Friday, December 15, 2017

December Holiday Books 5, 6 & 7

Today’s Christmas books are board books for very young children. They are also available in traditional sizes. The first is an advent book that moves into the nativity. The other two contain the nativity story. These stories are simple enough for very little ones to understand and preschoolers will enjoy them as well. Their illustrations are perfect for young eyes. 

Picture Book: Who’s Coming to Our House?
Author: Joseph Slate
Illustrator: Ashley Wolff
Summary: This rhyming story begins with the question in the title. The answer: Someone, someone. A close animal community knows that someone special is coming so they must prepare. Each animal has a job to do to make sure the place is ready.  
They must make room. 
 A little cleaning is in order. 
 Meanwhile, the question and rhyme repeats 
 while the preparations continue. 
The place the honored guest will sleep gets special attention. 
 They watch for the guests
 and open the door. 
 One is worried. 
 One is doubtful. 
 But Mary and Joseph do come, weary and expectant!  
The animals gather around the babe, the most important guest, and bid him welcome. 
Hanna’s Comments: The rhyming verse adds to the delight of this story which is a perfect book for explaining to young children the importance of the Advent season. Talk about how your household and church community are getting ready for Jesus to be born.
Original Publisher & Date: G. P. Putnam’s, 1988
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 1 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Components of Jesus' nativity story are found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to young children during the Advent season and relate it to their understanding of the concepts of preparation, hospitality, and hope.

 
Picture Book: The Song of the Stars
Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrator: Allison Jay
Summary: This book has a unique look, not quite realistic and very beautiful. It  also has a more cosmic point of view. It emphasizes that the whole world is about to change. 
As in the previous book, the animals know something extraordinary is about to happen. 
It's time! It's time! they exclaim. Even the flowers lift their heads to watch 
and the whales sing a song of anticipation.
Otters clap and salmon leap.
Mice, insects, birds and even blades of grass squeak, hum, and sing their joy. 
A lion raises his voice to proclaim, "The Mighty King! The Prince of Peace!" 
Even the stars gather to announce "The bright and morning star!"  
while sheep nuzzle in with their lambs telling them of "the good shepherd to come." 
Then angels appear and sing that the time of God's glory has come to a little town in a little shed. 
 A cry is heard and a single star comes forth. 
Some fortunate animals gather to see this child the world has welcomed. They know, "The one who made us has come to live with us!" 
 They hear the young mother call the babe "our rescuer" 
so they come in closer to see this amazing gift to the world, 
 heaven's own son under stars that he made.
Hanna’s Comments: This is certainly a more ethereal view of Jesus' coming. Notice how names for Jesus are integrated into the story. If you like the look and tone of this book, check out two other books from this author and publisher: The Jesus Storybook Bible emphasizes Jesus in the Old and New Testaments. Found is a young child's version of the 23rd Psalm featured [here] at PBT.
Original Publisher & Date: Candlewick, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Components of Jesus' nativity story are found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in a church-based day school and talk about why Jesus is special, even for animals.

Picture Book: The Story of Christmas
Author: Vivian French
Illustrator: Jane Chapman
Summary: This story is unique from the 2 others because it begins with the angel coming to Mary 
 and Joseph. 
 They travel to Bethlehem 
 and find themselves in a crowd. 
 There is no place to stay until they are offered a stable. 
 Jesus is born while the animals look on. 
Nearby, angels tell of the birth of a savior to some shepherds who are thrilled to hear the news and want to see this baby. 
 They found him lying in a manger. 
Meanwhile, 3 wise men follow a star so they can see what amazing thing has happened. They arrive to find a young family and a babe who needs some precious gifts. 
This book ends with the angels singing above the stable about the son of God being born. 
Hanna’s Comments: I love the more realistic figures in this book. The expressions on their faces are fabulous. The warmth of these illustrations are perfect for little ones eager to hear the Christmas story. This is definitely the more traditional wording of Jesus' birth narrative. The simple paraphrase seems to come straight from the gospel texts. 
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Portions of the Nativity story are in Matthew and Luke's gospels.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this story to children in your nursery or preschool areas during worship just prior to or soon after Christmas day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

PBT Redux #16 Shooting at the Stars

Picture Book: Shooting at the Stars:                                                                   The Christmas Truce of 1914
Author & Illustrator: John Hendrix
Summary: A letter to his mother from Charlie, a fictional British WWI soldier, serves as the framework for this tale about one of many WWI Christmas Eve truces in 1914. 
In this case, the temporary cease fire begins with Christmas carols heard from the German trenches. 
Then small Christmas trees appear. Next a can of jam is thrown from the British trench. A British and a German officer meet in the middle of the battleground, shake hands, and signal their soldiers to come forward. 
Soldiers from both sides introduce themselves in “no man’s land.” Together they bury their dead. 
Then trading tokens to substitute for Christmas gifts begins. Photographs are taken. 
One is in the back of the book. 
After several hours, a furious British major arrives and orders them to separate and begin shooting. 
Charlie suspects they will aim high, shooting at the stars, at least for a while. 
Hanna's Comments: This is such an important story! It will intrigue your audience and inspire loads of comments. Insist that they connect this story to the Advent of today or your lesson won't be transformative. A glossary, bibliography, and index are in the back too. They explain that such truces didn't happen the other years of WWI. Thematically, this story and its supplemental material emphasize the contrast between the suffering soldiers stuck in the trenches who long for peace 
and the outside political and military forces that keep them there for 4 long years. It is a hard story to hear but an important one. Non-Christians should be comfortable using this book since Christian doctrine is not mentioned. 
Publisher & Date of Publication: Harry N. Abrams, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 8 and up, 3rd and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: When the ways of people please the Lord, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them (Proverbs 16:7); blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9); if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18); let him seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11)
Idea(s) for Application: This would be a great book to read to an audience of elementary age and up during the week before Christmas. Emphasize the theme of peace and how it requires risk and trust. Consider today's battles, military and otherwise, to make this book particularly meaningful. Peace isn't easy still, but it's worth meaningful conversation, because hope for peace is what Advent is all about.