Friday, March 24, 2017

PBT God Books Series #1 - God is Like…

Today's post begins a new PBT series in which I offer posts from the past that featured PBT God books. These are picture books that explore the nature of God. Typically I offer secular books here; God books are the exception. Because I have not yet featured these books a 2nd time and they are so rich with ministry possibilities, I'm going to post about these for the next week or so. My elbow is healing well. Doing more re-posting has helped with that process. Thanks for your prayers and patience for new posts. Below I highlight 2 great books for young children that explore what God is like. 

Picture Book: God is Like a Mother Hen and Much,                                     Much More
Author: Carolyn Stahl Bohler
Illustrator: Dean Nicklas with help from daughter Amy
Summary: In simple metaphors and illustrations, God’s nature is explored in ways that are meaningful to young children. God is like a mother hen, daddy, teacher, friend, mommy, the air, a child, you, and love. The last illustrated page offers a blank frame with an invitation, “Can you think of what else God is like?”
Hanna’s Comments: At the back of the book you’ll find a note to parents and teachers explaining how metaphors are important for use when exploring God’s nature. Interestingly, they also suggest you explore with the children ways that God is not like the metaphor. This would offer more distinctive meaning and confirm that God is unique, mysterious, and much more. Lastly, all the symbols used in the book are listed with 1 or 2 scripture references.  
Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 1996
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: See the list in the back of the book for many scripture connections.
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book with young children at bedtime or in a group lesson for imaginatively exploring the nature of God. 

Picture Book: God is Like…: Three Parables for Children
Author: Julie Walters
Illustrator: Thea Kliros 
Summary: In the first of three parables, a rock at the edge of the sea is shown and described. Repeatedly it is emphasized that “the rock stayed the same” despite the waves, weather, and a boy’s attempts to move it. As the boy ages, he notices that the rock does not change. He wonders, “Could God be like a rock?” The appropriateness of this simile is revealed and a scripture reference is given. The second simile begins as a spark of light that grows into a campfire and illuminates a young girl’s play and imagination. She guides other children to the light, and when the sun comes up the next morning, she wonders if God could be like the light. Jesus is offered as the light of the world with a scripture reference. Similarly, the third simile, a breath of wind, is illustrated in the playful activities of another young boy.
Hanna’s Comments: Note the length of this book. I suggest presenting it over 3 sessions. Each parable offers much in terms of conversation and supplemental activities. Don’t be afraid that your children are not able to think abstractly. One of the beauties of metaphorical thinking is that it allows humans to translate abstract thought into concrete, meaningful terms. Focus on the concrete and consider additional metaphors for God that might inspire other stories, questions, and lessons. The other picture book I’ve offered in this post will give you some possibilities, and I encourage you to think of some on your own that would be particularly meaningful for your children. Like mentioned above, talking about what God (or Jesus) is not like, is also helpful.
Original Publisher & Date: Water Brook Press, 1973
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Each of the similes (parables) is tied to a scripture reference.
Idea(s) for Application: This book could easily be translated into 3 simple skits for 3 different children to silently dramatize while the text is read in a lesson or even in a worship experience for your entire family of faith.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PBT Redux Series #9 - If the World Were a Village

In this post, I continue my series in which I highlight again an excellent picture book published since 2000. I’m focusing on these more recent publications because, as I tell adults all the time, "Children's literature is getting better and better!" This book is particularly good for older elementary and youth.
Picture Book: If the World Were a Village: A Book about                                         the World’s People (2nd edition)
Author: David J. Smith
Illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong
Summary: The author imagines the world’s population as a village of 100 people, representing population characteristics & statistics in a manner that is striking and understandable. General subjects are listed in a Table of Contents to allow you to have easy access to just those statistics you want to cover. They include nationalities, ages, schooling and literacy, and electricity. For instance, if the world is a village of 100 people, 9 people would speak English, 75 people would have easy access to safe water, and 32 people would be Christians. These details are from my copy of the first edition, but you get the gist. The numbers would be updated in the 2nd edition. This book is available in many languages. See also: If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States
Hanna’s Comments: This book will broaden the perspective of anyone who reads it! The 2nd version of this book is recommended since it has up-dated statistics. Don't feel compelled to read all of the statistics if they would be too many or not understandable to your audience. I like to use Post-it Notes on sections of a book to remind me to skip particular parts or ask particular questions. Teaching recommendations and activities are included. Note: The video version is of the 1st edition, but it is excellent and recommened. I use this video in lesson 45 of my curriculum for children based on the popular book Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God's Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe by Daniel Erlander. See more about that amazing book that is transforming my church an my curriculum [here]
Publisher & Date of Publication: Kids Can Press, 2011 (2nd edition)
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: video
Scripture Connections: Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10), Paul’s charge to change communion practices in the Early Christian Church (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), any verses about generosity or sensitivity to the poor or those who are different
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book at a Youth Hunger Banquet. The video version might be your best choice.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mother Love, God Love

Last Friday, I posted a tribute to author Amy Krouse Rosenthal after reading that she had a terminal illness. Sadly, AKR died on Monday. [Here’s] an obituary that gives you the breadth of her great work. Below is a post about her most recent publication. I've heard more original will be published posthumously. I’m glad and very thankful for her life and her work.

Picture Book: That’s Me Loving You
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Teagan White 
Summary: Each page of this gorgeous book explains how a particular child might find additional meaning in particular experiences of nature. A shimmering star is "me winking at you."
A drifting cloud is "me thinking of you."
The ocean is "me waving at you."
And even a clap of thunder is "me raving about you."
Even insect encounters are given new meaning. A persistent mosquito is "me bugging you"
and a butterfly, "that's me hugging you."
All these nature experiences are moments of transcendence and love in the presence 
and absence of a loved one who is missed.
Hanna’s Comments: Check out AKR's 1.5 minute short film [Today is a Gift]. Similar sentiments undergird this book. Knowing the plight of AKR, her words here have bittersweet meaning. She dedicates the book to her 3 children and others who are obviously close to her. Mother love has been featured as a sort of parallel to God's love in other PBT books such as the ever-present love found in The Runaway Bunny and the unconditional love found in I Love You Stinky, Face. The kind of love that is expressed in today's PBT book can also be a parallel to God’s unfathomable love and ever-presence. In the United Methodist Church, we hear about prevenient grace, a wooing sort of love that is holy and wonderfully prevenient (anticipatory and constant). Like the mother's love in this book, it is found in God’s generous creation. Find more PBT books that connect to prevenient grace [here]. Children are not too young to hear such an usual word. With their magical thinking, they get that love can transcend time and place. They can find comfort in knowing that God’s presence (and that of an absent parent) can be found in creation in all sorts of ways through acts of contemplation and simply through beauty. Thanks be to God!
Original Publisher & Date: Random House, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: My presence will go with you (Exodus 33:14); In your presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11); Where can I go from your Spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? … (Psalm 139:7); I (Jesus) am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about how God’s loving presence is with us and can be particularly meaningful when experiencing God’s creation.