Thursday, November 18, 2021

Still My Favorite Picture Book!

I started PBT Easter morning, 2014. My hope was to offer easy, untapped resources to churches, families, and schoolteachers. I did not predict how much pleasure and rich experience I would receive as I discovered more and more picture books. 


BUT after reading over 1000 picture books, no picture book surpasses for me All the World by Scanlon & Frazee! If you don’t know it, get it in your hands as soon as possible. It is a great book for a holiday gathering, particularly a holiday about being thankful! All the World comes in board book form, but your youngest children can likely attend to the big book. It’s so beautiful you'll want those big illustrations!

Here is a link to my most recent PBT post about All the World. There you'll see many of its beautiful pages:

In the tab above called Other Resources by Hanna, scroll down and checkout the slideshow to my presentation: 5 Secular Picture Books, 25 Ministry Applications. All the World is the 1st book I describe. You’ll find 4 other great books highlighted in that presentation.

Get it! I hope you are glad you did! 

Monday, November 8, 2021

PBT Guest Author: Rebecca Lile

A while back, a friend gave me a picture book. He is a United Methodist pastor who I greatly respect. Then came the bonus: The author was a mutual friend of ours from college, Rebecca Lile! What I found in those beautiful pages is what I believe to be the heart of Jesus’ message: All are welcome because all are loved unconditionally. On the 1st 2 pages: 

God's Diner is open; please come one and all.

All creatures are welcome, the great and the small.

Rebecca is a resident of Waynesville, NC. She was ordained as a diaconal minister in The United Methodist Church where she is a life-long member who witnessed her father serve as a pastor. I was interested in her creative process and the logistics of getting a book published when not a professional writer. She said it took about 2 years, 1 full year for the illustrator’s images to be completed. Rebecca was able to make some suggestions and requests, but mostly, Patrick Brooks worked independently from her.

Before writing, Rebecca was told editors would prefer prose, but that didn’t seem to work for this story, instead her writing came in verse: 

No longer is color or status or size

a way to divide us when seen through God's eyes.

What a welcome and welcoming message! Besides the theme of inclusion, another important theme for Rebecca is creation care. She has several books floating around in her head & journals, but God's Diner is the book she most wanted to write.

When I asked Rebecca about her purposes for writing this book, she explained that she wanted to leave a legacy to her 2 sons, the church, and our world. This book will make the church (and therefore the world) better!

Transforming our faith communities 1 person at a time, is what Rebecca has in mind in God’s Diner. Many people come into churches, questioning whether they will be truly welcome, perhaps even questioning if they truly deserve to be there. She hopes church people (all ages!) see themselves in both the hosts' & seekers' roles. Discovering compassion for self & others and how these roles are integrated will bring transformation to the church. I asked Rebecca...

What are a few of your favorite picture books?                        (2 embedded links for PBT books already here)

The hardest question for book lovers! I'll list just a very few:

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

    The prequel to this great book is also at PBT, posted the                 previous day! 

The Empty Pot by Demi

    A fabulous book about honesty & giftedness!

Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B Williams

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Rylant & Howard

How have you used picture books in ministry?

I use children's books in ministry in both children & adult education (in Sunday School, children's sermons, preschool storytime, summer camps/community centers, & retirement homes). I simply read the book and create questions & activities to complement. 

For example, if I'm looking at our call to be good stewards of Mother Earth, I might use The Little Hummingbird by Yahgulanaas. I'll create questions around what each one of us might do to be a part of the solution.

What various ways do you envision God’s Diner being used in ministry?

I would absolutely love to see God's Diner in the hands of every one of God's children, because I truly believe no child should ever have to wonder if God loves them. But since that may be a bit of a stretch, I would love to see it read in every church/faith community to both children and adults alike. I believe that the message of God's Diner is one of hope and kindness, compassion and inclusion and is at the very heart of what it means to live out of our faith.  

I've read it in churches on World Communion Day which is a wonderful use of the book as well.

What is feeding your soul these days?

Being around other women who are also always learning and coming to the table to enjoy rich conversation and connection

Creation Care is a passion for Rebecca so she hopes to write a book about that, but her next book may be a sequel to God's Diner. Perhaps its setting will be a food truck! 

Keep up with Rebecca's work here:

Picture Book: God’s Diner

Author: Rebecca Lile

Illustrator: Patrick Brooks

Summary: All sorts of animals come into God's Diner. Many are not so sure they will be welcomed, but all are, even the skeptical. Animal characters differ in dress, income, color, language, & temperament. Symbols among the animals offer more content for conversation. Encourage your audience to look for them and consider their meanings. 

