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Bible Stories for Children

The following books are based on Biblical stories and midrashim on Biblical stories.

Baxter, Leon, Daniel in the Lion's Den. Silver Burdett Company, 1983. (J 224.5 H) A simple and readable retelling of the biblical story of the Book of Daniel. The story itself is frightening (although Daniel survives his ordeal in the lion's den, it is not without suspense; further, those who plot against Daniel are, in the end, fed to the lions). The illustrations are good.

Baxter, Leon, David and Goliath. Silver Burdett Company, 1983. (J 221.9 H) A faithful retelling of the biblical story of young David's victory over the giant Goliath. Please be aware that, true to the biblical telling, after David disarms Goliath with his sling, he decapitates him.

Baxter, Leon, Elijah, Messenger of God. Silver Burdett Company, 1984. Biblical stories of Elijah well told and illustrated.

Baynes, Pauline, Noah and the Ark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988. Nice retelling with nice pictures. (age 4+)

Bialik, Hayyim Nahman (trans. by Herbert Danby), And It Came to Pass. New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1938. Bialik's compilation of classical midrashim and tales about King David and King Solomon. Wonderful stories, but archaic English style. (age 12+)

Bollinger, Max, Joseph. Delacorte Press, 1967. (J 221.92 B) Recounts the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers, from Joseph's early years through his reunion with his father in Egypt. Lovely pen-and-ink drawings. (8 and up)

Brin, Ruth F., David and Goliath. Lerner Publications Company, 1977. (J 221.9 B) An acceptable version of the story of David and Goliath.

Brodsky, Beverly, The Story of Job. George Braziller, 1986. (J 223.1 B) An excellent retelling of the Book of Job with magnificent illustrations. This story will open up the question of theodicy: why do bad things happen to good people?

Brodsky, Beverly, Jonah. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1977. (J 224 B) The story of The Book of Jonah is told simply and clearly from the prophet's perspective. The illustrations are gorgeous. The story will require a commentary from a parent, to explain why God would have a large fish swallow a human being alive. The parent will need to explain to the child that the story is not historical, but its message is nonetheless valuable and important. One big problem, however: God is depicted by the head of a bearded man toward the beginning of the book.

Bulla, Clyde Robert, Jonah and the Great Fish. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970. (J 224.92 B) This version of the story adds details not included in the biblical account, but on the whole it is clear and has full-page illustrations.

Bulla, Clyde Robert (illus. by Gordon Laite), Joseph the Dreamer. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971. Bulla provides a very complete telling of the Joseph story, rich in detail so young readers will appreciate the complexity and nuances of the story. This is a truly fine book. (Age 10+)

Chaiken, Miriam (illus. by Vera Rosenberry), Esther. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987. The story of the Book of Esther is told in an engaging fashion with captivating, romantic line drawings. Beware of the ending (according the Bible, the Jews slaughter their enemies); parents may want to avoid this part of the story when reading the book to young children.

Cohen, Barbara, The Binding of Isaac. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company, 1978. (E 222 C) Cohen retells the the story of the Binding of Isaac from the perspective of Isaac as an old man recounting it to his 12 grandsons and 1 granddaughter (the children of Jacob). She delves into the feelings of the characters involved in a way the Bible does not. The story may be frightening to very young children.

Cohen, Barbara, The Donkey's Story. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company, 1988. (J 222.1 C) An amusing retelling of the story of Balaam and Balak, in which the prophet Balaam's donkey opens his mouth and speaks. The story will be difficult for young children to understand and will require background information about the role of the prophet in ancient Israel and the theological concepts of blessing and cursing.

Cohen, Barbara (illus. by Charles Mikolaycak), I am Joseph. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1980 (J 222 C) The biblical story of Joseph, from his early childhood through his reunion with his father, Jacob, is retold from Joseph's perspective as a modern midrash. Beautiful illustrations! (8 and up)

Cowan, Paul and Rachel Cowan. A Torah is Written. Jewish Publication Society. A beautiful book about the traditions and scribal art of writing a Sefer Torah . Sensitively and lovingly written and illustrated with photographs of an actual scribe at work.

