the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students.
The dystopia fad sparked by The Hunger Games has waned, but Zondervan Blink, the publisher’s new YA imprint, offers two worthy additions to the genre this fall. In Jill Williamson’s Captives (first of a trilogy), a high-tech, water-starved society facing extinction in the American West has taken to abducting young people from the outlying communities. The impact of a raid from “Denver City” on three rural brothers forms the narrative arc of the story, which has won particular praise for character development. Jonathan Friesen’s Aquifer takes place in far-future Australia, where a highly regimented society depends on an appointed “Deliverer” to descend to the depths every year and negotiate for its annual supply of fresh water. After a somewhat disjointed beginning, the action accelerates with the discovery of a book that will have a profound effect on the protagonist. Both novels raise important ethical and spiritual questions without coming off as overtly “Christian.” —J.C.