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Art & the Bible for Children Review by Deanna Jasper, Adrienne Falkena, and Kendra Fletcher

By Joshua Olds and Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou Art Publications
1-800-982-DRAW (3729)
P.O. Box 48
McFarlan, NC 28102

My five-year old hasn't yet started Kindergarten work, but I wanted to start doing some intentional lessons with her, and when I found Art & the Bible for Children by Joshua Olds and Barry Stebbing, it looked like a great fit for this little girl who loves drawing and coloring. What better way to introduce a little bit of structure than a curriculum that caters to her interests?

As soon as the materials arrived, we were both excited to get started. The main text is a beautiful quality hardcover book with glossy pages that show off the full-color examples of art projects scattered liberally throughout the book. The “lesson cards” (essentially workbook pages) come as loose leaf prints on heavy stock. I slipped them into page protectors in a one inch binder to save as masters and just made copies on my printer as we went through the lessons. (The copyright gives permission to copy lesson pages for in-house or classroom activities.) This method worked well for short-term, sporadic use, but if we decided to use the entire curriculum, I would prefer to have them copied more economically and bound into a workbook. According to a page that came with the my materials, the lesson cards can also be purchased as a PDF file, which would be helpful if you want to create a bound workbook for each child. (I was unable to find this product on the webpage given, so if you are interested you may need to contact the company directly.)

Each lesson consists of a Bible story, discussion questions (I liked talking through these as my daughter worked on her picture), and an art assignment. These lessons would work well as a supplement to any Bible curriculum since they are tied into the most popular stories from both the Old and New Testaments. However, it can also be used on its own because the stories are retold within the text. As with most Bible storybooks, there are parts of the presentation that aren't directly from the Scriptures, and as a parent I found it important to go through both the story and the discussion questions ahead of time so I was prepared for things I with which I was slightly uncomfortable. (For example I was a little thrown by the discussion question, “Did you know that girls have one less rib than boys?”  This is simply untrue. I've heard people claim the opposite to try to back up the story of God creating Eve from Adam's rib, but that too is scientifically false.)

There were different types of art assignments, all of which could be completed on the lesson pages provided. Sometimes there were specific instructions about what to draw (for example, in the Noah's ark lesson the child is given a page with just a water line on it and asked to “draw a large boat on the water and fill it with animals,” then add a rainbow above the ark and fish in the water). Other times they have more freedom, such as with the Creation lesson, when they are given the assignment of creating a new animal, with questions given to prompt creative thinking. The lessons I felt really helped my daughter learn new art skills usually had to do with using color in a way that wouldn't be obvious to a young child. The assignment to go along with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instructed her to use red, yellow, orange, and even green and purple, which she never would have considered before. However, after trying to follow the directions, she was rather pleased with the way it turned out. Similarly, the lesson on the Plague of Frogs gives instructions for coloring in a frog with three different greens and gives the student instructions on how to use their green, blue, and yellow pencils to blend together the different shades. (The recommended materials for the curriculum are simply a set of colored pencils and a fine point black drawing pen.)

The short, simple lessons were easy to use with my five-year old, and she often wanted to do more than one each day. Since the worksheets usually included multiple lessons, I let her choose whether she wanted to do the whole page or just stop with one activity. Art & the Bible for Children is intended for ages four and up, though I think older elementary age students might find it too simplistic. I expected my seven and nine-year old boys to want to try it out with us at least once just out of curiosity, but neither one of them ever took me up on my invitation. Younger children could easily tag along as well.

When we first started, I expected this curriculum to be art lessons with a biblical emphasis. However, I was disappointed by the lack of art instruction, and would be more inclined to characterize it as Bible lessons that each contain a drawing activity. The textbook is full of beautiful examples of art projects children have done based on the Bible stories, and that part of the book was quite inspiring to my budding artist. She really enjoyed flipping through the book to see the creative, colorful artwork others had done using a variety of mediums. However none of the actual lesson assignments had anything to do with projects of that sort.  In fact, few of the pictures depicted the drawings from the assignments, which would have been helpful.

Overall, my daughter really enjoyed the lessons in Art & the Bible for Children, especially the art assignments. The beautiful pictures in the book inspired her to go beyond the lessons to try new things in her own art projects. I appreciated the chance to integrate the art she loves with the Bible stories I want her to learn, and this was the perfect curriculum for us to use to start structured lessons as we get ready to head into Kindergarten next year.

