Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Review: International Children's Bible, "Big Red"

As a mother of four with concerns about discipleship, I'm interested in anything that will get my kids interacting with scripture. Touted as "The Translation Children can read and understand" and "now with fresh 3-D art," I was interested to take a look. Sadly, I was diappointed on all counts.

One of the things I've learned as a parent is that any book that I want my children to read must be built to withstand a child's handling, but this Bible wouldn't last a month with my first-grader. It's cheap paperback version with standard Bible-onion-skin pages and standard Bible six point font. It fails on the durability and readability counts. This isn't a Bible that they can grow with.

I'm ambivalent about the "fresh art for a video-game generation." The artwork looks like a set of World of Warcraft screen shots. Lots of ripped biceps and action hero stubble. I also wonder if a generation which has been systematically trained to view this style of artwork as "not real" or "only a game" wouldn't actually lead some children to have a lesser view of the veracity of scripture.

As for the translation itself, the ICB is also known as the New Century Version. It's a dynamic equivalence version--with rather more dynamic than equivalence, it seems. (A good overview of the history of the NCV can be found here.) It's not a translation that I would personally choose for my children, for a couple of reasons. One, simplifying the language down to a third grader's level of understanding is itself a translational choice. There are some passages of scripture that I as an adult do not understand--we do our children a disservice if we teach them that the Bible ought to be able to be squeezed into the box of our own understanding. As the above link points out, there are glosses that drift into full mis-translations here. Two (related by not quite the same), adults often forget that children can smell condescension a mile away, and have nothing but scorn for it. Children don't want something that has been "dumbed down" for them. They want the real thing. It's a balancing act, of course, to present children with "the real thing" in a form and to a degree that will not overwhelm or daunt them, but this isn't a translation that seems to add much to the mix. As regards "extras," the dictionary, concordance and maps are quite decent, but not enough to make up for the other drawbacks.

Two stars out of five.


ProfessorMom said...

Thanks for the review. I resonate with your concerns of not "dumbing down the language." I had been talking in the car with the kids on the way to school last week when the subject of Job came up somehow. Thus, M asked for that for her bedtime story reading. I was quite surprised that she kept begging me to read on more and more. I finally had to quite after 7 chapters because she needed to go to sleep, but she told me quite contentedly, "I like that story. Let's read some more soon." I was quite surprised, as I had been thinking to myself as I read it, "I am not entirely sure here what is going on. I should explain/interpret for M., but I really can't until I figure it out better for myself." Turned out, she didn't seem to want that anyway.

Sara said...

In re: what's going on, Dad told me once that he envisioned the book of Job as an ancient stage play. If you assign the narrative book ends to an imaginary narrator, then what you end up with in the middle is an extended dialog on the nature, meaning and theology of suffering. That's as good an interpretation as I've run across.