Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Help Children Know and Understand the Psalms {A Psalms for my Day Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor compensated in any other way.

As a Christian and book lover, I was excited when my family was offered one of three titles from Christian Focus Publications for review, but had a hard time choosing between Psalms for my Day (which as a 4-6 'Read to Me' age and a 7-11 'Read Myself' age) 30 Prophecies: One Story (which has a 5-11 'Read to Me' age and a 6-12 'Read Myself' age), and Not If, But When (which is recommended for parents to read this with their children, so has a 'Read to Me' age of 7-11). Thus, I had my daughter help me choose.

A lover of Psalm 1, my daughter said she'd most like to see 
Psalms for my Day: A Child's Praise Devotional, and we were both delighted when this well put-together, 8 x 8, 88-page, hardcover children's book with a red ribbon connected to the spine to help you keep your place came in.

My excitement waxed when I cracked the book and took in the bright, delightful full color illustrations by Catherine Pape. They truly are a feast for the eyes.

Then, however, it waned when I noticed the relatively small font of the text and how, on some pages, the text stretches all the way across the page in dense blocks overlaying the illustrations. For most, this would not be an issue, but as a tutor and a mom in a family where dyslexia exists, I have come to prefer children's books with large clear fonts, wide margins, and plenty of non-text space around words.

That aside, my daughter and I were ready to dig into the Word and accompanying devotions and prayers, so we started immediately by reading the portion of Psalm I that is included in the book.

"Huh?" we thought as we noticed how the language in the translation of the psalm differs from "every single Bible we've ever read" (according to my daughter). The portion of Psalm 1 in the book is notably different than the translation my daughter has memorized.

Paging through to other familiar psalms, we noticed that they, too, were translated differently than what we were used to, most noticeably in their use of the name "Yahweh" for God and in the choice of vocabulary overall.

At first, this bothered us some, but, then, I read on page 11 of Psalms for my Day that Bible scholar Alec Motyer devised the new translation used in the book by going back to the original Hebrew words and studying what they really mean. In doing so, he chose to use the special Hebrew name for God - Yahweh which is the name we would use for someone we know and love (like James) as opposed to someone unfamiliar (like Mr. Smith).

Page 11 of the book also explains that "Every language has a different way of putting words together. So when the Hebrew language is translated into English it might sound a bit topsy-turvy...this should make us think more about the words and what they mean." This bit of thought struck home for me as I went on to read more of the psalms in the book.

Since I have been reading and hearing the Psalms for many years, the translations I am used to do rarely seem "topsy turvy" to me. Rather, they ring familiar and beautiful. The new (to me) translation in the Psalms for my Day, however, sometimes trips me up or makes me pause, because it is so different than what I am used to. This is not a bad thing, necessarily. In fact, it helps me to see and hear God's word in a new way. 

The pause ends up translating into cause for thought, deepening my understanding of God's word and sometimes prompting me to purposefully compare translations of it to unpack how they differ, why that might be, and what that might mean.
Of course, the book does not only contain translations of the Psalms. With each portion of the Psalms, Psalms for my Day also includes a well-written devotional text by Carine Mackenzie, a vibrant painted illustration by Catherine Pape, and a brief prayer in a callout box.

Reading the included devotionals, I noticed that Carine MacKenzie explained selections from the book of Psalms at a level that children can understand while also sometimes giving me more food for thought.

Of course, in writing about the Psalms, Carine addresses weighty topics - such as sin, worship, salvation, how God can help us as we walk through difficult times, and more - which can be a bit difficult for children. However, she does so well, making the Psalms and their impact understandable as she encourages children to apply the information presented to their lives. 

Always, Carine seems to point children to God's amazing love for us.

The "meat" of the Word and accompanying devotionals in Psalms for my Day is reinforced and enhanced by Catherine Pape's bright and colorful illustrations.  Each painting truly depicts God's gorgeous handiwork in natural beauty, Biblical scenes, and even modern day settings vividly. Unified in style, but varying in subject, the illustrations are my favorite part of the book, and, I believe, truly can capture a child's attention.

In addition to the engaging images, the call out boxes with prayers that accompany each Psalm and devotion can help children focus. Each prayer is quite brief - often just one sentence - yet touches on the concepts of the Psalms and devotions while wrapping them up with meaningful simplicity.

Overall, I see how Psalms for my Day aims to help readers comprehend the richness of the Psalms, praising and worshiping God, offering thanks, giving and receiving grace, being comforted and guided, and knowing the joy of faith.

I can see families with young children reading Psalms for my Day together and using it as a springboard for discussion and prayer.

I can see those with older children using it for personal study and also see parents and children pulling quotes from it for copywork or studied dictation.

I can also see the individuals in families simply delighting in the illustrations of the book, thinking about God's word as presented in it, and reading selections prayerfully and thoughtfully in silence or aloud - which is what's happened here with the book so far.

My daughter is more captured by some of the illustrations and text in Psalms for my Day than others. This is an illustration she particularly liked...

...whereas this one did not appeal to her as much. She was annoyed with how you had to turn the book to read the text.

I, on the other hand thought the entire book was beautifully designed.

I see the book as a delightfully illustrated, reverent, children's book that offers some solid thought nuggets about the message of God and His love.

If you're looking for an illustrated book with a selection of Psalms, devotions, and prayers - and do not mind a relatively small text font and some differences in translations, my daughter and I recommend this one.

Learn More

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A Note to Fellow Catholic Homeschoolers
I have heard that Alec Moyter was an Anglican scholar and, so far, I have not noticed any significant differences in the theology he presents in his translations to that of we Catholics.

Further, the devotions seem to be written in a way that can work for all Christians, so if you belong to an ecumenical group, such as a co-op, this book could make a good resource for Bible study and shared devotions.

Want more thoughts? Fifty-three Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed either this book or one of the other two selections offered.  Find written an video blog and social media reviews by clicking through here.


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