-Product review by Deanna Jasper, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2017

Another Reviewer's Perspective:

Art & the Bible for Children
Joshua Olds and Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou ART Publications

Art & the Bible for Children is a hardcover text with 59 Bible stories, rewritten for children ages four and up. There are 36 Old Testament stories and 23 New Testament stories. Each story has discussion questions following the story and an art lesson at the end. Some of the lessons are longer and harder, some are short and quite simple, but all are easily adaptable for the age of the child or children doing the lesson. The entire book is illustrated by children and the art work they did for the stories. Also included is a set of 70 full size card stock quality lesson cards that can be copied by the owner for in-house or classroom activities so that a single set of cards may be used by multiple children. The Art & the Bible for Children with one set of lesson cards is $29.95. More lesson cards may be purchased separately if you wish for $12.95.

This product has a wide range of use. I used it in my home with my young children, and also in the toddler Sunday school class that I teach in my church. It would be very useful in instructing both art and Bible in a homeschool setting with young elementary students, or possibly even in a Christian homeschool co-op type setting.

I liked Art and the Bible for Children very much. It was well done, easy to understand, easy to prepare for, the glossy pages held up well, and I appreciate the hardcover binding. I used it alongside the Christmas theme in my Sunday school class that we're working on right now and found the topics easily that I needed to go alongside the curriculum that I use there. I did find that the book took liberties with Scripture that I wish they hadn't, adding dialogue, thoughts, and intent to actions of people in the Bible that we don't know to be entirely true. However, it certainly does make the stories easier to understand and imagine for young listeners. The discussion questions at the end of the story were helpful in drawing out the children and making sure they understood what they heard. The art projects were by far my favorite part! Colored pencils and a fine point black drawing pen are listed as the recommended art materials, and all of the lessons we worked on didn't require anything further except for paper and a copy of the appropriate lesson card. I looked through many of the other projects and didn't find anything else was needed on those either.

I would recommend this, though with mild reservations. The art projects are incredibly helpful and being able to tie those in to the Bible stories I'm teaching is great – it saved me a good amount of time trying to find an appropriate craft, especially in Sunday school. The lesson cards are very helpful, well labeled, and make prep for lessons a breeze. I prefer to remain pretty close to Scripture itself when I'm teaching, but that was easy enough to work around. The parts I liked made this worthwhile to me in spite of my reservations.

-Product review by Adrienne Falkena, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2017

Another Reviewer's Perspective:

Art and the Bible for Children Review by Kendra Fletcher
By Joshua Olds and Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou ART Publications

As a mom with almost no artistic skills, I'm always on the lookout for art curriculum and supplements that can give my kids the kind of art instruction and encouragement that I never could.  Art and the Bible for Children couples the helpful instruction of well-loved artist Barry Stebbing with 59 favorite Bible stories--36 stories from the Old Testament and 23 from the New Testament. The stories have been written at an elementary level by 15-year-old homeschool student Joshua Olds, and he's done a great job. His style sometimes addresses the child directly, as in this retelling of creation:

Let's close our eyes for a moment. What do you see? Nothing. That's what it looked like before God created the world. God is the greatest creator who ever lived. Go outside and look around you. He created everything: the birds, the flowers, the trees, even the sun and the sky. This is the story of how He did it.

Most of the stories are narratives brought to life for the younger crowd:

The next day a dark cloud of flies could be seen on the horizon. "Buzz-z-z-z-z." "Buzz-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z." The cloud rumbled, becoming larger and larger and finally sweeping over the land. But not a single fly could be seen in the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. There were flies everywhere--flies in the soup, flies in the water, flies buzzing around the Egyptians' heads. Pharaoh soon became disgusted and called for Moses and Aaron and consented, "I will let you make sacrifices to your God, but you must stay here to make your sacrifices."

Geared toward the elementary-aged child, Art and the Bible for Children presents the story for the child to read (or be read to), has discussion questions after each story, and then includes a related art lesson. My 10-year-old daughter loved doing this on her own, and she worked at each illustration with concentration and great effort. I was able to hand her the book and the art pages and let her just go for it on her own.

Art and the Bible for Children is a quality bound hardback with full-color illustrations drawn by other students. There are numerous examples of pencil sketches, ink, and mixed-media collages. My daughter loved this part; she really enjoyed seeing how other kids had illustrated the stories she was about to draw. As a mom, I appreciated that the art pages were all ready for her, each lesson on a new page she could use right there.

If you are looking for something to get your young artist drawing regularly, Art and the Bible for Children might fit the bill quite nicely. Additionally, however, I think Art and the Bible for Children would make an excellent Bible curriculum for your own home, Sunday school, or Bible club. I'm sure it will be used over again here with the kiddos coming up right below our 10-year-old.

-Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2011