Friday, August 12, 2022

Listening as an Act of Love

A few weeks ago, I posted a book about listening to godly sounds. Violinist Joshua Bell playing in a subway was the story in that post. Check it out HERE. Today’s listening is about perhaps the most holy kind of listening we humans can do... listening to a family member, friend, or even a stranger who is hurting. This is the best book I know about that holy practice. Like other excellent picture books, it is rich with tender meaning and encompasses all kinds of humanity, including humor, in its clever images and words.

Picture Book: The Rabbit Listened

Author & Illustrator: Cori Doerrfeld 

Summary: Taylor, a young child, begins to build “something amazing.” This wise author doesn’t use pronouns so Taylor can be whoever you want. Disaster strikes and all blocks fall! Taylor does too.

A series of animals comes to help Taylor cope. There’s a chicken that talks too much, an angry bear that wants to yell on Taylor’s behalf, and an elephant who wants to help Taylor remember. The ostrich’s strategy is predictable! The snake’s suggestion made me ssssmile.

“But Taylor didn’t feel like doing anything with anybody.” Yay, Taylor for knowing that! Once finally alone and in the quiet, Taylor is quietly joined by a rabbit. We don’t know if they are friends. Does it matter? After the silence, Taylor asks the rabbit to stay. Then the rabbit listens and listens and listens. Now that Taylor is ready, some of the responses that were suggested earlier now feel just right. Taylor vents, blames, and remembers. Again, “When the time was right,” Taylor details plans to build again. The rabbit listens some more as Taylor dreams of an even more amazing build next time.

Hanna’s Comments: Did you think of yourself as you heard my quick summary? I hope so! Did you think of others who have tried to help you, but the timing or remedy wasn’t right. They didn’t come in quiet, did they? Long ago, I remember hearing Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast interview Parker Palmer about a terrible bout of depression during which he was in the bed for days, maybe weeks. A friend came regularly to give him a silent foot rub. Wow! What love! What empathy! What a godly neighbor!

Original Publisher: Dial Books, 2018

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Audio & tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about God being a comforter and listener. So many! The great commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself! Any Jesus story where his first response is to listen. Ruth and Naomi, because they were present for each other through a difficult series of tragedies and a long, dangerous journey! I bet they took turns listening. Why don’t we talk about their journey more?

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: I have listed this book for 4 lessons in my 3-year RCL-based Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum. Those 4 lesson themes are: The Trinity: Our Helpers, God Hears Cries, God’s Mothering Love, and Ruth & Naomi.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young parents or teens. Then talk about the power of being present to (and not immediately fixing) another’s pain. Then you LISTEN as they tell stories of listening, not listening, and not being heard. Together vow to do better because it is a godly practice, good for all of us. 

One more thing: (forgive me) I know a few pastors who could use this book. There's a gift idea! 

If you are interested in learning more about my Trinity Treasures, a scripture based preschool Sunday school curriculum that features picture books & children’s Bibles, contact me at hannaschock@bellsouth.netRight now, free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Not Just for Goodnights

I tend to disregard books about bedtime since I imagine most of the PBT applications happening at church, far away from homes and beds. But bedtime is about security and love, both very godly concepts! This fun picture book classic offers such an appealing story! It will connect to many important (perhaps surprising) biblical stories and ideas. 

At the end of this post, I give you links to other PBT classic picture books! There are many! 

Picture Book: Good Night, Gorilla

Author & Illustrator: Peggy Rathmann

Summary: A male zookeeper begins his loving nightly ritual by saying good night to a series of animals. At the first interaction, his cage keys are lifted from his pocket by a smiling gorilla. The gorilla opens its own and others' cages as the the sleepy zookeeper moves toward the exit and his nearby home. At his front door, you can see a long line of animal friends that he has not noticed! 

All pile into his bedroom where the zookeeper's wife is sleeping and the zookeeper is oblivious. Even the gorilla is ready for sleep so it snuggles in next to her. Dark double-page spreads follow with speech bubbles of goodnights and then only her wide eyes. 

She quietly leads them back to their home cages. Nearly home again, she says good night to the zoo, but alas, gorilla and mouse are just behind her. Gorilla looks at the reader, finger to mouth, and shushes. The sleepy humans bid each other good night again, while gorilla and mouse find their places under the covers between the humans. 

Hanna’s Comments:  There are few words here so point to and explain aspects of the story as it unfolds in the illustrations. Be sure to mention the little mouse who is an important character and on every page! It drags a banana which isn't eaten until the end. Focus on the behavior of all the characters. They are so happy, likely because they are loved so well! The evidence is the toys in their cages and the humans' loving interactions with the animals.

