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Big Bible stories for little readers

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NOAH'S ARK Retold by Sally Lloyd-Jones Illustrated by Tracey Moroney Reader's Digest Children's Books, unpaged, $4.99 Ages 18 mos. - 4 years

THE WHALE'S TALE Retold by Beverly Larson Illustrated by Tracey Moroney Reader's Digest Children's Books, unpaged, $4.99 Ages 18 mos. - 4 years 2) EXODUS Retold and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith Eerdmans Books, unpaged, $20 Ages 5 and up 3) JOURNEYS WITH ELIJAH:

EIGHT TALES OF THE PROPHET By Barbara Diamond Goldin Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney Harcourt Brace, 78 pp., $20 All ages

There's a great deal of biblical illiteracy in this country," pollster George Gallop Jr. said at a recent gathering in Boston. What can be done about this disturbing situation? The Bible itself may suggest an answer: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Given the many Bible-story books now available, teaching children about the Bible has never been easier. Here are some of the newest:

Board books - those small, sturdy volumes for tiny hands - are a perfect way to introduce toddlers to the Bible. Two familiar stories are featured in Noah's Ark and The Whale's Tale. Sally Lloyd-Jones retells the story of Noah in only 150 words, but she captures much of the drama and comfort it affords. In this version, positive images abound. God isn't angry at anyone. He's just sending a lot of rain. After hearing from God: "You'll need a boat," Noah and his family get busy. God points out animals and says: "I'll need them to come too." Of course, they survive the flood, "all cozy in God's floating zoo." After the seas subside and a dove returns with an olive branch, everyone disembarks. " 'Come out.' God said, 'and see the rainbow! It's a promise of my love for you.' "

The story is a time-tested classic, and this version's design and illustrations enhance its appeal for kids. Artist Tracey Moroney develops characters and settings that are colorful and charming. This 10-page board book - with die-cut windows and peek-a-boo views - is even shaped like an ark.

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