Reading the Bible with Women’s Eyes: a kid’s book review

Let me tell you about a great new children’s Bible book.  Margaret McAllister, author of the Mistmantle Chronicles, has written a book called Women of the Bible. It is beautifully illustrated by  Alida Massari and profiles eleven women of faith described in the Bible. These include:  Mother Noah, Rachel, Miriam, Ruth, Mary of Nazareth,  Mary and Martha, The Canaanite Women, Lady Procula, Mary of Magdala and Lydia.  While the Bible is full of stories about men and boys, this collection explores the perspectives of these women, peppered through the biblical narrative.

But this is not a simply a collection of the ‘girl’ stories. This is an imaginative retelling of some of the Bible’s best loved stories.  Noah was a righteous man who heard from God and built an ark in obedience to Him. McAllister retells the story from the perspective of Noah’s wife (Mother Noah) and the stress and strain from caring for animals on the ark.  Her profile of Rachel retells the Jacob story from the perspective of his beloved but suffering wife.  The story of Miriam describes the young Hebrew girl who cared for her baby brother, Moses.  Ruth is told from the perspective of Naomi (as retold from the perspective of Ruth and Boaz’s child).

The New Testament stories continue this imaginative exploration. The nativity story is retold in Mary’s voice as she, the humble peasant girl, uses symbolic objects to illustrate the journey from her Annunciation to Epiphany. Martha and Mary of Bethany reflect on Jesus’ visit and the the responsibility of being the host versus sitting at Jesus’ feet. McAllister does not typecast Martha–she is ever bit as eager to choose the ‘one thing that matters’ but felt prevented by her obligation to feed her guests. We hear more of the story of the Canaanite women and the love she has for her daughter and we see the crucifixion through the eyes of Pilate’s wife and the resurrection from the perspective of Mary Magdalene.  Lydia closes the collection by recollecting Paul’s mission to Philippi and all that happened to him there.

McAllister doesn’t rehash a Bible story, simplify it and slap a moral on the end of each tale. She expounds on and explores the biblical narrative by shifting the narrative voice. The result is that you hear the story in some fresh ways. What better way to enter the story than to imagine it from the perspective of someone who was there. Sometimes these women are central to the action (i.e. Miriam, Mary, Martha and Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene), at other points these women are eye-witnesses to  significant events (i.e. like  Lady Procula, Lydia).  I absolutely loved this!

I read this book to my  little girls. My six-year-old enjoyed this book a lot (my four year old is still in the ‘picture book stage).  I think this book is better for a seven or eight year old (as far as reading level) but since some of these stories are familia r my daughter liked reading them with me.  I will happily re-read this book with them (or give it to them to read) later.

The art work by Alida Masarri makes this a beautiful book.  The cover depicted above, is Ruth.  The women profiled are all beautifully painted in scenes from the stories they inhabit. For artwork alone, this book is well worth it!

This is a book I plan to read and re-read with my children.  I enjoy as much as them. I give it five stars: ★★★★★

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

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