Original Publisher: Putnam’s, 1994

Age Appropriateness: Infant and up

Amazingly, this book is sometimes called a “baby book.” Not so! Sure, babies can enjoy it if you point to animals and tell the story, but there is much love and joy in this book so preschoolers and elementary ages will enjoy it also! It does come in board book form, BUT those are hard to read to a group!

Formats other than Book: Tablet & Audio

Scripture Connections: This story can be easily connected to scripture in these ways (more follow in the next section): God in early Genesis and beyond, who is a caretaker of each species, Noah’s ark animals who must trust Noah’s entire family for their caretaking, Disciples who followed Jesus because they felt a loving connection (not only “the 12”), The Great Commandment to love others/neighbors, rituals (With the zookeeper's excellent example, teach the importance of godly rituals at church and elsewhere.)

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum, I list this book in 2 lessons: Year A, Pentecost 10 – All are Welcome (at church, which is like a loving home) AND Year C, Easter 3 – Paul and Ananias (God sends Paul to Ananias’ loving home where Ananias becomes a sort of caretaker for a time.)

PBT Applications: Read this book at a church sleep over, emphasizing that church is a sort of home where people may be lured and welcomed with love. With older audiences, talk about what it takes for us to feel comfortable and secure. Give thanks for those who offer such environments for us. Talk about what your church can do to encourage security and comfort for strangers, visitors, and others. Equate this orientation to God's Great Commandment. 

Here are links to some other PBT posts about classic picture books! Many are from my first year in which I posted a book everyday! The last 3 are the beginning of a PBT post series called Picture Book Classics: 

The PBT Series so far:

Let me know if you think of other books I should post about!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Heroic Hummingbird

Picture Book: The Little Hummingbird

Author/ Illustrator: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Summary: Based on an indigenous story, this book begins with a group of forest animals. When “the great fire” starts, animals huddle at the edge of a forest. 

They wonder what they can do, but they are afraid and feel helpless. As the forest burns, Little Hummingbird flies between the stream and the forest, carrying one drop of water per trip and dropping it onto the ferocious blaze. 

The other animals watch in amazement and offer excuses. Eventually, Big Bird asks Little Hummingbird, what she is doing. She responds, “I’m doing everything I can.”   
Hanna’s Comments: This very short book offers a straightforward message and lots to explore! Primarily there is the message of taking responsibility for what is happening in your world by doing the best you can. How do you talk to children and adults about taking responsibility? By helping them identify and emulate the heroes in pop culture and the more elusive heroes in their midst. Then find connections between ALL those heroes and your audience. Next make connections to heroes in Bible stories. Below I list a few standouts in categories I call traditional and nontraditional biblical heroes. Nontraditional biblical heroes, like the Little Hummingbird, are doing small acts, often over a long period of time. Sometimes these nontraditional are noticed and honored, but often they are not. Look at the biblical stories of the unnamed, the less dramatic acts, the people on the margins that Jesus so clearly saw. My favorite Bible hero is the woman who touches Jesus' hem. She is quiet in her courage, but nevertheless her courage is very big. Already shunned, she risks even more by entering the crowd and touching the man of the moment. She was seen and healed by Jesus because of her faith, but the healing would have never happened had she not been courageous!  

Notice that the Little Hummingbird is a female. This is a great chance for your females to hear a female hero story in this book and in scripture. Don't use the word "heroine." It implies a weaker, softer sort of hero. The word hero is big enough for all genders!


There are 2 enlightening Afterwards in this book. The first is by the author who explores the amazing abilities of hummingbirds. He says they often represent beauty, agility, and hope in traditional stories throughout the Western hemisphere. The 2nd Afterward is by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, who taught southern Africa and later the world, that planting one tree at a time until you’ve planted millions can make a huge difference in land damaged by chronic abuse! I have 2 books about her posted at PBT. Click HERE   

and HERE TOO! There are many picture books about this great hero!

Original Publisher: Greystone Books, 2010

Age Appropriateness: 5 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about heroes in the traditional sense (David in the Goliath story - 1 Samuel 17) and nontraditional heroes who made a difference with small gestures (the woman who touched Jesus' hem - Luke 8:43-48 & the boy who shared his food - John: 6:5-14) and heroes with long term commitment (Ruth's entire story & Priscilla and Aquilla - in Romans 16:3 Paul calls them his co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus who “risked their necks”).   

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of tweens or teens who you hope will become passionate about a social justice issue. Make connections to other heroes as described above. You may choose to tell this story as a parable. Then have each choose an animal and offer a plausible excuse or whine of resignation. Make connections to people who give excuses and don’t act. Tell stories of local heroes and heroes in your church family. Allow this story to motivate them to make specific plans to act responsibly and "do all they can" regarding the issue. Compel but also inspire!