By Steve T. Barclift
Illustrated by Tony Kenyon
Kregel Publishing kregel.gospelcom.net
PO Box 2607
Grand Rapids, MI 49501
Beginning with God is intended as a child's devotional. While the stories are relevant to children from preschool through elementary ages, I would say the devotional is written at a second- or third-grade reading level. The book is divided into 52 seasonal sections, to be used one per week. Each unit consists of six parts: a story about the Kenton family, "Check Your Head for What You've Read" (questions about the story), "A Look Inside God's Special Book" (relevant Scriptures and stories), "Let's Rehearse a Bible Verse" (Scripture memorization), "When You Pray, Day by Day" (relevant prayer suggestions), and "Something Fun for Everyone" (activities and applications).
The introduction depicts a sample schedule, using one section for each day of the week. For example, on Monday you would read the story; on Tuesday you would answer the questions, and so on. The book also includes a topical index and a story index, allowing you to quickly find units relevant to situations you may be facing or wishing to address.
Personally, I used the stories as part of our daily devotions before school. I included my 4-, 6-, and 9-year-olds, and they easily understood and maintained interest in the stories. We generally spent two or three days per unit. (I found the devotional didn't have enough material to fill a whole week, so I used alternative materials on the other days.) I would often find my children and me referring to the Kentons throughout the day and remembering how they had responded to a certain circumstance. The story situations are very relevant to our daily life experiences.
The stories, while extremely appropriate, are very challenging and not simply "feel good" stories. Topics address such things as being the friend of a special needs child, honesty, dealing with death, dealing with disappointment, and more. The situations are "real" and not "preachy." Children are called to grow in Christ at an early age, something often missing in devotionals for younger children. I also appreciated the fact that the Kentons are a "contemporary" family. So often, the more wholesome readers or devotionals I've found center on an Amish or rural-living family. It was refreshing to relate to a family more like our own. Another major plus is the application projects in each unit. This also is often missing in children's books.
I highly recommend this devotional. My only wish is that it be fleshed out a bit more to be readily used as a weekly devotional. As I mentioned before, I felt there was only enough information for two or three days of discussion. I would love to focus a full week on each unit. Nonetheless, my children and I agree that this is an excellent resource.
Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2006