I was excited to get to review The Book of Books: The Bible Retold. The cover promises "A deceptively simple and brilliant retelling of the stories that make up the Bible." I was looking at this as a possible resource to use in conjunction with the Bible portion of Mystery of History for our next school year. I'm not a big fan of Bible "story books," but I have seen a few good ones; and this one held great promise.
Here is an excerpt from the press release:
Publications and Lion Children’s Books are re-launching The Book of Books, an
engaging retelling of the Bible by Vice Dean of Chester Cathedral, Trevor
The Book of Books combines Trevor Dennis’ many years of learning with his
enthusiasm for storytelling, which both shine through in each story of this
By going back to the roots of the biblical writings and understanding from when
and where the stories originated, Trevor Dennis is able to throw light on nuances
within the text which can sometimes be missed by modern readers.
As Trevor explains in his introduction ‘the retellings in this book are rather
different from what you would read if you turned to an ordinary translation of
the Bible. They aim to give a sense of the style of each story [and] an idea of
what lies behind each story or poem, and show things which those who first
heard them long ago would have picked up, but which are difficult for us to
Trevor Dennis has split his retelling into 12 chapters, each prefaced with a short
but engaging narrative explaining to the reader the story of the stories
themselves—who wrote them? for whom? when? and why?—before going onto
to retell the stories as they were originally crafted—whether as legend, history,
poetry, prose, parable, chronicle or commentary. In this way The Book of Books
gives the reader a real sense of the stories as they were first known, throwing
fresh insight onto their meaning and significance.
Originally aimed at children aged 9–12, this novelistic approach taken by Trevor Dennis has been appreciated by a wideranging audience for its interesting way into the Bible for those who might not otherwise read a full translation, as well as
the treasure trove of fresh insights it offers to those for whom the stories of the Bible are more familiar
After some time spent looking over the book and reading through the stories, here are the conclusions I have come to:
* Visually this is a very appealing book. The cover art is simple but well-done. The illustrations inside are simple and black and white, but they are very pretty.
* Some of the stories are pretty accurate Biblically (I will explain more about this one later.)
* The way the stories are arranged allows the whole of the Bible to flow into a meaningful story, still covering information from all of the books but remaining in chronological order.
* From the very beginning, the Bible is portrayed as a story, not the true and literal Word of God. I'm good with a paraphrase of Scripture, but phrases like this from the introduction of Genesis give me pause: "The Book of Books begins with a poem, a beautiful poem about the creation of the world...It seems to be a poem about the past, the very remote past; but it isn't really that at all. It is meant to give us a picture of the universe and the earth in particular, as it is meant to be, as God wants it to be, where everything is beautiful, everything is good." I teach my children that the whole of the Bible, beginning with the first chapter of Genesis is true and literal. This flies in the face of that teaching.
* Some stories have major "changes." For example, Adam and Eve are created, not as man and women, but as a boy and a girl.
* There is no Bible reference to tell where in the Bible to find these stories. A good Bible story book, in my opinion, lists Scripture references, so the story can be held up to the light of God's Word to be compared. There is nothing in any of these stories to tell where they came from in the Bible. A reader unfamiliar with God's Word would have trouble finding out where to find the true story. The exception to this is in the gospels. The Book of Books combines the passages of Jesus's life, and each story begins with a note to tell which gospels that story comes from.
Unfortunately, those first two bad points are deal breakers for me. I cannot recommend this resource. Because we already have it, I can probably find a way to incorporate it as a secondary resource. I would not read the passages about creation. And, if I were going to use it, I would talk with my kids quite a bit about how the foundations of this book differ from our own beliefs about God's Word. Even though some of the paraphrasing makes for a simpler and easier to read Bible, the glaring references to God's Word as fiction would prevent me from using it.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.