The Illustrated NIrV for Kids: a book review

Zondervan and The International Bible Society (aka Biblica) have just published The Illustrated NIrV Holy Bible for Kids. Created “for children who want to read on their own or with an adult nearby,” this latest daughter of the NIV is child-friendly in many ways (though not all). But its value for your family will depend on how it’s used.

The NIrV first appeared in 1994 as a spin-off of the New International Version (NIV), the most popular modern translation of the Bible. Editors of the NIrV replaced longer words and phrases with simpler language at a 3rd-grade reading level. This style is called a thought-for-thought translation rather than word-for-word. Since 1994, Zondervan has updated and republished the NIrV in multiple formats, including a children’s version featuring The Berenstain Bears. So, what is different about this new edition?

What You Might Like

The adorable illustrations by Bible Story Map (contributing editor, Stephanie Holleman), are worth the $29.99 cover price alone. Holleman’s studio produces attractive and helpful Bible posters for sale online, some of which have been reproduced in this volume. They also designed new illustrations for the text, approximately one for every two-page spread. And a two-sided poster comes tucked into the back cover with the Holy Land on one side and a genealogy of Bible characters on the other.

I also particularly liked the parenthetical chapter and verse references for quotes from another part of Scripture. However, the editors’ decision not to number each verse in the text greatly reduces their usefulness. These references and the division of chapters into smaller sections with added titles constitute the only extra-Biblical material. No other introductory or explanatory study notes are included because they “can be very distracting for kids.”

What You Might Not Like

Besides the lack of verse numbers, another problem for new readers and children (not to mention the over-50 crowd, like me) is the very small, 9-point font. Zondervan advertises an “easy-to-read” typeface for this edition, but only twenty-somethings are likely to find it so easy. I used to buy large-print Bibles for my early-reading children (12-point font or higher), and I still think that is preferable.

Sample text (enlarged). See parenthetical note and lack of verse numbers.

Should You Buy It?

When I was a fresh-faced, home-schooling mom, I naively believed my young children were going to read their Bibles. This new edition would be really nice for that purpose. In reality, my kids only used their Bibles to complete assignments at home and at church. If that is true for your young readers, then a Bible with larger print and verse numbers might be a better choice. How do you look up John 3:16 when there is no “16” in your book?

And for reading to a child, I prefer Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible, with its Christ-centered approach and full-page illustrations. I’m also looking forward to the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer, due out Sept. 10th. Neither of these books contain the complete text of Scripture as does the The NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids, but let’s face it – you probably aren’t going to read much of Deuteronomy or Lamentations to your first-grader anyway.

I think my children liked having their own Bibles, and the grown-ups around them liked it, too. It was the start of a good, life-long habit, even if it was a bit more symbolic than practical. Gift-buying grandparents will be attracted to this new edition, and the illustrations are probably your best hope that kids might open it up on their own. So, whether you want to purchase this new Bible depends largely on how you believe it will be used. I can honestly say it is the most attractive, complete children’s version of Scripture that I’ve seen. But, please, Zondervan! Put the verse numbers back!


As a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, I was given a promotional copy of the book in exchange for this review.