Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Zonderkidz: Faith Builders Bible (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

For some reason, people often think Catholics don't study or read the Bible.   This isn't true at all!  I admit, we tend not to have a chapter-and-verse quote at our fingertips all the time. However, we do believe it is the true Word of God given to us, and every prayer of the Mass (as well as most other prayers) has a Scriptural basis.  With that said, that doesn't mean that we should not read our Bibles and learn more!  Studying the stories of the Bible and how they reveal God's plan of salvation is something I want to do more of with the younger boys, and I thought that Faith Builders Bible from Zonderkidz would be a great tool to use.

Before we were chosen, I explored the this product's page at Zonderkidz. The cover is illustrated with bright building blocks (ostensibly Lego bricks), and the description proclaims 24 full-color pages of stories.  I was really excited for the boys.  Jude is almost never seen without some Legos in his pocket, and Damien is a fan of them as well.  I was hopeful that we would be able to read passages from the Bible and build them, helping my visual and hands-on learners really absorb lessons. I noticed that this Bible is uses  the New International revised Version (NIrV) translation.  This is a Protestant version, and lacks the deuterocanonical books that are included in Roman Catholic translations. (Obviously, it also lacks an Imprimatur and/or Nihil Obstat.) However, I wasn't really stressing too much over this.  We are working on some of the "main event" stories that this version does include (Creation, Exodus, the Nativity and the Last Supper, etc.), which are not part of this group.  Plus I figured it really didn't matter what the words precisely were once you morph them into building blocks, because I wanted the boys to focus on the message.

I was under the impression that it was going to be a Bible with some "build this scene with Legos" directions.  I was wrong.  It's basically a fine-print book with a few pictures of Bible scenes that happened to be made of Legos instead of traditional hand-drawn illustrations.

I liked how the pictures were spread out through the book, rather than clustered in a single section. However, I also disappointed to see how mixed-up the scenes are in the book. The story of Zaccheus, from Luke 19, is tucked in the middle of Jeremiah. There is a two-sided illustration page between the pages that hold Psalms 23 through 27.  Facing Psalm 23 is an illustration of the story of David and Goliath.  At first I thought, "Ok, Jeremiah isn't too far from Psalms, as the pages turn, and David wrote the psalms...so OK, this works."  Then I turned the page, and saw a block illustration of Psalm 23...on the back side of the page, away from Psalm 23!  I thought, "This is strange, because why would you put an illustration of a verse so close to, yet not with, its inspiration?"

(L) Psalms 23, 24, 25; (R) Psalms 25, 26
There are verses from Matthew mixed in with the Gospel of Luke, and scenes from the story of Noah pushed over to Numbers, rather than in Genesis (where there aren't any pictures at all).  It just didn't make sense to me.  (The only one that I can marginally justify re-arranging is the illustrations of the Last Supper and Calvary placed in the middle of Lamentations.)  It seemed to me that if this was geared toward children, nearby illustrations should match the story, so that children who are reading the story can "see" the story as well.

They also aren't directions on how to build the stories.  The illustrated pages contain pictures of the scenes, a commentary, and an accompanying Bible verse.   Luke's opinion:  "Well, I guess you could use your imagination to build them, but it would be a lot easier if there was even a list of 'you want these sorts of parts'.  It would make it a better present, too -- because then you could give a kid a Bible and Legos for a gift.  They'd probably appreciate that more, since they could use the Legos for other stuff, too."  I think he has a point.  I'm sure we'd all prefer The Bible to be the "more excitement" gift; for a child, just a bible probably is going to be a bit underwhelming.   Although the boys had a hard time translating the stories from words to images, it was a little easier to find suitable stories by using the index found at the back of the book. There is also a very short (five page) glossary at the back of the book, which was helpful.  They flipped through the back, hoping to find a "suggested blocks" list with the indices...no such luck.

The Zonderkidz (Zondervan) page specifically says that this is printed with a "very readable" size font. Jude (age 8) found it nearly impossible to read, because the type was so small and tightly spaced.  Celia (age 11) could read it better, but only a paragraph or two at a time before the words just blurred together.  As I was poring over it, Luke joked, "You need a magnifying glass? Or a Control-Plus option?"

John 15: 12-17
It's also not a great study Bible, if you like to mark it up by highlighting favorite passages, because the pages are thin and print bleeds through.  If you often write in the margin, there just isn't any extra space - the top/side margins are 1/2" and the bottom is only 1/4".

I really thought this would be a Bible that Jude would like. I was hoping it would be something really appealing to an 8-year-old boy, and give him a Bible enticing enough to learn with now yet still have the ability to grow into. However, I feel like this book tried to be too many things - fun, lightweight, as few pages as possible - and didn't do any of them well.

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Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

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