Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Review of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories by Heidi Hess Saxton, illustrations by Natalie Carabetta

There's only one thing I don't like about My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories, compiled by Heidi Hess Saxton and illustrated by Natalie Carabetta:

It came out after my kids were older.

This is a compilation of 175 of the most important stories in the Bible, along with prayers and activities. Granted, there are plenty of Bible Story compilations out there. Several things set this one apart, especially for Catholics:

1. The stories are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Catholic Bible. This means you'll find stories from the Deuterocanonical books, like Sirach.

2. The stories are pulled verbatim from the Bible. While summaries or interpretations are okay for children, it's nice to see a Bible stories book that recognizes that children can understand the actual language of the Bible, and gives them the chance to appreciate the beauty of the language and the details of the story outside of Mass.

3. After each story, you not only find an activity idea but also suggested readings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that apply to the story. Even better: if the story is one read during Mass, Heidi tells you what Sunday and what other verses are read that day. She also includes traditional Catholic prayers, sometimes with the story and sometimes with their own special page.

I know Heidi personally from our work on Catholic Writers Conferences Online, and have read her book, "Behold Your Mother." She was also editor of Canticle Magazine, a well-respected Catholic Women's online magazine. I know that she not only lives her faith, but thinks about it. She's also a very thorough researcher. I feel confident in the introductions she wrote for each story, as well as the extra facts dotted throughout the book.

The illustrations are marvelous: bright and simple enough to attract toddlers, yet realistic and interesting enough that parents won't feel like they're reading yet another "kiddie book."

Finally, Heidi set this compilation up for study as well as reading: in addition to the other Scripture readings and the Catechism, the prayers, and the suggested activities, it has indexes for topics, readings, and Catechism references. I would have adored this book for homeschooling.

I'll be honest: I didn't read the whole thing. My goddaughter was coming over to visit and I gave it to her. I am also planning on buying another copy for my other goddaughter and a copy for myself (to have for future grandchildren should I be so blessed.) I highly recommend this book for any Catholic parent or godparent of kids 2-10. (After 10, I recommend the Breakthrough Bible for Young Catholics.)

DISCLAIMER: The publisher sent me this book. It was a complete surprise, and as far as I'm concerned, a real blessing. I'm actually getting out of the book reviewing biz', but this one was so lovely and so well done, it deserved a review.

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