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A New Take on an Old Idea

Technology/Social Media / Trends //

Do you remember reading pop-up books as a kid?

They were among my favorite books because they allowed some interaction…that was until your little brother tore the giraffe off the page or you pulled to hard on the slider.

Folks, it’s the 21st Century, we have the technology to make pop-up books better, and that’s exactly what B&H Kids have done.

This month, they are releasing The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook (Amazon has guaranteed pre-order pricing through Nov. 15) and it’s a solid item for any parent to add to their collection of Storybook Bibles. It’s the first of what is sure to be a wave of books that merges paper books and technology.

The Meta-Narrative – A Huge Plus

It is, first and foremost a Storybook Bible – not a complete rendition of scripture. In the past, storybooks have been about morals or helping kids become more familiar with biblical characters. While they were good for their day, the age of most people understanding the gist overarching story has past. In these postmodern times, it’s vital that we help people understand the over-arching story of the Bible, not just the subsets of stories. The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook centers on connecting Christ to all the stories and that’s a huge plus.

In their letter to parents in the front, the authors explain the need to understand the story holistically and how that will shift our focus from the minor characters to the main character – God. The questions that they pose at the end of each story reflect that as well. This is a Storybook about God, not just characters in His Story.

The Technology – Mixed

I want to be fair, this is the first book that I have that blends smartphones/tablets with paper books. Honestly, I was not wowed. It’s simply screen-based pop-up pages with a short narration. The bonus is that they can’t rip or tear the pop-ups, but unless the child holds the device over the page continuously they’ll lose the characters and the narration that goes along with it. I can see children getting frustrated because they have to listen to the beginning of the story over and over again because they keep losing connection.

On the up side, they’ve also included QR links to videos of certain stories. I’ve taken a look at many of the stories and was delighted to find a variety of formats. Toys as props, cartoons, simple story tellings – a great job at keeping things interesting.

Of course, the real test is to see what my kids have to say about the tech. I’ll update you soon.

The Stories and Illustrations – Mixed

As storybooks go, The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook is the most comprehensive I’ve read. It includes over 80 stories from the Old Testament and over 60 stories from the New. In telling the over arching story to young children and trying to stay focused on Jesus, I realize that including stories from prophets and stories from the Epistles can be challenging, but I am glad that they took this on. I’m always a little sad to see the stories hop from the crucifixion to the return. The authors don’t spend a great deal of time in the church age, but at least they have some.

One other item on story: To the best of my recall, this is the only Jesus-centric storybook bible that includes Job. Kudos.

One of the big promotional points is the 146 full-color illustrations, however, I think they fall flat here. It’s not that the illustrations are bad – clearly they had a talented cartoonist design them. My problems is the cartoon nature: they look like something Hanna & Barbera (or whoever is the current cartoon king) would produce. The illustrations work against their goal of helping children see the Bible as a story of good news and give the impression of silliness.

I’m not against animating scripture – I love The Action Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible, I also love how these were illustrated. The Action Bible is made for boys, the illustrations were done by a Marvel illustrator. The Jesus Storybook Bible is for a younger crowed, like The Big Picture Storybook, but there is a vastly different feel. When I read from the Jesus Storybook, the stories “feel” middle-eastern (which they are). When I read the latter, I’m reminded of the Flintstones. I don’t see the book appealing to many kids beyond their pre-reading years.

Conclusion

While I may seem pretty harsh on the illustrations, I still think this is a worthy choice when it comes to sharing The Story with children. As an added bonus, if your family or your church uses The Gospel Project for Kids the book will sync up well with what you are doing.

This is a really good first step in the blending of technology and paper books, I’m excited to see what the future holds.

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About the Author

Jesse and his wife, Teri, will celebrate 20 years of marriage in May of 2012 and are raising two growing sons, Kevin and Alex. After moving from the DC metro area in 2008 they adopted a mastiff named Book and slobber became a way of life. In his spare time, you may find Jesse enjoying photography, biking, or simply watching a movie or reading. Jesse is a graduate of Cohort K from Bethel Seminary’s CFM program and serves as the Children and Family Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Wauconda.