The Jesus Storybook Bible has reached a milestone of two million copies sold. A Bible like no other, it invites children (and adults) to join in the greatest of all adventures: to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their own story too!
The The Jesus Storybook Bible is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. What made you decide to publish this award winning storybook Bible?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: I wanted children to know that God loves them—no matter what.
I grew up thinking the Bible was this book of rules to keep and heroes to copy. But I knew I wasn’t good enough to keep all the rules. And then those heroes—we used to sing that chorus, “Dare to be a Daniel!” But I knew I never could dare to be a Daniel—I was terrified of being thrown to lions. I couldn’t ever be that brave.
So it left me with the sense that God must not love me because I wasn’t being good enough (keeping the rules) or being brave enough (like Daniel or David).
So I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible because I wanted children to know the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. It’s the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It’s a Love Story. It’s an Adventure Story. And at the center of the story is a baby—the child upon whom everything would depend. And every single story in the Bible whispers his name.
What makes The Jesus Storybook Bible unique?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: The Jesus Storybook Bible captures the entire plot-line of the Bible. That’s something that can be hard—even as adults—to grasp.
We read the Bible piecemeal, we hear sermons, we study passages, but rarely do we sit down and hear the entire story of the Bible. And that seemed to be especially true of children’s Bible storybooks.
And when you lose the story that’s running like a golden stream underneath all the other stories, you’re left with the idea that the Bible is a collection of random-seeming stories about various Bible characters that we’re supposed to learn lessons from (almost like an Aesop’s Fables). And a book of rules that God wants us to keep so he will love us.
And we lose the glorious truth of the Bible that we were loved before even the beginning of time. That God had a plan. That no matter what, he would never stop loving us. And that one day long ago in Bethlehem, God stepped out of Heaven and came down to rescue us.
For individuals who’ve never read the Bible, what makes The Jesus Storybook Bible so approachable?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: The Jesus Storybook Bible is the story of the Bible in its most distilled form. The Bible is one story—it’s the story of God who loves his children and comes to rescue them. So by reading The Jesus Storybook Bible you’re getting a kind of road map. So that when you come to read the actual Bible you have a lay of the land. And you come to the Bible knowing that it’s not mostly a book about you and what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s most of all a story. It’s this wonderful love story—about a God who loves his children with a wonderful, never-stopping-never-giving-up-unbreaking-always-and-forever love.
The Jesus Storybook Bible was written for children, but adults love it just the same. Why do you think that is?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: If you write for children with respect and treat them with dignity—you’ll capture the adults as well. Children deserve nothing but our very best. Nothing but excellence will do for the young, because the responsibility is greater. We write up for children, never down.
C. S. Lewis said it best: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” He also said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of 50 and beyond.”
And, of course, Jesus himself treated children with great dignity and respect. When Jesus was teaching his disciples—who did he call to stand there to help him teach? He called a little child.
“Jesus called a little child to stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ’unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4).
How has writing The Jesus Storybook Bible personally affected your life?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And it has brought some of the most tremendous, incredible blessings. So I’m so grateful.
When I was writing The Jesus Storybook Bible, it just so happened that I was writing the passion stories just exactly during Holy Week. That was profound. To have been building up to this moment as I wrote—I caught a glimpse of how all of history, all of the Old Testament, all of the generations, all of the waiting and longing of God’s children for their Rescuer—it was all culminating here, not on a throne or an army—but on the cross. A man dying in weakness—and rescuing the whole world.
It is so beautiful.
No wonder the Bible says even angels never tire of and long to gaze at this beautiful story of rescue (1 Peter 1:12).
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:25).
Over the past 10 years, have you heard from readers who share stories about how The Jesus Storybook Bible has affected their spiritual lives and ministries?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: All kinds of people are reading the book we never imagined—pastors are using it to help them preach, parents and couples are using it as their devotions, college students are using it for their Bible studies, theologians are teaching from it (it’s even a set text at a college). It was used as the text for weekly Bible study for Japanese businessmen; by women in a high security prison. Autistic children love it. Alzheimer patients love it. It’s being used in old people’s homes. A charity gives it as a gift for parents with babies in the NICU. It’s wonderful to see the ways God is using this book.
You have an extensive musical background. How did this help you in writing The Jesus Storybook Bible?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: [Laughter] I actually don’t have a musical background (aside from learning piano as a child)—but I do have many very gifted musician friends and so I get to seem as if I do! (And right now I’m touring around with Ellie Holcomb and Amy Grant and going on a tour bus and everything! So I’m doing a rather good job of pretending! We’re celebrating art and friendship and faith—and the 10th anniversary of The Jesus Storybook Bible. And rather than me singing—everyone will be relieved to hear—I’m sharing stories and reading—and sharing in particular how the book truly began, years ago in Africa. It’s been wonderful to trace the story God has been writing in all of our lives—and worship him together.)
But seriously, you hit on something we’ve discovered. Why the connection with musicians? I think it’s because in the end we’re doing very similar things—we’re telling stories, we’re using poetic, lyrical language, and we’re distilling stories down into their simplest form. We’re both telling a story in two languages—word and music for them; and word and image for me.
It’s a wonderful surprise that makes total sense at the same time.
Do you feel the music and theology go hand in hand? If so, why?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: Absolutely. I think it was J. I. Packer who said one of my favorite things—that all true theology should lead to doxology. Truly looking at God should lead us to sing to our God, to his Glory, for all he has done. So they’re made for each other! And this is something that makes the tour so special—we get to burst out into song as we share the stories of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
The talented illustrator, Jago, worked with you in on The Jesus Storybook Bible, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, The Story of God’s Love for You, and has collaborated with you once again for your new board book Found: Psalm 23. How would you describe your artistic collaboration with Jago? What can you tell us about how you chose the color and design for the cover of The Jesus Storybook Bible?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: A picture book is a story told in two languages—word and image. And the illustration is the front door of the book. Without Jago’s illustrations the book would never have reached the people it has. I’m so deeply grateful. The other thing to say is, in a successful picture book, you always want the voice of the text to match the voice of the art; so that it seems as if the same person writing is the one illustrating and vice versa. I think that’s what Jago and I have.
Jago is wonderful to work with. He’s a master at what he does and at the same time open to receiving feedback. And it’s that humility that makes for the best book. Nothing gets in the way of the story. When we’re about telling the best possible story, making the best possible book—we’re thinking about the reader, rather than about our egos. And then we serve the story. Not the other way ’round. So I can’t say enough good things about Jago!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: I love it. I even have my mum using it on her new iPhone. We love that you can listen too. We have a favorite in our family—David Suchet’s reading of the NIV UK Bible version. He was the one who narrated The Jesus Storybook Bible for audio (and the animations too) so we’re huge fans.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: Thank you for having me on.
And maybe I’ll just end by sharing this favorite story about the great theologian, Karl Barth. He was asked at the end of his life to sum up his theology and learning in his long career. Without even pausing he said: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
Bio: Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling writer for children. She’s the author of the ALA notable The Jesus Storybook Bible, as well as Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, winner of the ECPA Inspirational Book award (a children’s book winning in the adult category). She’s written many picture books for children, such as the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister and Song of the Stars and Baby Wren and the Great Gift. She’s on tour with Amy Grant and Ellie Holcombe and tickets still available. Sally was born and raised in Africa, schooled in England, and now lives in New York City. She can be found at www.sallylloyd-jones.com.
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