A children’s book recounts Jesus’ ministry and early Christian history.
DeYoung (The Magic Swing, 2014) tells how Eli, a Hebrew priest, and his son, Nathan, come to understand God afresh after personal experiences with Jesus. Nathan, a 12-year-old disabled boy, is frustrated that he can’t run and play like other kids. A friend borrows a donkey and takes him to Jesus for a miraculous healing. When Jesus is arrested, Nathan insists on going to Jerusalem to thank him. Here he witnesses familiar Gospel scenes: the sky going dark, the crowd scoffing, the thieves to either side, last words from the cross, and Jesus’ death. Meanwhile, when darkness hits, Eli is at the Temple, presenting a sacrifice in the Holy Place. There is an earthquake, and the curtain is torn in two, exposing the Holy of Holies. In DeYoung’s account, Eli smiles, excited at what this might mean for his relationship with God. But surely an observant Jew would have experienced this as a desecration. All too quickly, the event takes on a specifically Christian meaning when Eli and Nathan encounter the risen Jesus, who explains, “I’ve broken the sin barrier that separated God and his people.” From here on, the book quickly summarizes events from the early church, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit, the martyrdom of Stephen, and Paul’s missionary journeys. Eli’s belief in Jesus as the Messiah causes him to be banished from Temple service, and fearing persecution, the family flees to Antioch. The chronology has been condensed here: Nathan is only three years older, yet by the time Paul visited Antioch, 10 years should have passed. This could be mentioned in a note; it would also have been helpful to list the Bible passages used as inspiration. Overall, though, this is an effective way of delivering Scripture to younger readers—Old Testament as well as New, what with Temple service and a Passover meal. And Drewes’ (Dirty Penny, 2017) illustrations are perfect for children’s Bible tales, with brown skin showing these characters are Middle Eastern.
These Bible stories are skillfully brought to life with words and pictures.