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The Play-Along Bible (Hardback for little ones) Review by Karen Waide

Imagining God’s Story through Motion and Play
Bob Hartman
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
(800) 323-9400
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188

We had the opportunity to review The Play-Along Bible: Imagining God’s Story through Motion and Play written by Bob Hartman and illustrated by Susie Poole. This 103 page hardcover Bible storybook is full of simple, familiar stories appropriate for young children. Each of the 50 stories is arranged over a two-page spread, with a full-page picture on one side, and text with the illustration on the other side.  There is a letter to the parents at the beginning of the book, and a page containing 4 “Special Bible Verses to Remember” at the conclusion of the book.

The book is split almost evenly between Old and New Testament stories, with 24 being from Old and 26 being from the New.  You will find stories from Creation (one story for each day of creation), all the way to Revelation (talking about the new heavens and the new earth). Throughout the book you will find stories that are usually popular with children, such as Noah, Joseph, the walls of Jericho, and Daniel from the Old Testament, and the birth of Jesus, Jesus lost in Jerusalem, Jesus walking on water, Zacchaeus, the Good Samaritan, and Jesus’ death and resurrection from the New Testament.

The stories themselves are quite short, ranging from 4 lines to around 10 lines per story. What makes this book unique are the participation instructions in parentheses that are included between the lines of text. These activities include facial expressions, movement, hand motions, and verbal words or noises. No props are needed, just the child’s own body.  After each line is read, the parent or teacher will invite the child(ren) to join in with the listed activity. There are times there are quotes indicating it is something that should be said out loud. In these instances, I would say it and have the children repeat it.

The reading of The Play-Along Bible became a part of our morning Bible time on school days. After prayer, opening songs, and the pledge to the Bible, I would open up to the next story in the book. After reading the title and the Bible reference, I would set the book on the coffee table, read the story and we would act out the motions. We got to do such things as march in place, make trumpeting noises, pretend to cry, flex our muscles, roar, and make animal noises.

The age range for The Play-Along Bible is 3-6 years; however, I would have to say it may be better suited for 2-4 year old children. Having worked in day care before, I can see using this book with the toddler class a lot more than with the preschool or kindergarten age children. The stories are nice and short, which is perfect for smaller children with shorter attention spans. Additionally, the active parts are quite simple, there is no reason a 2 year old couldn’t join in. I originally asked to review this book with my 4 year old son in mind; however, I thought my older girls might get a kick out of it too. My older girls did find it to be a bit babyish. However, as reading it became routine, they seemed to be enjoying themselves while they participated.  The children especially liked when the people were getting married because they got to make “kissy” noises.

This book would be a great way to introduce young children to Bible stories, or, if your children already know the stories as ours did, to allow children to get a different feel for familiar stories. The children get to have fun and aren’t being told they have to sit still while listening to a story. Children are actively engaged in the story, making it come alive for them. And shouldn’t the reading of God’s Word be a joyful experience?

You can purchase The Play-Along Bible: Imagining God’s Story through Motion and Play for $12.99.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2016