DePaola, Tomie, Noah and the Ark. Winston Press, 1983. A very nice retelling of the story of the flood with colorful illustrations.

Elborn, Andrew and Ivan Gantschev, Noah & the Ark & the Animals. Verlag Neugebauer Press, 1984. (J 221 E) A mare tells her colt the story of the flood in order to quell his fears that it will never stop raining. The biblical story is told simply and in a straight-forward manner with nice watercolor illustrations.

Fisher, Leonard Everett, Moses. New York: Holiday House, 1995. A retelling of the Exodus story with moving, dramatic illustrations. Excellent book.

Fisher, Leonard Everett, The Seven Days of Creation. New York:  Holiday House, 1981. Simple retelling of Creation story with wonderful painted illustrations. Only problem may be the intertwining of Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 of Genesis.

Freehof, Lillian S., Stories of King David and Stories of King Solomon. JPS, 1955. Enchanting retellings of classical midrashim and folktales. Kids adore these stories and so will their parents.

Fussenegger, Gertrud, Noah's Ark. J.B. Lippincott, 1982. (J 222 F) A nice version of the story with beautiful illustrations. This version emphasizes what the people in the ark might have thought and felt.

Gellman, Marc, Does God Have a Big Toe? Harper Collins, 1989. Gellman's midrasim for children, many of which originally appeared in "Moment Magazine" are collected here. A stellar collection. The whole family will enjoy this and be inspired to write their own midrashim.

Gelman, Rita Golden, Queen Esther Saves Her People, 1998. This retelling of the Book of Esther sticks close to the biblical book and is clearly worded. The colorful, childlike illustrations of Frane Lessac will delight children and draw them into the story. This is an excellent book for teaching the story of Purim. (age 7 and up)

Gerstein, Mordicai, Jonah and the Two Great Fish.New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997. Gerstein weaves the biblical account of the prophet Jonah with classical midrashim on this Yom Kippur afternoon Haftarah, producing an excellent book for children to dive into the sea of midrash. The illustrations are lovely.

Greenfeld, Purim. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983. A retelling of the Book of Esther.

Hogrogian, Nonny (illus.), Noah's Ark. Alfred A. Knopf, 1986. (J 221.9 H) A simple retelling of the story with nice illustrations.

Hutton, Warwick, Jonah and the Great Fish. New York: Atheneum, 1983. A lovely retelling with beautiful water-color painting, but there is a major problem with this book: The events once Jonah goes to Nineveh, including the repentance of the people of Nineveh and Jonah's reaction to it, are all condensed to two sentences, with no illustration, on the last page. The book ends before the story has been told. Used in conjunction with another book, or finished properly, however, this is a good book.

Hutton, Warwick, Moses in the Bulrushes. Atheneum, 1986. (J 222 H) A beautiful retelling of the birth and rearing of Moses in Egypt. The illustrations are lovely and the story is faithful to the Bible.

Little, Emily, David and the Giant. Random House, 1987. (J 222 L) A nice retelling of the story of David and Goliath with big, color pictures and large-print simple words. Children who are learning to read will be able to read this book themselves.

Manushkin, Fran (Illus. by Uri Shulevitz). New York: Silver Whistle Harcourt, Inc., 2001. The stories of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, Miriam, Deborah and Yael, Hannah, Ruth and Naomi, and Esther are told in loving detail. (Age 11+)

McDonough, Yona Zeldis, Eve and Her Sisters. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1994. Brief stories of 14 biblical women. Colorful folkart painted illustrations by the author's mother. (6+)

Mee, Charles L., Jr., Moses, Moses. Harper & Row, 1977. A very simple and clear retelling of the account of Moses' birth and rescue from the Nile River by pharaoh's daughter.

Miner, Julia (illus.), The Shepherd's Song. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Miner gives life to the metaphorical images of the Twenty-third Psalm with her beautiful pastels, interpreting the psalm in terms of relationships children can comprehend. (ages 7-10)

Murdock, Hy, Joseph. Ladybird Books, 1985. An simple and accurate recounting of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The illustrations are cheerful and colorful.

Murdock, Hy, Moses. Ladybird Books, 1985. Tells the story of Moses from birth through the encounter with the burning bush. The story is told simply and clearly and is accompanied by cheerful and colorful illustrations.

