I was skeptical but curious about THE WORD OF PROMISE NEXT GENERATION audio bible. Skeptical because I find it almost impossible to find an audio version of the Bible which works for me. I either find a translation I like but come to discover that the narrator is too grating on my nerves--hint Max McLean--or I find a narrator I adore but it is in a translation that I wouldn't normally choose to read or listen to. My favorite example is The Gospels Come To Life. An audio book of the four gospels read by Michael W. Smith. He does a BEAUTIFUL job reading, and the background music is nice and rarely distracting. Unfortunately, it's just the gospels. I wanted the whole New Testament. Better yet the entire Bible. But curious because even though I'm almost always disappointed with audio bibles, I keep on wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. The fact remains that I am always looking for that one audio version that I could fall in love with.
THE WORD OF PROMISE NEXT GENERATION uses the International Children's Bible. This is a version of the Bible that as an adult I'm less than impressed with. Then again, I'm not the target audience. The International Children's Bible (ICB) is designed to be read by children aged nine through twelve--it's on a third grade reading level. Though it released in 1985--at a time I would have been at a third grade reading level--I didn't receive a copy until I was in fifth or sixth grade. By then, I felt that this was too babyish. As a child, I read the Living Bible and the New International Version. So what does this mean for you? For kids, this might be an inviting and appropriate translation but it might prove slightly unsatisfying to adults who want a little bit more.
THE WORD OF PROMISE NEXT GENERATION uses a large cast of various actors to narrate the new testament. The narrator is Sean Astin. This--at least to me--was the perfect choice. Why? I'm not sure I can put it into the words. You want the narrator to sound natural yet powerful and to resonate but never be over the top. You don't want the narrator to be a distraction, and you don't ever want it to turn into a 'me, me, me' production. I think Astin works perfectly in this role. Other actors play specific roles in the gospels. The most important star in any cast would be Jesus, of course. This role is played by Cody Linley. Let me just tell you that I was completely skeptical. I didn't think he had a chance of pulling this one off. I couldn't imagine him being serious enough or respectful enough or calm enough to do the task of speaking Jesus's words. Yet this mostly works. I won't say that his voice is perfect for the job. There are a few places here and there where his voice is a bit of a distraction, where it's a bit unnatural--he speaks too slow at times. But for the most part--more often than not--it works. I wish I could say the same for Marshall Allman's performance as Paul. Which is frustrating because Paul's letters make up a large part of the New Testament. If I had to describe his narration I would say slow and stumbling. (There are places where the rhythm and cadence is just very awkward and unnatural--taking pauses in unusual places, weird emphasis on certain words over others, etc. There are plenty of other actors--both listed and unlisted--which fill out the cast of performers.
The performers involved in the project are for the most part young and famous. Hence the name "Next Generation." Of course, at 30 I am not Next Generation by any stretch of the imagination. So I can't judge the appeal factor for kids. I'd imagine since it features stars of some rather big productions--Hanna Montana, High School Musical, American Idol, etc.--that kids will be drawn to it.
The product description says that this "is the perfect way for young multi-taskers to absorb Scripture. This ambitious recording makes the Word accessible to more kids than ever before." Part of me cringes when I read that description. I don't like the idea of multi-tasking when it comes to God, to the Bible. You're supposed to slow down, to be still, to be reflective. How much--if any--can you absorb when your mind is on other things all the time and the Bible is just a background noise. One way that I would use this--would encourage kids to use this--is as a read along with the Bible. To have the Bible in hand when you listen so that you can follow along with the words on the page.
Listening to this has only made me more curious about the adult WORD OF PROMISE audio bible. I wonder if it would be the one that I'd fall in love with?
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews