It’s obvious to all that Nick Butterworth is dedicated to writing stories with maximum spiritual impact.
His set of 8 parables aren’t really ‘children’s stories’. They may look that way, with charming illustrations and simple language aimed at 3-7’s, but I’m quite confident that adults would learn just as much from these stories as little ones would.
Each story begins with the Bible passage printed in readable text so children can remember where they have come from. Nick knows the power of storytelling, just as Jesus did 2000 years ago, to teach us about God and how to live. All Nick has done is to retell the stories in child-friendly language: the shepherd who lost his sheep, the outcast who helped his enemy, the son who wasted his inheritance.
He hasn’t tampered with them, elaborated or changed the ending (as the film makers love to do with popular stories). All he’s done is to retell them. This faithful style of storytelling helps keep the fluid, parabolic nature of Jesus’ stories intact. As the parables aren’t compromised, children are invited to interpret them in their own mind, forming their own meaning from Jesus’ words.
Although this book now looks dated (say, if you compare it to the Jesus Storytellers Bible,) the stories don’t suffer. In fact, I love the wishy-washy pictures that hold a certain charm and quirky, light-hearted nature that computer generated animation could never match. In a way, they remind me of Quentin Blake’s simple, yet striking pencil drawings that captured Roald Dahl’s unique style.
To top it all off, the stories end with words from Jesus. For example in ‘The Good Stranger’ Jesus says – “Which one was like a good neighbour: the bishop, the judge or the stranger?” Or in ‘The Lost Sheep’ Jesus says – “God is like the farmer. He loves us just like the farmer loves his sheep.” This brilliant storytelling trick focuses the stories back towards God, and encourages the child’s mind to ponder what they’ve heard (and maybe ask you some probing questions about God and life too).
I can easily see these stories being used in church family services, in Sunday school, in toddler groups and under the comfort of the duvet in the shimmer of the night light. These stories are simple, understated but very, very good.
February 5th, 2013 - Posted & Written by James Warwood