I respect the work Archbishop Desmond Tutu has done in South Africa and beyond, and I consider him to be a truly worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (which he received in 1984), which is why this was a hard review to write.
This book itself, at face value, is beautiful, far more artistic than most kids' Bibles. The stories are mostly on-target and each includes a reference (where you could find the story in the Bible) and a short prayer at end. We have used some stories in our family devotion time and will probably continue to do so from time to time.
However, a couple of lines raised some theological concerns for me, and one or two of the pictures took artistic liberties instead of aiming to be accurate to the story and culture of the time. Finally, the author's own views of the Bible (as quoted below from another book of his that I own) - that parts of it have no worth and that it is not God-inspired - make it impossible for me to recommend it. I would instead point you toward The Big Picture Story Bible(for preschool and lower elementary aged children) and The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name(which is fantastic, especially for elementary ages; we haven't used it much yet with our three-and-a-half year old because the stories are a little longer and more text-heavy) or Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book (also best for elementary, in my opinion).
**In more detail...
* The artwork. Artists from South Africa, the USA, the UK, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Argentina, Italy, China, and Vietnam contributed, and I loved flipping through it. The styles represented made this a beautiful book.
* The varied artwork representing Christ in different ways. We don't know exactly what Christ looked like. As we read some stories from this Bible, I was able to have a good conversation with my daughter (who is only three-and-a-half years old) about that when she asked why Jesus looked different in different pictures.
* The one-sentence prayers at the end of each story. For example, at the end of the story of Genesis 3, the prayer is "Dear God, help me to do what is right and to remember you love me even when I do wrong." Short. Sweet. To the point.
* The Bible references included on each page. Some children's retellings of the Bible make you figure out where the passage is from. This one doesn't.
* The fact that almost every story is limited to a two-page spread. It makes it easy to use for devotions with younger kids.
* The artwork in a few spots. I get the desire - and mostly liked the outcome - of having a Bible with artwork that was more culturally diverse than most. However, there's a fine line here that I think was crossed in a few places, such as the depiction of the Lord's supper. Was Jesus white? Nope. So are the typical Aryan portrayals accurate? No. However, He wasn't black either, so the Last Supper picture - which looks a bit like Da Vinci's version with black men - was just as historically inaccurate as an all-white one.
* The retelling of Luke 2 (the Jesus being in the temple as a child story). It reads that in the temple "Jesus had realized that God was his true Father." There's nothing in the Bible to support the idea that Jesus didn't know God was His true Father or that the temple brought about that realization.
* The title of the Beatitudes story. It's titled "Jesus Teaches the Secret of Happiness." Jesus talks about blessings (and, in many cases, not earthly ones) not happiness. So this title doesn't sit well with me.
* All the dream language (although some of it seems to be typical of South African authors, so perhaps it's partially a cultural thing but it doesn't translate well to the US concept of dream, in my opinion, or align with scripture). Tutu does clearly refer to Christ as "the Savior of the world" and gets a lot of that stuff right. However, I think he misses the Gospel in some respects (and this is a loooong explanation, so please bear with me):
+++Mark 10:15 reads like this in the NIV: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." In Tutu's retelling, it says: "Everyone who wants to see God's dream come true must see with the eyes of a child." Then after Christ's resurrection, this Bible talks about His reminders to them "of the old stories, about how the prophets had promised that God would send his Son to help God's dream come true."
+++And then in the retelling of Acts 2-4, he writes "They became one big, happy family sharing everything together, just like God had always dreamed it could be." I was mostly okay with this when I first read it. But before my second reading, I re-read Tutu's book (for adults, not kids) God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, and some sections of that describe as God's dream something contrary to what the Bible presents. (You can check out my review of that book for more details about that.) While this is for children and that is for adults, it matters - to me, at least - what the author's view of Scripture as a whole is, because it influences his retellings.
***A LITTLE EXTRA:***
*Actually, this isn't part of the book itself (which is why I call it "a little extra"). It's from the other book I mentioned above (God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time). If you don't care about what's presented by the same author in another book, just skip this. If you, however, what to better understand his views of the Bible, which may have influenced his retellings, read on. Here's what Tutu writes about the Bible on pages 105-106:
+++"Reading the Bible can be a source of reflection and inspiration, as you listen for God's voice in your life. But you must watch how you read the Bible and apply it to today's world. The Bible is not something that came dropping from heaven, written by the hand of God. It was written by human beings, so it uses human idiom and is influenced by the context in which whatever story was written. People need to be very careful. Many tend to be literalists, people who believe in the verbal inerrancy of the Bible, who speak as if God dictated the Bible, when in fact God used human beings as they were, and they spoke only as they could speak at that time. There are parts of the Bible that have no permanent worth - that is nothing to be sorry about, it is just to say that it is the Word of God in the words of men and women.
+++"We must seek truth wherever we find it. I am a traditionalist and yet I also sit in awe when I listen to all of the brilliant people that God has produced, whether I'm sitting at the feet of an outstanding theologian or listening to an outstanding scientist. When religious truth, scientific truth, and whatever truth come together and become part of a framework that makes sense of the universe, I am awestruck, and I find that truth then has a self-authenticating quality."
*While these are quotes from a different book, I think it matters for this one because this is a children's Bible written by an archbishop who - according to his own words above - doesn't believe that the entire Bible has worth. It's the book conveying the truth of Christ written by a man who says that we can combine this truth and that truth and "whatever truth" to create our own self-authenticating truth. This is starkly contrasted by the Bible:
+++2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
+++John 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
So, in summary, is there good stuff here? Sure. Does it outweigh the bad? No, not when there are better children's Bible storybooks out there.
(In keeping with the FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I received this book from Zonderkidz to review it honestly. I was not asked to give a positive review, just a genuine one.)