Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do Something GRAND!

It’s National Grandparents Day here in the states. On the website, the folks at encourage everyone to “Do something GRAND!” Today I have a blogpost for you that celebrates grandparents, including details on 2 very different books about grandmothers. If you want more picture book options featuring grandparents, go to the list of green search words and click on “grandparents.” You’ll be taken to 36 different picture books I’ve featured on this blog!

What grand thing have I done today? I’ve designed and taught an adult Sunday School lesson. I’ve invited and welcomed a family to my church’s worship service where the praise was mighty and authentic. I’ve tutored a child. And I’ve visited my local library where I complimented the librarians on the grand work they do for me. Then I left with my usual big stack of picture books. Oh boy!

Look for more grand possibilities as I expand and diversify my work here at PBT. Details to come soon. Meanwhile, enjoy all the picture books I have already offered you and the many possibilities they hold for ministry, teaching, therapy, or especially for today, family time with a child or grandchild where you can talk about your values and your legacy. 
Picture Book: A Special Gift for Grammy 

Author: Jean Craighead George

Illustrator: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Summary: At the end of a visit, Hunter gives his grandmother a pile of stones on the front porch, near her front door.
What will I do with a pile of stones?” she asked Hunter.
“What everyone does with a pile of stones,” he answered.
Her simple response is, “Of course,” a response that is repeated time and time again as various passersby use the stones for various purposes. Some are used to mark the grave of a much-love dog. Three are used to give directions to a couple of Girl Scouts. Hunter himself finds that 5 of the stones serve as important symbols of his identity so they are strung on a necklace for Grammy. The last stone is found to be perfect for skipping lightly across a nearby lake.   

Hanna’s Comments: There are many things I love about this book. It emphasizes generosity, creativity, and memory while offering a nature story. Too many children are not able to see the bounty that is in their back yard or a nearby park. Stones, like many other gifts of the natural world, offer great potential for marking, adorning, and remembering. Offer your children a lesson on the qualities and possibilities of a pile of stones or one remarkable rock.

There are many places in scripture where stones or rocks are mentioned either concretely or metaphorically. The old hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing has had generations singing, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” That’s a reference to a biblical story of thanksgiving in 1st Samuel. Do you know what a cairn is? Cairns are piles of stones used for marking a place of memory. Jacob built such a cairn to witness his and Laban’s covenant. Peter is called the rock, and we are instructed to build our house on stone, not sand.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Harper, 2013

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present 

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press

Scripture Connections: Jacob places his pillow stone as an altar (Genesis 28:18-22); Joshua instructs them to take 12 stones from the Jordan River (Joshua 4); Then Samuel took a stone (1 Samuel 7); a wise one build a house upon the rock (Matthew 7: 24-27); you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (Matthew 16:18); yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5)

Idea(s) for Application: Consider a series of lessons on how stones are used in scripture. Let this story be your starting point, emphasizing that, of course, a pile of stones has so much potential for enriching our lives.  
Picture Book: Grandma in Blue with Red Hat

Author: Scott Menchin

Illustrator: Harry Bliss

Summary: From a young artist’s point of view, this book celebrates the potential of art to honor and commemorate the love a grandson has for his grandmother. The unnamed protagonist attends art lessons at his city’s art museum. There he learns that art is beautiful, different, funny, tells stories, comes from far away, and makes others feel good. When he realizes that all of these qualities are also true of his grandmother, he decides he must give his grandmother to the museum. Once the museum curator gets involved, the narrator has a more practical idea. He studies the styles of various artists, is inspired by them, and creates a one-boy exhibition. The theme? Grandma. Many come, including the museum curator who acquires a piece for the museum: Grandma in Blue with Red Hat.

