With the Christian celebration of Easter approaching I decided to delve into our copy of Stories That Jesus Told.
Why not the Easter story? Well, I don’t think my young children are ready for the Easter story. As Muslims, we believe several things about Jesus (upon him be peace) that are commonly celebrated by Christians. However, there are also important differences and I am always aware that I could very easily confuse my children by introducing several differences during their younger years.
I have previously used children’s Christian books a lot, but sometimes with a little adaptation. For example, when using a mini board book about the good Samaritan I referred to the depicted Jesus as the ‘storyteller’ because Muslims do not illustrate the image of Jesus. For a creation board book that showed two male and female humans named as ‘people’, rather than explicitly as ‘Adam and Eve’, I did not need to adapt anything. (Muslims do not make images of them either.)
I have enjoyed using titles from Anita Ganeri‘s multifaith children’s books series over the past few weeks (and I have another ready for Passover), but the Christian book is unsuitable for young Muslims, even as a talking point. Its story of Noah depicts him, and its story of Jesus’ birth not only depicts him but is a different story to the Muslim story of his miraculous birth (understandably).
I like to focus upon Jesus as a storyteller and healer, and I find many of the parables attributed to him in the Bible to be very useful tools for teaching heartfelt worship of One God.
So when I ordered Stories That Jesus Told I felt great optimism.
Of course the stories themselves are as good as I had hoped (/remembered from Christian education). There are some introductory paragraphs that are exclusively intended for Christians but I can easily cut them out.
For example, the first story is the parable of the sower, and is a great parable for believers of various faiths, as well as Christians. It teaches how people’s hearts, after receiving the message of religion, differ in sustaining successful faithfulness in the same way that different types of earth variously receive and nurture demise or flourish of plants from seeds.
Unfortunately, however, an image of Jesus is included in the above narration as well as later in the book. I can understand the illustrator wanting to introduce the storyteller figure who is referred to as narrator throughout the book; it just does not work for me as a Muslim. Also, overall, the images have another problem: everyone is a white brunette apart from a couple of white haired elders. I see no legitimate reason to illustrate oral parables in this way.
I would love to find a more diverse and accessible tomb of stories that Jesus told. Especially ahead of next year’s lent and Easter time when it would be lovely to support my Christian neighbours in something that combines storytelling, healing, and prayer, as Jesus did – perhaps a storytelling event for sick children that raises awareness of their needs (thereby inviting specific prayer).
Can you recommend such a book of stories Jesus told?
I am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.
I’m on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
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