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The Pocket Bible Doodle Book

A blurb on the back of The Pocket Bible Doodle Book (Zonderkidz/Zondervan, January) states, “The story of creation, Noah’s ark, the plagues, and more make this Bible-based collection of doodles fun for everyone.” I can’t decide if I should laugh or be offended—the plagues can be fun? Okay…

As the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, I grew up learning Bible stories; there are ways to teach religious tales without resorting to gimmicks. Why has this Christian publisher decided to present the tales in a religious doodle book? Is this a tongue-in-cheek look at the Bible stories? A way to keep kids busy/quiet during the sermon? I really can’t tell.

If the book is actually intended to teach children about the Bible, there are glaring omissions, such as bypassing the creation of Eve and skipping quickly from Jesus’ birth to his death and resurrection, with nothing about his life and his miracles in between. Leaving out important Bible stories and abbreviating others make the tales included confusing to follow despite their chronological order.

Directions instruct children to draw unfamiliar items and situations without any context: “Joseph dreamed that sheaves of grain bowed down to his sheaf. Finish this drawing” and “Naaman was healed of his leprosy after washing in the Jordan River. Finish this scene.” On the other hand, the occasional attempts at modernization (“Instead of traveling with a sack of grain, you might travel with a suitcase. Design your own suitcase here.”) are bizarrely out of place.

Other doodles are disturbing, like “God sent ten plagues. Plague number one: The water of the Nile River turned to blood. Complete the scene.” And then there’s this one:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to false gods. Finish this scene…and don’t forget to add the angel of the Lord!”

While I’m all in favor of not sugar-coating the stories in the Bible, maybe these stories are better told in prose and the images left to the imagination.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.



  1. I think if kids learn the stories, it’s okay – obviously, they were spared.

  2. Yes, but the highly abbreviated versions of the stories in this doodle book aren’t enough to teach the children these stories – I think it will just confuse them to be told to finish a drawing of three men burning in fire if they aren’t familiar with the context for the drawing from the original Bible source since this doodle spread is the only mention of the three men in the doodle book. Some children may be familiar with all the stories, but most will not be, which is why the selective nature of this book is misleading and a poor way to help kids learn/remember the Bible stories.

  3. “The water of the Nile River turned to blood. Complete the scene,” might be the most terrifying and hilarious phrase ever.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    “How many Horsemen can you count?”

  5. Thanks for sound criticism. It’s irresponsible to tell only what appears to end up a good ‘doodle’, or busy work activity. Sorry and scary that some people believe that’s good educational practice.

  6. Oh, goodness. Cynthia, as a Sunday School teacher at a Methodist church (in addition to being a youth services librarian at a public library), I shouldn’t be surprised. How I wish that the Protestant publishers market for young children would receive a great shakeup in terms of quality and age-appropriate materials. I can usually find good stuff for teens and tweens, but the material for young children, both in picture books and in Sunday School materials, can leave a lot to be desired. I find things that are too wishy-washy and things that are just a bit…much for young children.

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