Hanna’s Comments: Rebecca said that the important image of an open table (emphasized in some church’s communion rituals) was a strong inspiration for her writing in God’s DinerTake special note of the character Pug, who comes into the diner growling and scowling. His very skeptical "Grouch Face" might be a face your audience recognizes in or outside of your churches! Have them consider some reasons why Pug might be so different from the other characters who are laughing and smiling. Why is he is certain he won't be served? Pug is greeted this way:

I see through your meanness and somewhere deep down

I know there is goodness, instead of a frown. 

In response, Pug's face changes, he is hugged by many and invited to pull up a chair. The last words in the story declare the heart of the gospel! 

If you are hungry, remember God's place.

The food is outstanding, there's always a space.

Original Publisher: Warren Publishing, 2018 

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Matthew 25: 35 was her scripture inspiration. It’s found on the last page.

I was hungry and you gave me food.

I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 

Additionally, any scripture about hospitality such as the stories of Jesus welcoming strangers (Zacchaeus), children, and challenging women (the Syrophoenician woman & the woman at the well). AND any scripture about being beloved children of God such as 1 John 3:1.

PBT Applications:  You’ll find many resources designed for further exploration of the ideas in God’s Diner here at the shop on her website, including complete downloadable lessons, games, and coloring pages. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

2 Very Holiday Prayer Books


Here are 2 great books for very young children for the upcoming holidays! I have some issues with board books these days. Board books are produced for little hands that are hard on thin pages, but too often modern board books have too much text and too many abstract concepts for such young children. In contrast, these 2 books are, as Goldilocks would say: "Just right!" 

Picture Book: A Very Thankful Prayer

Author: Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Illustrator: Natalie Moore

Summary: Within an autumnal context and with simple rhymed verse, a young bunny explains how the day starts with a happy and thankful heart. What follows is a list (and the illustrator's delightfully bright images) of many things & people that this young animal is thankful for. These include falling leaves, sunbeams & seeds, loving family members around a small table, and later a menagerie of young animal friends around a table celebrating a Thanksgiving holiday meal. Later you'll see a forest scene around a campfire with marshmallows roasting. Being thankful for the ability to help, share, and give is included as well. The last page declares gratitude that God made fall and thanks for God's love that fills the earth. 

Hanna’s Comments: My wording is a bit awkward above because 2 things weren't clear to me: the gender of the animals (that's not a problem!) and which animal is speaking in these pages. A variety of young animals are shown across the pages. They all seem to be in community together. Substituting plural pronouns might help avoid some confusion, but your children probably won't even notice.  

Original Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2017

Age Appropriateness: toddlers and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about gratitude connects to this book, especially those relating to community. 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In Trinity Treasures, a 3-year preschool curriculum based on this Lectionary, I recommend this book be read to start a lesson for Thanksgiving Sunday based on the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. You may recall, only 1 man returns to him to say thank you. (Luke 17:11-19) 

PBT Applications: As you read each page, invite your children to find other things they see on the pages or in the room that they are thankful for. Be sure to give credit to God for these. This book is about prayer after all! At the book's end, talk about how your children's fall holiday traditions are like & unlike the animal friends' holiday traditions shown here. As your children share an experience, help them outwardly express their gratitude to God. 


Picture Book: A Very Merry Christmas Prayer

Author: Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Illustrator: Natalie Moore

Summary: This book begins:

Here's my Merry Christmas prayer

I'll send to God above, 

For all the gifts He's given, 

From a heart filled with love.

What follows is similar verses celebrating traditional American Advent & Christmas festivities. Each is linked to a more sacred part of the Christmas story. Strings of lights are like the Bethlehem star; the cozy bed of several cute mice are like the manger cradling "our Lord's head." Carols are compared to the angel's song, and family time is reminiscent of the Mary's great love for her baby. 

Hanna’s Comments: There is an emphasis on God's love and gifts here that I like! If the rituals shown in this book don't match up to your community's, then encourage your audience members to find reflections of God's great love and gifts in their own Advent/Christmas rituals. 

Original Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2015

Age Appropriateness: toddlers and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: This book connects to the various scriptures that describe the nativity story and God's many gifts of love, forgiveness, and Jesus especially. 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In Trinity Treasures, a 3-year preschool curriculum based on this Lectionary, I list this book, among many picture book recommendations, in several of the Advent lessons. 

PBT Applications: Read this book during the Advent or Christmas season to your preschoolers. Encourage them to talk about the relationships (not things) that mean the most to them during these seasons.  

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 Right now free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.