‘Twas the Season of Lent: Devotions and Stories for the Lenten and Easter Seasons – Glenys Nellist and Elena Selivanova

'Twas the Season of Lent: Devotions and Stories for the Lenten and Easter Seasons by Glenys Nellist, Elena Selivanova
Also by this author: 'Twas the Morning of Easter, Easter Love Letters from God: Bible Stories
Series: 'Twas Series #4
Published by Zonderkidz on January 2, 2024
Genres: Children's, Bible Stories, Easter
Buy on Amazon

'Twas the Season of Lent is a 40-day devotional and storybook that explores the life, words, and works of Jesus and encourages families to draw closer to God during the Lenten Season. From beloved author Glenys Nellist, this book focused on Jesus's mission to the least, the lost, and the lonely, with each story and accompanying prayer prompt encouraging children to try to be more like Jesus and to do what God calls them to.

Written in both prose and poetry, this gorgeous picture book shares the true story of the days leading up to Christ's death and resurrection. The read-aloud rhymes and stunning illustrations by Elena Selivanova make this a perfect read for the whole family during the Lenten season. With an eye-catching cover decorated in shining foil and embossing, this book is designed to be a treasured tradition for families and church ministries for the Lenten season for years to come.

'Twas the season of Lent, when for forty whole days
God's people were trying to think of new ways
To be more like Jesus—to love, care, and give,
In hopes that they'd choose the right way to live.

'Twas the Season of Lent:

Is written by Glenys Nellist, author of the beloved The Wonder That Is You, and the Snuggle Time and Love Letters from God series
Is told in the lyrical style of Clement Moore's iconic poem—"'Twas the Night before Christmas"
Explores what the season of Lent is all about and how we can draw closer to God during this time
Features a familiar rhythm and rhyme that children ages 4-8 will love
Brings to life the story of Jesus's ministry and the days leading up to his death and resurrection through Elena Selivanova's beautiful, rich illustrations
Is the perfect way for adults to share the powerful meaning of the Lenten season with the little ones in their lives leading up to the Easter holiday

This picture book devotional features forty daily readings for the Lenten season. It also includes occasional fully illustrated double page spreads that tell the story of Jesus through a poem in the structure of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Glenys Nellist wrote this book at a kid-friendly level, with lots of simple sentences and conversational questions, and the illustrations from Elena Selivanova depict scenes from Jesus’s life with realistic details.

Each daily reading includes a Scripture reference at the beginning, showing where you can find that day’s story in the Bible, and each reading ends with a short example prayer. The reading themselves vary widely in quality. Some of them are straightforward descriptions of Bible stories, with a biblically accurate takeaway message. Other readings involve a lot of creative license, and sometimes end with a message that the author wants to share instead of the point that’s clear in the biblical passage she’s supposedly representing. Even though her conclusion will be generally true and reflect the Bible’s teaching, she will go for a basic moral about doing good deeds over and above the specific message you can find in that day’s Bible passage.

Worst of all, Nellist repeatedly puts words in Jesus’s mouth, attributing statements to him that he never said. She puts these statements in quotation marks, but they’re not even paraphrases! They’re fictional. For example, when Nellist retells the parable of the sower, she says, “And Jesus told them, ‘Close your eyes. Imagine all those seeds. Imagine how the farmer feels about each one. Now suppose God is the farmer, sowing seeds of love in your hearts. Is your heart a place where love can grow?’ And then the disciples knew. They needed to take care of their hearts like a garden, so those seeds of love could grow.” This description of the parable’s meaning is not biblical. Sure, it’s important to give and receive love in the Christian life, but that’s not what Jesus told this parable about, and it’s not the meaning that he explained to his disciples afterwards.

If people read each Bible passage before they read the devotionals, they will be able to see where Nellist shifts the focus or totally changes what Jesus says, but many people will just read her version of the story, without also reading the source material. I have a serious problem with her changing the messages of Bible stories here, and this leads into my next critique. Nothing about this book explains the message of the gospel. This book presents Jesus as a good moral teacher, but nothing more.

Nellist never writes anything about sin or repentance, and she says nothing about Jesus offering salvation. Even when she writes about John 14, she falsely claims that Jesus said, “Heaven is an easy place to find. It’s a place that’s full of love. So if you keep loving others, you already know the way.” When Jesus told the disciples that they already knew the way to heaven, he was saying that they knew HIM. He then goes on to explain that he is the way to heaven, and whether someone believes this or not, you have to deal with what he actually said.

Also, unless I am mistaken and missed some small reference in one of the readings, there is nothing about Jesus being God incarnate. Even when Nellist writes about Jesus’s death, she just says that some enemies didn’t like what he said about following God and loving others. She says nothing about people opposing Jesus because he claimed to be the Messiah, referred to himself as being equal to God, and claimed to have the power to forgive sins. This book says a lot of true things and retells many Bible stories accurately, but as a whole, it presents a deceptive and distorted image of Jesus’s identity and mission.

‘Twas the Season of Lent: Devotions and Stories for the Lenten and Easter Seasons is part of a popular series that appeals to lots of families, but I cannot recommend it. Even though parts of this book accurately portray Bible stories, there are too many distortions and omissions here, with the author leaving out key aspects of Jesus’s message and attributing things to him that he never said. Although many people can read this book without noticing these problems, filling in surrounding context from their own prior knowledge, this book does not represent Jesus rightly.

The author’s messages about doing good deeds, loving others, and making good choices send a message of holy living via your own works and accomplishments, without teaching anything about the reality of sin, Jesus’s offer of salvation, the way that Christians are empowered by the Spirit to live differently, or the ways that Jesus rescues and forgives us when we fail to follow God and love others well. Even though this book has a lot of positive elements, it does not rightly represent Jesus or the gospel message he taught, and I cannot recommend it.