I am so delighted to end this year’s Christmas picture book countdown with a book that breaks all the rules of the countdown. First off, this isn’t just a Christmas picture book. Yes, it is the perfect story to read on Christmas, or surrounding Christmas; but it should actually be read as often and anytime as desired.
Second, this isn’t really even a children’s picture book. Yes, it has some of the most beautiful illustrations I have ever seen; but it actually has 10 chapters, is quite long, and is definitely not just for children. This book is the best story that has ever been told – the story about a King who crushes snakes and is destined to die and deliver humanity. This is The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark, 2015.
The author, Kevin DeYoung is a pastor at University Reformed Church in Michigan. In the parents’ note in the back of the book he explains that the idea for this book began as a sermon he delivered at Christmas and he wanted to communicate the story of Advent in a fresh way while remaining faithful to Biblical text.
“The Bible is a big story made up of lots of smaller stories. Many children (and not a few adults) learn to see the Bible as nothing but a nice collection of all these smaller stories.… Our kids can become acquainted with many Bible stories without ever grasping the Biggest Story that makes sense of all the others.”
The main characters of the Bible stories we hear so often can quickly become “heroes” and the protagonists of their events. But there is a major, overarching theme to the entire plotline of the Bible and many big themes that are important to not overlook. That’s what this book sets out to deliver in a clear, and positively stunning way.
The chapters are noted by wordless spreads indicating the number and arrayed in graphic symbols, some of which are easily familiar and others which take time to realize.
DeYoung touches the Biblical plotline in broad and slightly playful strokes, leaving the details for the other stories and study of the Bible. All the major characters many know are there, but the point of the story is always getting to the answer of how a holy God can reunite with a rebel, fallen people. There must be redemption and forgiveness. There must be death to bring the story full circle. The story begins in the garden and also ends in the garden.
We have several Bible storybooks floating around our home and none of them have ever been just right to us. Most of them focus heavily on the individual characters of each story. Others have come closer to the Jesus narrative, but still left out some very important things in the retelling. The Biggest Story seems to bridge the gap well. It doesn’t set out to be a children’s Bible and that is a major point in my opinion. It serves as an illustrated outline, but remains true to the narrative while also continually pointing out that even the many heroes we know and love were desperately broken and terrible. The hero of this story is always God.
Finally, I have never seen illustrations of Bible stories quite like this. Don Clark is a co-creator of Invisible Creature and someone my husband greatly admires. We have followed Invisible Creature’s work delightedly, collecting a lot of their creations, and even have one of their posters in our girls’ room. We were so excited to hear rumors of his work for The Biggest Story and we love it! I love his way of interpreting the text and picturing what I consider to be a boring time period to illustrate. He uses a fantastic color palette and greatly expands imagination on how amazing and vivid creation and life really is. And I love his variations on skintone! His illustrations are beautiful and a wonderfully fresh take on Biblical art.
I hope you check this book out. It is indeed the best story ever told and a fantastic version to own. Merry Christmas!