Friday, January 13, 2012

FIRST Wildcard Tour: The Gospel Story Bible

The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering the Old and New Testaments
Written by Marty Machowski
Illustrated by A. E. Macha
Genre: Children's Bible
Published December 5, 2011
New Growth Press
328 pages

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:
Marty Machowski

Illustrated by:

and the book:

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group – for sending me a review copy.***

About the Book
Sometimes it’s easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles and conflicting priorities. For many Christians, God often becomes little more than an afterthought after days absorbed and depleted by the busyness of life. But the truth is that he is the hero of every story—including the mundane, ordinary ones we experience on a regular basis. That is why Marty Machowski beckons families to take time out from the daily grind to be transformed by the message of the Good News in his latest release, The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments (New Growth Press, November 2011).

Based on the ESV Bible, this uniquely illustrated Bible storybook uses 156 stories to present God’s plan of salvation in Christ from its opening narrative in Genesis to its finale in Revelation. This easy-to-read storybook written for children from preschool to high school introduces readers to many captivating people, places and events from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. At the same time, Machowski skillfully connects the individual stories to the overall gospel narrative of how God redeemed a broken world through sending his son Jesus to save his people. Each story ends by connecting to Jesus and his gospel of grace. By sharing these Bible stories with each other, young and old will learn together the life-changing habit of recognizing the presence and workings of Christ in every moment of their day.

“The gospel is deep enough to keep the oldest and wisest parents learning and growing all their lives, yet simple enough to change the heart of the first grader who has just begun to read,” says Machowski. “That’s what makes The Gospel Story Bible ideal as a storybook for a preschooler, a devotional for a grade school student, a refresher for the adult believer or an introduction for the new one. Parents and children will learn together to read the whole Bible as one story, with one hero—Jesus Christ.”

Vibrant illustrations by A. E. Macha, child-friendly discussion questions and Scripture references accompany each story to help lead families in exploring the Bible. Parents and teachers will be delighted to discover how easily even a young child can understand the original text of a story that he or she has already come to love. A companion to the family devotional Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and the soon-to-be-released Gospel Story Sunday school curriculum (February 2012), The Gospel Story Bible is also a great resource for churches, Sunday school classes, home-schoolers and Christian schools who want to teach their children to apply the gospel to every situation and make Jesus the most important part of their everyday lives.

My Thoughts
I love the idea of this type of story Bible. However, after reading a selection of the stories included, my review is a bit mixed.

The Good
  • The project is a great one! To tell the entire story of the Bible and show how every story points toward Jesus and how all the "individual" stories are really part of one larger story. Excellent!
  • The stories are based on the ESV translation, which is my personal preference.The stories are very close to the actual Scripture, with only a little bit of "commentary" added.
  • Each story is only one or two pages, so it's a great length for reading to younger children.
  • Each story combines portions of Scripture which might otherwise be under several headings, which gives a nice overview of the entire story without it being too long. For instance, the story of the birth of Christ includes both the wisemen (which is only recorded in Matthew) and the shepherds (which is only included in Luke) which then makes one bigger story to help children see the whole picture.
  • The book is incredibly colorful and the pictures are unique. These are not your typical "Sunday school" drawings.
  • In the beginning of the book are wonderful suggestions on how to use this as a resource with your children. I especially appreciated the author's suggestion to use this book as a launching point to read the same story in Scripture.
The Not-So-Good
  • While the notes in the beginning indicate that this would be best used with preschoolers or younger grade school students, I actually think this would be better-suited for older grade school students. At that age, however, I think a "young readers" Bible would be the best option.
  • The author uses big words that most preschoolers will not understand. Many of the terms and phrases are fairly abstract and would go over most kids' heads.
  • While I LOVE the idea of tying each story to the gospel and pointing to Christ (even from the Old Testament), the "commentary" that was added to each story was often complex—mentioning multiple people in one story (such as Paul said this and King David said that) or attempting to explain the Trinity in one sentence as a tie-in to the story of creation. It was at times difficult for me to follow, so children would no doubt have similar struggles.
  • The structure of the stories was another concern for me. Twenty-six (excellent!) stories were taken from Genesis. However, the birth of Christ was covered in one story. I would have liked to see it broken up into a few other pieces - for instance, the angel appearing to Mary, the birth of John the Baptist, etc.
  • The layout of the text is not very kid-friendly. The text is small and all on one page. I think it would be better for each story to be 4-6 pages in length so the text could "breathe" a little bit. The font size may make it difficult for children to read without help.
  • Each story included three questions for discussion. It seemed that most of the questions were actually in regards to the picture without tying it into the story, which is the most important part.
  • The pictures were very complex and interesting (which was great for me as an adult). However, I think they are too complex and abstract for young children.
Overall, I like the concept of The Gospel Story Bible. However, with the tie-in from Old Testament to New Testament being so complicated, I would not recommend using this with young children. This could be a great resource for family worship with older grade schoolers or even pre-teens since the stories are so concise and would give a launching point for much deeper discussion. For younger children, I would recommend another resource. A curriculum based on this story Bible is forthcoming, so that may help unpack some of the deeper topics mentioned.

About the Author
Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for twenty-three years. Marty leads Promise Kingdom, the children’s ministry of Covenant Fellowship. He is also the author of Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and the forthcoming Gospel Story Sunday school curriculum. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Visit the author's Facebook Page.

About the Illustrator
I have never been the best at anything. This has given me the freedom to really enjoy alot of things; perfection is not on the line. So my drawing is not clean, my patchwork corners don’t really match up, and my cooking is always an adventure. I was raised by a single mom who has an exhausting amount of creative energy. My brother and I were taught how to create our own entertainment and seek adventure in the everyday.

When I was in Jr High, both my parents remarried and let’s just say things have never been boring. A foster brother, two step sisters, and a half brother were added to the mix. I have aunts and uncles who have been beyond generous and helped raise me in many ways. I have been blessed to travel overseas and even live in Prague for six months. My dad and stepmom run a special needs home in Guatemala where I have spent time and really fallen in love with the culture. My brother and his wife run a shoe company out of Guatemala. Everywhere I have been, even a dirt floor hut in the hills of Guatemala, there has been art: design and color. I believe as humans we are created in the image of The Creator, and so we all have some creative effort to put forth.

I have a BFA in Illustration because after all the studio classes one takes to finish an Art Education degree, I found what I really like to do is draw. I doodle. A lot.

Presently, I am married with two little ones, living in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. I teach art part-time at a sweet little Christian school, grow tomatoes and beets, and sew or draw when I get the chance. The Gospel Story Bible is my first illustration project. Visit the author's Website.

AND NOW...Some Sample Pages (click images to see them larger):

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