Pros: Bible stories book for readers ages 8-80, beautifully written and illustrated in graphic novel format
Cons: None noted.
Some of my greatest successes as teacher and tutor result from thinking outside the box--choosing activities and textbooks which grab students' imaginations and draw them into a text without them even realizing it! As you might guess, cartoons can be an effective teaching tool, with their vivid colors, dialogues and imagery. If done right, they can capture childrens' attention and illuminate the most profound and relevant portions of a legend or story.
The Kid's Cartoon Bible by Chaya M. Burstein is a softcover book approximately 8 x 10 inches. The larger format is essential to capture the magnitude of the text and stories, written or divinely inspired thousands of years past. Inside you will find many Bible stories from the Old Testament (Torah), as well as stories such as Sampson and Delilah and Jonah and the Whale from the Prophets and Writings.
Why I bought this book: I have taught religious school for over a decade. I'm also an avid reader of graphic novels, a habit I nurtured as a youngster with Tintin and Asterix. When I saw the Kids' Cartoon Bible at a religious educator's convention, I snapped it up. A quick sneak-peak inside revealed a technicolor vision of the Bible in superb detail... I knew I had to read it!
This book might be full of cartoons, but it's a scholarly text in its own right...
Although many Westerners are familiar with Bible stories from the Old Testament, not everyone has actually taken the time to read the Bible from cover to cover. There are also many illustrated collections of bible stories for children on the market. What makes the Kids' Cartoon Bible unique? First of all, the graphic novel format is an innovative way of fleshing out the stories. Indeed, every aspect of the book instantly captures the reader's attention. It's not a substitute for a regular Bible, but is a wonderful companion for both children and adults.
Format: First, the panels themselves are of varying sizes, which is visually stimulating and helps move the stories forward. Some panels are much larger than others to allow for a detailed renderings of certain events, such as the tower of Babel, the view from a pyramid, or the rainbow arc of God's covenant with humanity.
Dialogue: Various snippets of dialogue take center stage--the handwritten thoughts and spoken words of the bible heroes themselves; God's words appear in unadorned text bubbles--images of God are forbidden in the Jewish faith. In addition to the words that move the stories along, you'll find: prayers, promises, covenants, curses, commandments, forgiveness and praise. A good deal of narrative appears in typed verse blocks in a simplified, modern translation of the original text.
Artwork: Illustrations are deftly executed in vivid watercolor, and take center stage. Bible heroes are shown with superb expression and emotion. So many themes are depicted: Men, women and children of the Old Testament in costumes of the age; Angels with wings and simple white robes; Mediterranean landscapes; pre-Roman architecture; flora and fauna; maps and diagrams; temples and tents; earth and sky; plagues and miracles; and artifacts, both sacred and ordinary.
Indeed, the Kids' Cartoon Bible is a skeleton of the Old Testament which has been aptly fleshed out with dialogue and illustrations that highlight the most prominent, relevant and sacred portions of the text. As a result, Genesis and Exodus are more substantial and complete than Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers in Burstein's book. Obviously, certain portions of the Torah text are left out, leaving what are essentially highlights of the ancient scrolls.
Burstein chose stories and verses which are the most morally and historically relevant, dramatic, thought-provoking and essential to understanding the bring the Torah to life for modern day children (and adults). I include myself in the equation, because I am one of those people who avoids reading the Bible for pleasure in its purely translated form, I just don't have the patience. While I'm not suggesting that readers throw their Bibles out the window in favor of a cartoon version, I feel that, as a condensed version of the Bible with easy to understand dialogue and visual interpretations of the key events in the Old Testament, the Kids' Cartoon Bible is a worthy support system to introduce children to the Bible.
Tone: Burstein's illustrations and dialogue may be in cartoon format, but they are neither childish nor caricatures. They are certainly not irreverent or mocking in any way, nor do they make light or fun of the Bible. Instead, Burstein has obviously put a great deal of research and thought into capturing the essence of the Torah using the graphic novel format--and the result is truly thought-provoking and inspiring.
Audience: While children ages 9-12 are the primary audience, I believe that readers of all ages will enjoy reading the book and brushing up on their Bible history. It would also make a great religious school or day school textbook. I bought the book for my own children and students, and my daughter has read it from cover to cover. The New Testament is not covered in this edition, but I can imagine that anyone of any faith would enjoy the book if they enjoy reading illustrated stories from the Old Testament.
Inside the Kids' Cartoon Bible you'll find stories from these sources:
Torah or Old Testament:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Prophets, Jonah
Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles
Kids' Cartoon Bible
Author: Chaya Burstein
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society
Reading level: Ages 9-12 and above!
Paperback: 132 pages
Price at Amazon.com: $14.00
Keywords: kids, cartoon, bible, Torah, Jewish, Education, teaching, Old Testament, Bible Stories, burstein, fun, educational