The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. And at the center of the Story there is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name.
First published in 2007, The Jesus Storybook Bible has sold over 3 million units, one of the bestselling storybook Bibles in the last 2 decades.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the book with author Sally Lloyd-Jones.
1. Why did you write The Jesus Storybook Bible?
I wanted children to know that God loves them.
As a child, I thought the Bible was a book of rules I had to keep so God would love me. And a book of heroes I was supposed to copy to get God to love me. But knew I couldn’t keep all the rules. And I knew I could never be as brave as David or Daniel. So I got the idea that God must not love me because I wasn’t doing it right. I wasn’t being good enough or brave enough.
But I had somehow missed what the Bible is all about. Because the Bible isn’t mainly about me and what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. The Bible isn’t mainly a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story.
2. Tell us about the subtitle, “Every Story Whispers His Name.”
The Bible has many stories in it, but they are all telling the one big story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. And at the center of that story there is a baby. He’s the one on whom everything will depend. Every single story of the Bible whispers his name.
So take a story like David and Goliath. Yes, David is a young hero who fights a giant and wins—and saves God’s people. But there is greater Hero who is coming, a greater David, who will one day defeat the only giants who can really hurt us—the giants of Sin and Death.
When you see that the Bible is all about the Rescuer who is coming—the young hero, the good shepherd, the true king—it transforms everything. It melts your heart. Because you suddenly realize the Bible is a beautiful love story.
3. What makes The Jesus Storybook Bible so unique?
The Jesus Storybook Bible captures the entire plot line of the Bible.
It’s hard to read the entire Bible in one sitting. And so it’s easy to lose the fact there there is a through story running like a golden stream running underneath all the stories in the Bible. And you might be left with the idea that the Bible is a collection of random-seeming stories about various Bible characters that are there to teach us lessons (almost like a sort of Aesop’s Fables).
I wanted to make sure every story connected to tell that one big story. The Jesus Storybook Bible is the story of the Bible in distilled form.
4. For someone who has never read the Bible, is The Jesus Storybook Bible a good place to start?
By reading The Jesus Storybook Bible you are getting a kind of road map, so that when you come to read the actual Bible you have a lay of the land. And then you can come to the Bible knowing that it is not mostly a book about you and what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s this wonderful love story—about a God who moves heaven and earth to be close to us. Who loves his children with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
5. The Jesus Storybook Bible was written for children, but adults love it—why do you think that is?
If you write for children with respect and treat them with the dignity they deserve—you will capture the adults as well. Children deserve nothing but our very best work. Nothing but excellence will do for the young, because the responsibility is greater. We write up for children, never down.
C. S. Lewis said it best: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” He also said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.
Funnily enough, so many adults were sneaking off with their children’s copies of The Jesus Storybook Bible to read for themselves—we felt sorry for the children and thought we should give the adults their own copies. So we released an edition specifically for grown ups: The Story of God’s Love for You. It’s a great way to share the story of the Bible with those who might not be open to reading a children’s illustrated bible storybook.
6. How did you choose which stories to include?
With a children’s bible storybook, you’re constrained by the physical heft of the book. The book can’t be too long or too heavy or it will be too big for a child’s hands to hold. Within that limitation on page length—if I wanted each story to have around 3-4 spreads with room for illustrations, that meant I could have 44 stories of around 500 words each to fit.
Of those 44 stories, I needed certain stories to capture the through story of the Bible—creation, the fall, Noah, etc.
Then, because it’s an illustrated book and it’s for children, you need to make sure the stories are ones that can be illustrated.
After all those criteria, for the stories I had left (which weren’t many!) when I had a choice, I went with the story that moved me. “No tears in the writer no tears in the reader,” Frost said. For instance, I had to choose between writing the story of Ruth or the story of Leah and Rachel. I chose Leah and Rachel. Why? Because, at the time my niece, who 4, was already being called names at school. She loved stories of beautiful princesses and lived in that fairytale world, and here she was being called ugly. Though of course she was nothing of the sort. I wrote about Leah and I called it “The Girl No One Wanted.” Because I wanted my little niece to know that God loves her and says she’s beautiful, that she was lovely and chosen and loved by the Prince of Heaven.
It’s important to distinguish between a children’s Storybook Bible (a retelling) and a children’s Bible (a translation). A Bible Storybook is like a translation in a way—you’re finding a way to speak a child’s language, you’re putting difficult concepts into words that a child can understand. But unlike a translation, you’re necessarily having to leave bits out, you’re selecting only some stories, leaving others, cutting and paraphrasing.
7. How did you prepare and research when writing The Jesus Storybook Bible?
I have learned from everyone who ever taught me. From their books and sermons, John Stott, Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (am I relation?), Corrie ten Boom, and of course Dr. Tim Keller, my pastor in New York. He taught me how to find Christ in all the scriptures—not just in the New Testament.
I learned not only the theology from Tim, I also learned from his way of finding fresh words to tell the story. I had to find fresh ways to convey complex religious concepts in words a child could understand—without dumbing down.
But first you have to thoroughly understand something before you can distill it down. So it takes some work. That’s the art of simplicity. Because being simple isn’t simple.
I also took a course to study the plot line of Redemption from Genesis to Revelation. That gave me all the connections and filled in any gaps between the stories so I could be sure to accurately tell the through story.
8. What have you heard about how The Jesus Storybook Bible has affected readers?
We’ve received countless stories of the wonderful, surprising ways God is using the book. We’ve decided we can’t keep these stories to ourselves, so we have launched The Jesus Storybook Bible Podcast. I’m at the mic inviting guests to share personally about the beautiful ways God’s love has changed their lives.
9. Jago illustrated The Jesus Storybook Bible—tell us about your artistic collaboration
A picture book is a story told in two languages—word and image. And the illustration is the front door of the book. Without Jago’s illustrations, the book would never have reached the people it has. The other thing to say is, in a successful picture book, you always want the voice of the text to match the voice of the art. So that it seems as if the same person writing is the one illustrating and vice versa. I think that is what Jago and I have.
The wonderful thing is we have gone on to collaborate on many more books including: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Found, Loved, and Near.
10. What is the follow-up title to The Jesus Storybook Bible?
It’s called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. It’s a companion volume to the The Jesus Storybook Bible, with over 100 devotions all about God’s great love for you. I wrote it to be a book of hope for a children – big or small. Another little niece was being bullied and I wrote it for her—so she could hear all the magnificent things God says about her instead of what the bullies were saying.
There have also been several special editions and related books published, including an audiobook narrated by the wonderful actor, David Suchet; animated videos that bring the stories to life; a Christmas Collection filled with stories, songs, and reflections for Advent; padded board books with prayers from The Jesus Storybook Bible, and so much more. (Browse the full Jesus Storybook Bible Collection.)
11. What is the one thing you want readers to take away from the book?
To know that God loves them with a Wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. I love the story of Karl Barthe—he was asked at the end of his life to sum up his theology and learning in his long career. Without even pausing he said: “Jesus Loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
About the Author
Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling writer and frequent performer of her work. She has written over 30 books, spanning the Christian and general markets. Her work has been critically acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Her books (which are written for children, but lots of adults are reading) include: The Jesus Storybook Bible, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Hats Off to Mr. Pockles, Goldfish on Vacation, How to Be a Baby, Skip To the Loo!, Look! I Wrote A Book!, Baby Wren and the Great Gift and many more.
Follow Sally on Social
SLJ Instagram: @sallylloydjones
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