Monday, August 14, 2017

PBT Series: Picture Book Classics #2

Here’s another one of my early posts that is worth sharing again. This little book is a treasure. It’s been in print for over 70 years and is typically read to very young children. In the post below, I suggest you consider a broader audience and give your faith family a chance to see the connections between this little guy's faith in a carrot seed and their own faith.  
Picture Book: The Carrot Seed
Author: Ruth Krauss
Illustrator: Crockett Johnson
Summary: This classic has a simple story but a powerful message about a lone boy’s faith in a carrot seed which he has planted and continues to nurture despite his family members saying repeatedly, “It won’t come up.” Eventually the greens pop above the soil’s surface. Then the boy pulls a huge carrot out of the ground and loads it onto a wheel barrow. I wonder if he shared the carrot with his family.
Hanna’s Comments: This book was published 70 years ago, but its simple message of faith and nurturing that which only you believe in is universal and timeless. I think it should be in every toddler and preschooler’s library. Certainly it should be in your faith community’s nursery, preschool rooms, and community-wide library. Don't limit it's audience to just little ones. With elementary children and adults talk about naysayers and critics. Discuss the concept of nurturing your faith as the boy nurtured his carrot seed. Be sure to point out that the carrot seed might have died had the boy not been so faithful to it. Ask them, “What are some of the ways we “water” and “weed” our faith gardens?” Think this is too abstract? Offer some personal explanation of how you do this and what your faith garden looks like. I bet you’ll be surprised at how they will catch on.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Harper & Row, 1945
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: There are several videos to choose from including “Uncle Wally” Amos reading this book as a part of the Read it Loud library program on, Audio cassette
Scripture Connections: Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:8); If you have faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) 
Idea(s) for Application: Because the concept of faith is so abstract, children (and sometimes adults) have difficulty understanding it. This little book offers a delightfully simple, but profound explanation of faith that is easy to relate to. Read this book in a Sunday school or other small group context and explore the concept of faith and how to "tend" and "nurture" it. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Mysteries of an Elephant

Today’s post is not typical of PBT. I’m featuring 2 books based on an ancient Indian tale traditionally called The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.
I’ll explore why either of these books would be fun and beneficial for a faith family. The labels at the bottom of this post will give you some ideas as well. You might even find another picture book based on this tale. Separately, I’ll give you some details for both books. The first book featured would be more appropriate for preschoolers or young elementary children. The second book attributes the story to Rumi, a wonderful 13th century Persian poet who wrote The Elephant in the Dark as a part of a lengthy book of poems. 

This elephant parable is about the human tendency to make judgments and argue based on our limited experiences and perspectives. Both experience and perspective are crucial, but they can be misleading and righteous judgments can cause division. 
Faith families struggle with these issues. Too often people of faith think they have God all figured out when they simply have projected their experiences and perspective onto a limited image of God. Divisions are often due to such stalwart and narrow thinking. This old story is applied to theology often. In his most recent book about The Holy Trinity, The Divine Dance, Father Richard Rohr says, "We are like blind people touching the side of an elephant, describing the tiny portion we feel with all the conviction we can muster."
Delving in to this human tendency would be beneficial for children and adults in your faith family, but let them decide what the story is telling them about human nature. Don't impose onto them your interpretation of the book or you'll be demonstrating this human tendency yourself! 
Picture Book: Seven Blind Mice
Author & Illustrator: Ed Young
Summary: One by one, seven blind mice explore a strange "something." After each excursion, the mouse gives a different explanation. It’s a pillar…
It’s a snake…
It's a fan...
and so on until the 7th mouse manages to investigate the whole elephant and declares what it truly is.
This book ends with a “Mouse Moral”
Knowing in part may make a fine tale,
but wisdom comes from seeing the whole.
Original Publisher & Date: Puffin, 2002
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio
Scripture Connections: Trust God; don’t try to lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5); … but some doubted (Matthew 28: 17b); If I understand all mysteries but do not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2) 

Picture Book: Elephant in the Dark:                                                                 Based on a Poem by Rumi
Retold: Mina Javaherbin
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin 
Summary: Rumi’s poetic tale The Three Blind Men and the Elephant is beautifully illustrated here. 
Villagers hear of a magnificent creature that has been brought from India by a traveling merchant. 
When they confront the merchant and demand to see the creature, he tells them to let him sleep. 
The villagers decide to inspect the creature themselves.
One by one, several people sneak into the dark barn where the creature is being kept, but they inspect the creature only in part and with haste.
One man says it’s like a snake. 
After wrapping his arms around the elephant's leg,
one man says it's a tree. 
The elephant's ear 
convinces a woman it's a fan. 
This results in lots of arguing and name calling and even shouting and shoving. 
When the merchant arises and parades the awesome elephant through the village, the villagers are too busy fighting to notice the stunning creature or realize how wrong they are. 
But, the children notice and are fascinated! 

This book has in the back an Author's Note and an Illustrator's Note. Check them out before reading to your audience.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Trust in the Lord; do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-8); … but some doubted (Matthew 28: 17b); If I reveal all God’s mysteries but don’t love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

PBT Redux #11 The Story of Ruby Bridges

School is about to start here in Alabama so I’m reposting my favorite “Back to School” PBT book. This true story is about a hero, a young Christian hero, who prays her way through a very difficult school year. Ruby Bridges is a name I wish American children knew as well as they know many sports stars and entertainers. Read this book to the kids in your faith family as they start school and talk about how prayer can ground them in difficult times.
Picture Book: The Story of Ruby Bridges 
Author: Robert Coles
Illustrator: George Ford
Summary: Ruby Bridges, 6-year-old hero of the Civil Rights Movement, daily faced an angry mob as she single-handedly integrated an elementary school in New Orleans. Facing this mob with courage, dignity, and her unyielding faith, every morning Ruby prayed for those who verbally abused her as she walked to school.
Hanna’s Comments: The author, a well-known child psychiatrist, regularly spent time with Ruby Bridges during her school integration ordeal. There is much material about Ruby Bridges, (interviews, documentaries, video dramas including a Disney film, a famous Norman Rockwell painting…) as well as other picture books. This book was chosen for PBT because it is a first-hand account, and it emphasizes Ruby’s resilience and faith.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Scholastic, 1995
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, see my comments above about other resources
Scripture Connections: The Lord is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7); pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44); Christ welcomes the little children (Matthew 19:14); I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a children’s lesson on intercessory prayer, facing fear & other difficulties with faith and prayer, or Contemporary Christian Heroes.