Are you looking for a Bible story book for your growing-up-but-still-little kids? Maybe your children (or children you love) have grown past the colorful-but-overly-simple Bible story books for toddlers, but they are not quite ready to read on their own. Or maybe you want an engaging book for those who are already reading, one that is simple enough without being too juvenile. The Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids: The Gospel in 52 Five-Minute Bible Stories by Phil Vischer—my current favorite storybook Bible for kids—may be just what you are looking for.
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What is a Storybook Bible?
I didn’t discover this term until contemplating how to describe this book.
Storybook Bible sounds like a rewording of Bible Story Book. Bible story books abound for little children of all ages, from lift-the-flap board books about Moses or Noah, to storybooks of all sizes with colorful illustrations. The focus is on story. They are not the Bible; they are retelling stories from the Bible.
In doing so, some Bible story books, in my opinion, reduce the stories to just that—stories. There is the story of Adam and Eve, the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of baby Moses, and the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, often retold in as random, unrelated stories, often emphasizing the human parts of the story rather than the spiritual. This one, on the other hand, treats each story as part of the continuous narrative of God’s interactions with and plans for humanity.
Because of this, Vischer’s Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids (illustrated by Michael K. Foster) isn’t quite a storybook. It addresses much more theology and includes parts of the Bible almost always excluded from storybooks because, well, they are not stories.
So Phil Vischer explains in his “Welcome” (page 8) how he wanted to create a stepping stone between the “lighthearted video” children may be used to (such as the VeggieTales he created) and “Mom and Dad’s old King James Version of the Bible.” So I thought his term “storybook Bible” appropriately describes his new book. The Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids, as its name implies, is a Bible retold like a storybook.
Still confused? Keep reading for examples of what I mean.
Why is This My Favorite Storybook Bible for Kids?
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In a nutshell, these are the reasons I love Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids: The Gospel in 52 Five-Minute Bible Stories.
- Good transition between toddlers’ Bible-story books and independent readers’ first Bible
- Stories are connected to show God’s plan of redemption, not told in isolation
- Told in an interesting, conversational style that is great for family read-alouds (even for family nights!)
- The author ties in the story to children’s life experiences
- Humor draws in the reader without cheapening God’s story
- Difficult concepts are explained, not avoided, so readers (or listeners) of all ages can understand
- Includes not only the fun, happy stories of the Bible, but also difficult ones with death and punishment as well, weaving them all together with God’s plan of redemption
- Good for prompting deeper conversations with children about God and our response to Him
How This Book Won Me Over
When my husband ordered this as a gift for our 5-year-old for Christmas, I was not impressed…at first. I prefer beauty over cuteness, so the kid-like cartoon pictures on the front cover were a bit of turn-off for me. Even our daughter wasn’t that excited at first (other Christmas presents were calling for her attention).
Obviously, my initial impressions have drastically changed since Christmas—to the point that I’m taking the time to write this recommendation!
Once Christmas excitement died down and we cracked the cover to start reading the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids, I realized how well it was written. It is well organized, generally following the order of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and includes enough explanation to make the content accessible to a young child’s developing mind.
And it’s funny. We laugh a lot as tasteful humor brings well-loved, familiar stories to life. In fact, our now-six-year-old has also come to love this storybook Bible. It has been one of her recent favorites, too, requested day after day for story time. Pleading for “one more chapter” has become the norm.
Examples of Why This is My Favorite Storybook Bible
There are many reasons to love this book. Here are the ones that stand out to me, explained in further detail.
How It’s Told
The text is written in simple, but not overly-simplified, language. Key words are highlighted in a large, bold, colored font, helping to break up the page and draw attention to important concepts.
Each story is introduced with some kid-friendly background information about names, places, or cultural practices (or reviews of previous stories). The chapter about the Laws of Moses opens by defining the word “holy.” The chapter about Joshua and the battle of Jericho asks reminds the reader about God’s promises to Abraham. The chapter about Solomon’s dream asks readers to imagine what they would ask for if promised anything they wanted. These introductions engage both children and adults, preparing them for the bigger point of the story.
Phil Vischer expertly ties the stories in with children’s life experiences, making the stories relatable. My favorite example was calling the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings a “40-year time-out”! (Why didn’t I ever think of that?)
Not surprising since he’s the creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer adds humor through word choice, pointing out things that seem crazy to modern sensitivities (why having lots of children was so important in Abraham’s time), or creating wordplay out of names (the city named Ur).
The humor draws in children and adults without becoming irreverent or cheapening the message of the gospel. Contrary to the cartoon images and in spite of the humor, the text itself is thought-provoking, able to spark serious conversations about God.
Unlike most children’s Bible story books, this one has chapters on “boring,” non-story parts of the Bible, such as the Mosaic Law, Psalms, and Proverbs. These (and other abstract concepts such as sin, apostasy, and wisdom) are explained in simple-to-understand terms that anybody can understand (and clearer than I could explain to a 5-year-old!)
How It’s Organized
I love how the stories in the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids are not presented in isolation as complete in themselves, but tied in with the overarching story of the Bible. (Vischer frequently refers to previous events to explain the story, or explains how the story points forward to Jesus.) Old-Testament stories are retold pointing out their part in God’s plan of redemption.
Each chapter (or story) is told in 5 pages with illustrations. The 6th page has extras for discussion—such as a 1-sentence summary in “Everyday Truth,” difficult concepts explained further in “Tricky Bits,” or additional, trivia-type information in “Fun Facts.” The page also includes two review or thought-provoking questions to discuss, as well as a simple, one-sentence prayer applying the truths from the story. The text is simple enough for young children (5 and up), but deep enough for maturing elementary-aged children.
Update to Laugh and Learn Storybook Bible
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Though the Laugh and Learn Storybook Bible for Kids was only published in September of 2019, there is already a new version renamed the Minno Laugh and Grow Storybook Bible for Kids, published in March of 2020. It seems to be the same thing, simply republished with a different name and minor revisions (and for a lower price). See Minno’s website for more information.
Not only have I come to love reading out of this book, but our now-six-year-old loves it, too. It has become her go-to book for story time; she frequently begs me to read “one more” chapter. This book is one I can see us coming back to next year or even after, reading and discussing together with any children who may enter our home.
If you have children in this in-between age, or are looking for a gift for someone else’s children, the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids may be the perfect one for them. This may end up being your favorite storybook Bible, too!