Small Bible Books Packing a Big Punch {Review}

Sometimes we get mail. I know most of you get mail every day, but we get mail about every month. Anyway, we got a mysterious-to-me package from Barbour Publishing containing two books from their Kingdom Files series, Who Was Jonah? and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus?

The Kingdom Files is a growing set of books by Texas elementary school teacher Matt Koceich that introduces readers from around age 8-12 to “really cool biographies” from the Bible. Each book contains three main sections:

  • fact file
  • action file
  • power file

Strewn throughout the book (not actually “strewn,” but that sounds better than “placed logically”) are clue boxes.

Let’s talk about each section.

Fact File

The fact file is…wait for it…a file of facts. I know. I too love a descriptive name.

Each fact file boils the entire Biblical narrative of that person into a two-page spread of vital facts, including a mini timeline, the person’s “Kingdom work,” key stats, and more.

This timeline is from Who Was Mary?

(Doesn’t that paperclip look real?!)

This map is from Who was Jonah?

Action File

The action file is a more substantial portion of the book. It replays the event of the Biblical account of each character, bringing each story to life through an engaging retelling and good artwork–line drawings for Jonah and what appears to be ink drawings filled in with marker in Mary.

The story introduces words, such as “prophet,”and explains them through the text (without being awkward or cheesy). It works it’s way through the Scripture story and also smoothly references verses from the Bible, a great segue into the Scriptures themselves.  Of course, the story of Jonah is all contained in one section of Scripture, so that’s easier. The story of Mary, however, is present throughout the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–I know you already know the names, but it’s fun to say). The author supports portions of the action file biography by referencing various verses from the Gospels.

Another thing the action file does is draw on the child’s thoughts and emotions:

  • “Imagine you are the king of Ninevah.”
  • “Imagine if you were on that boat.”
  • “What would you do if you were Jonah? Panic? Wonder?”
  • “[Jonath’s anger] doesn’t make sense, does it?”
  • “[Mary’s] emotions in the moment had to be overwhelming.”
  • “How proud Mary must have been…”
  • “Can you imagine all the stares and weird looks Mary must have received…?”

On many levels, the reader is brought straight into the heart and mind of the Bible character to truly understand that this story is not merely a tale to tell at bedtime or Christmas. It’s the story of a real person who lived and feared and got angry and served God and sometimes didn’t understand what God was doing one iota. It’s a real person very much like your children. Real, loved, fallen, forgiven.

>Kingdome Files Who Was Jonah

Each action file is broken up into short chapters, so your younger readers or listeners can take it in smaller doses, and your older children can savor the story over days (my personal recommendation) or devour it in one sitting (also fun).

Power File

The power file comes next. This is a series of ten “files” containing powerful lessons from the stories, or “power-ups.” Each takes a deeper look at one aspect of God or the character as revealed in the story, and how that applies directly to the personal lives and struggles of the reader. Each of the two-page power files ends with a verse to memorize, and we do recommend memorizing them so you can pull them out when you most need them!

Need some examples? Here are a few:

  • God knows what Mary was going through and he also see your struggles. He will never walk away. (corresponding memory verse: Luke 1:50)
  • God met Mary’s needs throughout her frightening and confusing pregnancy and life, and he meets your needs as well. (Luke 1:53)
  • We see the story of Jonah from the end, but what if Jonah had obeyed in the first place? What if we would obey in the first place? (Deuteronomy 11:1)
  • Pray hard. (I John 5:14)

The power file section is followed by a sneak peek at other books Kingdom Files series, but more importantly, a place for the reader to write down his thoughts or questions to ask a trusted adult.

Kingdome Files Who Was Mary Mother of Jesus

Clue Boxes

Finally, let’s talk about the clue boxes. These are little powerhouses of thought and application “strewn” throughout the action file. I love one of the earlier boxes in the Jonah book that relates Jonah’s reaching the Ninevites with our reaching those with questionable or wrong lifestyles–how does God perceive them? A lot of good stuff here. Often application sections are “ten lame” to quote some young relatives of mine, but these are very well done.

This one is also from Who Was Jonah?

A few thoughts from my head:

I rarely agree to review people’s children’s books on The Travel Bags, because, honestly, I usually hate them. Either the text is lame or the artwork makes me throw up a little. I want my kids exposed to the good stuff, you know? Sure you do. That’s one reason why I was not thrilled to find this in my mail box. (I don’t own a mailbox, but you know what I mean.) I must say, I was very pleased with the writing and the artwork. No throwing up at all! OF the two, I prefer the illustrations from Jonah, because I love expressive line drawings with character, but both are good!

Our ten-year-old thought these were mysteries, and was consequently disappointed and not interested at first. Time cures many ills, and she’s reading them happily now.

The publisher recommends these books for ages 8-12. I think that’s a great age for independent reading and studying, using the note section, etc. My six-year-old. however, is not too young to have benefited from these stories (as read-alouds in our case, since the light bulb of reading is only just flickering for that one).  Breaking the book up into one chapter at a time, and then taking one power file every few days allows time for absorption and memory work. She doesn’t always fully grasp the clue boxes, but neither does a 12-year-old skimmer. (Stop skimming, E-boy!) I would venture to say that an attentive four-year-old would, at the very least, strongly benefit from the action file.

The Kingdom Files

But don’t take my word for it! You know that we live in a tiny little box (RV) way outside of the box (normalcy). Read these other reviews from “normal” parents. (Oh, and if you, too, live in a little box, rest assured that these pack a powerhouse of value in a very small space. In fact, I was positive I would hate them and leave them behind somewhere, but I really like them and they’re still in the trailer! They’re not chocolate, but other than that, they’re really great!)

Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}

Keep an eye open for future books in the series by following Barbour Publishing on social media:


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