Jesus and the Lion’s Den (Tales that Tell the Truth #8)

Jesus and the Lions' Den: A True Story about How Daniel Points Us to Jesus by Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri
Also by this author: The Storm That Stopped, The One O'Clock Miracle, The Christmas Promise, Jesus and the Very Big Surprise: A True Story about Jesus, His Return, and How to Be Ready, Goodbye to Goodbyes: A True Story About Jesus, Lazarus, and an Empty Tomb, The Friend Who Forgives: A True Story About How Peter Failed and Jesus Forgave, God's Very Good Idea: A True Story of God's Delightfully Different Family, The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, The Prisoners, the Earthquake, and the Midnight Song
Series: Tales that Tell the Truth #8
Published by The Good Book Company on September 1, 2019
Genres: Children's, Bible Stories
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five-stars

The story of Daniel and the Lions' Den teaches children many things... It teaches them about praying; it teaches them about Daniel's faithfulness to God, and God's faithfulness to Daniel; and it teaches them that God is the real king of everyone everywhere.

But if you peel back another layer, you'll see that like the rest of the Old Testament, it also points to Jesus.

This stunningly-illustrated retelling of Daniel and the lions' den helps children to see Jesus in the story of Daniel. It challenges children to spot the 'Jesus moments' by looking out for the hidden lion symbols. It goes on to explain the parallels between Jesus and Daniel, so that children can see the gospel heart of the whole Bible.

Children’s books are everywhere.

Children’s retellings of Bible stories are everywhere.

And the quality…well…in my experience, the quality ranges.

How are we supposed to sort through it all?

Early on, with my kids, I developed some guidelines for choosing a children’s Bible storybook.

  1. Is the story biblically accurate?
  2. Is the story relationally applicable?
  3. Does the story’s language/vocabulary fit the intended audience?
  4. Are the illustrations diverse?

And whenever somebody asks me for a practical example of those four guidelines, I inevitably point them toward Tales that Tell the Truth. There are currently ten books in the series (the latest upcoming June 2020) along with a variety of supplemental materials like coloring books that accompany each volume. The series has a variety of authors with illustrator Catalina Echeverri providing a cohesive stylistic design.

Jesus and the Lion’s Den | Tales that Tell the Truth

Jesus and the Lion’s Den subverts expectations from the title. Alison Mitchell pivots the focus from Daniel to Jesus. This is a natural pivot, but a difficult one to make. Too often, children’s Bible storybooks reduce Old Testament narratives to fable-like morality tales. They become examples of good things to do or good ways to behave and are stripped of their rich theological value.

But it’s also important not to let Jesus overshadow the story. We do not need to make him overt where he isn’t, but show how he works in quiet, small, and often unrecognized ways in our life. If Jesus always shows up prominently and triumphantly, then our children will not recognize him in the margins of our lives. It’s important to makes these “Jesus moments” subtle so that our children will learn to look for them in their own lives.

Jesus and the Lion’s Den accomplishes this balance wonderfully. The opening panel begins with an explanation: So this book is about the really exciting story of Daniel. But what makes it even more exciting is that you can spot Jesus moments in it, too! Every panel with a circular lion illustration is a clue that there’s a Jesus moment hiding in it. It’s a fun mechanic that will have your child searching the page and the story to find Jesus.

The panels after this discuss habits—things that we do all the time—and the one particular habit that got Daniel into trouble. Daniel was in the habit of praying to God. But other people didn’t like that and decided to get Daniel into trouble with the king. Daniel has to choose. Will he keep his habit and pray? Or will he risk becoming lion food?

Daniel is put into the lion’s den, but God closes the lion’s mouths. Darius then writes a letter to the world: Daniel’s God is the living God. He is the real king of everyone and everywhere, now and forever. He saves his people.

The last half of the book goes back through to discuss and explain the Jesus moments. Did you catch them through the story? Illustrator Catalina Echeverri weaves them subtly into the backdrop of the story, forcing you to look carefully. Now, they go back and explain. Just like Daniel’s enemies wanted to get rid of him, so did Jesus’s. Both Daniel and Jesus had done nothing wrong. Both prayed to God, knowing they would be arrested. Both faced certain death—Daniel was spared from it, but Jesus was not.

It’s a unique perspective on the story, one that draws Jesus into the center and puts the Old Testament into new light. However, it does come with a caution: these Old Testament figures are first and foremost real human beings. They are not Messianic constructs. What we are seeing is how their life story mirrors Christ through God’s Spirit dwelling in them. Jesus and the Lion’s Den does well at separating that. It’s a beautiful book.

five-stars