Paterson, Katherine, The Angel & the Donkey. Clarion Books, 1996. A honest effort at making the difficult and unusual account from the Book of Numbers of Balaam's prophesy comprehensible to children. Paterson delves into the character and motives of Balaam, as well as his relationship to Balak, the king of Moab.

Patterson, Jose, Angels, Prophets, Rabbis and Kings from Stories of the Jewish People. Peter Bedrick Books, 1991. A large volume of retold biblical tales, midrashim, and legends.

Pinkney, Jerry, Noah's Ark. New York: SeaStar Books, 2002. With beautiful and expressive watercolor paintings, Pinkney tells the story of the Flood, emphasizing Noah's trust in God to steer the ark through the storm.

Ray, Dr. Eric, Sofer, with Joel Lurie Grishaver: The Story of a Torah Scroll. Torah Aura Productions, 1986. Dr. Ray explains the process, traditions, rules, and religious meaning of his work as a Sofer S'tam. He also explains his associations with each of the letters. The book has many black-and-white photos and is decorated with Dr. Ray's beautiful calligraphy. (Age 7 and up)

Reed, Allison, Genesis: The Story of Creation. Schocken Books, 1981. The text is a direct translation of Genesis 1:1-2:3 (the story of the Creation in Six Days). The illustrations are beautiful.

Reed, Allison, The Story of Jonah. North-South Books, 1987. A faithful retelling of the story with magnificent illustrations.

Renberg, Dalia Hardof, King Solomon and the Bee. Harper Collins, 1994. A beautiful retelling of the tale of King Solmon and the Queen of Sheba's riddle, which may have been the creation of Hayyim Nahman Bialik. The illustrations by Ruth Heller are magnificent. (age 4+)

Segal, Lore (illus. by Leonard Baskin), The Book of Adam to Moses. Alfred A Knopf, 1987. This volume contains stories from the Torah, Genesis to Deuteronomy. There are scattered illustrations, mostly text and therefore the book might not be appropriate to young children. Older children, who can read, might enjoy it.

Segal, Lore, The Story of King Saul and King David. New York: Schocken Books, 1991. Retelling of biblical tales, illustrated with reproductions from Pamplona bibles.

Singer, Isaac Bashevis (illus. by Eric Carle), Why Noah Chose the Dove. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973. This is the classic midrash on what virtue is the most praiseworthy. All the animals aboard the ark tell Noah why they merit being saved, and in so doing, belittle the others. Only the dove refuses to participate, modestly remaining silent. As a reward, Noah chooses the Dove to go forth as his messenger to find land after the food. It is a tale of bragging and modesty, whose message is clear to young children.

Spier, Peter, The Book of Jonah. Doubleday & Company, 1985. A true-to-the-text retelling of the story with many quotes from an English translation.

Wiesel, Elie (illus. by Mark Podwal), King Solomon and his Magic Ring. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1999. Wiesel weaves together biblical accounts, midrash, and folklore to convey many stories about King Solomon. (Age 10+)

Wiesner, William, The Tower of Babel. New York: The Viking Press, 1968. The Torah story of the Tower of Babel is beautifully told (using both the biblical text and the rabbis' commentaries). Wiesner's illustrations are beautiful and colorful and the story teaches important lessons about communication and over-weaning pride.

Wildsmith, Brian, Joseph. Michigan: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1997. Richly detailed illustrations accompany this straight-forward rendition of the Joseph cycle of stories. The detailed depiction of Egypt tends to overwhelm the emotional and moral aspects of the story. (Age 8+)

Williams, Marcia, Jonah and the Whale. New York: Random House, 1989. A simple retelling of the story with engaging, whimsical illustrations. (age 4+)

Williams, Marcia, Joseph and his Magnificent Coat of Many Colors. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 1990. In her delightful style, which will appeal to young children, Williams tells the full cycle of Joseph stories in Genesis.

Zlotowitz, Bernard M., and Dina Maiben, Abraham's Great Discovery. New York: NightinGale Resources, 1991. Retelling of the every-popular midrashim about Abraham's childhood and discovery of the one God.