Friday, February 17, 2017

PBT Redux Series #8 - Ruth and the Green Book

To continue my series in which I post again some of the best PBT books published in this century, I chose a story from American history that I believe the whole world should know. This picture book will offer another opportunity to explore how spiritual values can be tied to important historical phenomena. This book also reminds Americans how things used to be here. I believe remembering our history (especially our mistakes) is especially important politically and spiritually.

My impetus for posting this particular book today is an announcement I heard on Central Alabama's public radio WBHM. A play has opened in Birmingham that explores the relationship between black people and Jewish people during segregation. Highlighted in this drama is The Green Book, the title of the play and a publication for African Americans who were traveling through the segregated south. The WBHM article explains that The Green Book was inspired by a similar book published for Jews. Here's the story I heard and details about the play if you'd like to learn more. Below is my previous PBT post describing a fabulous picture book which tells the importance of The Green Book through the eyes of a young girl. 

Picture Book: Ruth and the Green Book
Author: Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Summary: Ruth is excited because she and her parents are driving from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandmother. It’s the 1950s so before the trip, Ruth’s mother spends days cooking meals knowing there will be few restaurants willing to serve Negros. After being rejected from various gas stations, hotels, and restaurants, Ruth’s family spends the night it their car. Eventually they learn to look for Esso stations where they will be welcomed. At one Esso, they purchase The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide to places that would welcome black travelers. Ruth learns to use the book and is so happy to experience the hospitality of fellow African Americans.
Hanna’s Comments: I am a passionate advocate of the spiritual practice of hospitality so I especially loved the part of this story where Ruth’s family is welcomed into a “tourist home.” These were homes listed in The Green Book where travelers were warmly welcomed, in this case for no charge and a fun night’s sleep. In the back of the book, find The History of The Negro Motorist Green Book. 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Bill which outlawed Jim Crow Laws and therefore also the anniversary of the last edition of The Green Book. Thank goodness, this book is now a relic of the last century and no longer necessary for black individuals to comfortably travel for long distances. It is my prayer that families in our country will never have to travel in fear, surrounded by hatred.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Treat the stranger as the native among you (Leviticus 19:34); the Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:30-37); seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13); do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2); show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this picture book in a lesson or sermon on how scripture, like The Green Book, can be a comfort, a safety net, and a guide. Also, consider that the author of The Green Book might have been inspired by God’s desires for humans to be safe and hospitable in all situations.

Monday, February 13, 2017

PBT Stories #2: I’m going to be an artist!”

(In this post, enjoy a sampling of illustrations from PBT books.)

from Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman                  See post [here].

Friday’s PBT post was my 500th! Did you know that there are nearly 600 books featured or mentioned here at PBT? The many words in the PBT search engine (at the bottom in the web version) allow you to find books easily just by clicking on a word that is a theme or issue you want to explore.

from The Three Questions by Muth            See post [here].

I began this work wanting to demonstrate to those in ministry the worth of hundreds of secular picture books that were easily and cheaply accessible in local libraries or on-line. I’m convinced that God has called me to help you offer meaningful programs to all in your faith family. Check out the tabs above for more about picture books, PBT, and my professional rationale as a nationally certified school psychologist.

from The Hugging Tree by Neimark & Wong            See post [here].

In celebration of my 501st post, I’d like to tell you a quick story. Several years ago, our church welcomed into our faith family some urban children we did not know. These children attend Birmingham public schools where the arts program is sorely underfunded.

from Ada's Violin by Hood & Comfort             See post [here].

One of the first activities we did had the children painting a picture with tempera paint. As I interacted with the painting children, their delight was palpable. Suddenly, one young boy declared, “I’m going to be an artist!” I was struck by his hope and his confidence and sorry that most of his days in school would not develop his skills or enthusiasm about visual art. Neither would it expose him to the vast beauty of visual art.  

from My Two Blankets by Kobald & Blackwood    See post [here].

In a conversation about the importance of seeing beauty as spiritual sustenance, On Being host Krista Tippet, asked Celtic writer John O’Donohue about those who don’t have “beauty at hand.” O’Donohue replied:
“…an awful lot of urban planning, particularly in poor areas, has doubly impoverished the poor by the ugliness which surrounds them. And it’s understandable that it is so difficult to reach and sustain gentleness there.”
This thought offers more reasons why children, particularly inner city children in underfunded schools, should be exposed to picture books in ministry. Beautiful illustrations will feed them spiritually and counteract some of the ugliness that surrounds them and the deficits of their education.

from When Sophie Gets Angry - Really Really Angry by Bang   See post [here].

In these samples of illustrations from some favorite PBT picture books, can you see how their beauty would be a gift for a child? If such a book is paired with a conversation about the art and an opportunity to delve into a similar artistic experience, then the beauty will more likely take hold and sustain them spiritually.

from Bear Has a Story to Tell by Stead & Stead   See post [here].

While reading a picture book to a group of children, express your delight in the art. Point to some features. Be outwardly grateful to God for such beauty and skill in the artist. Claim the God-given talents that bring art forth, and help your children aspire towards their own expressions of beauty which would truly be Godly endeavors that could bless the whole world just as beautiful illustrations bless us all.  

from He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Nelson  See post [here].

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Perseverance of Love

Picture Book: Love Matters Most
Author: Mij Kelly
Illustrator: Gerry Turley
Summary: After staring straight at the reader, 
an adult polar bear leaves her cave and begins a journey. 
A small yellow bird seems to guide her page after page. 
We are told the polar bear is looking for something. A storm doesn't deter her searching. Why? The journey must be long because the weather changes.
Stunning beauty doesn’t stop her. “The forest’s true magic dancing in light” is bypassed.
She's not searching for sustenance in berries 
or fish. 
Is she delighting in the snowflakes? 
The stars? 
No, we are told. She’s following prints. At times she seems to look at the reader, but what is her message? Is she asking for help?
What’s her destination? Finally, we are told she is looking for someone. 
Now we can guess. We know how determined polar bear moms can be. In another cave, she finds her babe. 
When they are reunited, the author reminds us that the world’s many treasures do not compare to that which matters most, love.
Hanna’s Comments: This rhyming story of mystery and beauty, loss and searching can be taken at face value to remind children in your family of faith, particularly during the Valentine’s Day season, that all great love comes from God and the love we have for our family is strongest. But like so many PBT books, there is enough under the surface for a deeper discussion with children, and even teens or adults. Think of Jesus’ 3 great lost parables found together Luke (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost (Prodigal) Son
Besides the love of a mother for her child, this is a story of longing, focus, courage, guide, determination, and perseverance. Do these themes remind you of a character in scripture or verse in scripture? I also see the incredible beauty in this picture book as representative of God’s inspiration that can be our “North Star” (or Northern Lights) in a world that might not understand our search. Doesn’t beauty inspire you to keep going? And there’s the little yellow bird. Help your audience find the bird when on a page. 
Encourage your audience to consider the bird's purpose and meaning. Who are your guides? I see this polar bear as a metaphor for God, determined to find us, loving us unconditionally. If this book isn’t quite right for your purposes, remember to check out the PBT search engine for dozens of other great books about “love,” that which is “lost,” or “journeys.”
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & Co., 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Fear not, for I am with you… (Isaiah 41:10); The 3 Lost Parables (Luke 15); Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to any age group and consider the power of love as God’s greatest gift and that which matters most.