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The Birth of Jesus; The Miracles of Jesus 

Reprint of books published in 2013 and 2014; but the re-tellings reinforce a cosy fiction

Miracles of JesusThe Birth of Jesus; The Miracles of Jesus
By  Kathryn Sully
ISBN No: “The Birth of Jesus” – 9781788930871 : “The Miracles of Jesus “ - 9781788930895
Reviewed by Moira Kleissner

These two books, by the same author, artist and publishing house were first published in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and reprinted this year. They state: “The perfect introduction for young children, My First Bible Stories, combines simple retelling with fabulous illustrations.”

The books are very small with tiny writing. There are some activities at the back of each book which appear to be for pre-schoolers, but the books themselves aren’t geared for this age range. I will briefly deal with each book.

The Birth of Jesus
There are some excellent retellings of the birth story suitable for young children available. However, this is not one of them. The illustrations reinforce a fairy tale world of angels with wings like doves, flowing blond hair, in pastel coloured dresses and playing harps; Joseph gives Mary with a lily while she looks demurely on, as a dove flies above her; a whole farmyard is present in a clean stable. This is from the school of “Ah, isn’t it lovely.”

The re-telling is not accurate: If I see another donkey with Mary on it - I can hear coconut shells! The angel did not say to Mary “I bring you good news about Christ our Lord, the King of the Jews.” The angel choir did not say “the king of the Jews” to the shepherds, either. What does that mean anyway? The Bible doesn’t say three wise men but three gifts.

At least one thing was accurate – the wise men visited the babe and his parents in a house, not a stable! No explanation for young children what myrrh and frankincense were? This re-telling reinforces a cosy fiction, not a story about real people in real time. Maybe we should have a publishing ban on Nativity stories. There are so many!
The Miracles of Jesus
This is from the same stable (whoops sorry for the pun!). It contains the “Feeding of the 5,000” and “Jesus walking on the water”. The pictures again are twee cartoons and certainly not “fabulous illustrations.”  With no background information, the story of feeding the 5,000, sounds as if Jesus has just done a magic trick with five loaves – Kingsmill, of course! It is dull, almost like an oversimplified paraphrase; no scene setting. The activities at the end, ask what the story tells us. The correct answer: God gives us all we need. Is that the point of this story for “young children” from a disrupted family, or a rundown estate?
Bible stories are presented as magical tales here. There are no explanations about a totally different world from that of young children today. Bible stories need to be told accurately, and in an age-appropriate manner. These two books don’t do that. No wonder children, as they get older, ditch the Bible as a load of fairy stories, with retellings such as these.

Mrs Moira Kleissner, Baptist minister’s wife and retired primary teacher, retired writer/trainer of CURBS project for children 

Baptist Times, 06/12/2019
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