Hanna’s Comments: This is such a fun book. It teaches a great deal about art while celebrating an extraordinary cross-generational relationship. Encourage discussion about the nature of art and God’s role in artistic endeavors and the creative spirit of humans. Emphasize how the love of these family members inspires and enriches the beauty of the boy’s art. Look for evidence of loving art in your family or family of faith. Talk about how God and scripture have been the subject of artists throughout history.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Abrams, 2015

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present 

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press  

Scripture Connections: The skills of artists (Exodus 35); but now, O Lord, you are our God, we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8)

Idea(s) for Application: Use this book as a discussion starter for considering how God has created humans to be both artists and art, creators and creations, inspired by God and for God. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Silliness of Humans and God’s Delicious Provisions

The following two books have several things in common:
a woman devoted to children
the love, fellowship, joy, and work of preparing meals
and God’s delicious abundance.
The first book might be called a comical modern parable. The second involves a true story of determination and revolution.

Picture Book: The Seven Silly Eaters

Author: Mary Ann Hoberman

Illustrator: Marla Frazee

Summary: In clever rhymed verse, this author presents the increasing toil of a mother whose 7 children each will eat only one food. That’s 7 different foods! Her trouble begins when lovingly Mrs. Peters wants to please her first child who will only drink milk at a certain temperature. Then each newly born children will consume only one different item. All of these foods require trips to the grocery store (That’s how Mr. Peters is involved.) and cooking. No pre-cooked foods here! On her birthday, the children decide to fix their mother the food that they love, but their kitchen skills are lacking and things don’t go well. Their combined efforts make a scrumptious mess that transforms the future meal prep of Mrs. Peters and the eating habits of her children.
Hanna’s Comments: This book was recently used in a lesson for elementary children about Peter’s dream in Acts 10 in which he sees a group of unclean animals upon a sheet coming down from the sky. God invites Peter to eat and Peter says, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” God responds, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” It is easy to see the connections between the picture book and the scripture. It is also easy to see God personified in Mrs. Peter’s loving devotion, provision, and patience. The later deserves a very different kind of conversation about human tendencies to make demands of God on our timeline and schedule.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Voyager Books, 1997

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Video, Audio Cassette

PBT Category: Pre 2K

Scripture Connections: The food laws in Leviticus 11; My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5); Open your mouth wide and I will fill it (Psalm 81:10); Peter’s Dream (Acts 10)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group children and make connections with Acts 10 or read it to a group of adults and consider the personification of God in Mrs. Peters and how we are like her picky children.  

Picture Book: Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious

Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrator: Hayelin Choi

Afterward: Alice Waters

Summary: Alice Waters has been called the mother of the slow food movement here in the USA. This picture book offers her back story and her mission that every child in America (Dare I say the world?) would come with her on the “Trip to Delicious.” This involves teaching children the story of fresh food and encouraging them to taste good food, every day, even in their school lunches. As a child, Alice was often in search of Delicious. She journeyed to France to study food and returned to California where she opened her restaurant Chez: Panisse. Quickly she struggled to find fresh food for her restaurant. Through her efforts to secure fresh food, relationships with growers were begun, along with The Edible Schoolyard Project, where students can grow and cook their own food. Alice hopes that all children can pursue their dreams to positively change the world sustained by Trips to Delicious. In the back of the book you’ll find an Afterward where Alice Waters encourages the readers, an Author’s Note where Jacqueline Briggs Martin offers a more detailed context to the story, a Bibliography and Resources where you’ll find websites and books on growing food and cooking food.  

Hanna’s Comments: So what does a book about the beginnings of the slow food movement offer families of faith?  In the text it says that Alice Waters knows that sharing good food can wake people up, create happiness, start a party, and make memories. What better activities for faith families? Make connections between the Trip to Delicious and our foundational precept: Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Readers to Eaters, 2014

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present 

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Biography, Post 2K

Scripture Connections: Oh taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8); Open your mouth wide and I will fill it (Psalm 81:10); My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5); You satisfy the thirsty and fill the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:9)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of teens or young adults who are exploring vocational aspirations that will positively impact the world. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Perseverance and Beauty of Trees and Heroes

Picture Book: Luna and Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest

Author & Illustrator: Jenny Sue Kosteki-Shaw

Summary: This is a fictionalized version of the true story of Luna, a redwood that sprouted nearly a thousand years ago, and Julia Butterfly Hill, the young woman who saved Luna. Wildlife, such as birds and butterflies were drawn to both Luna and Julia, hence Julia’s nickname. When Butterfly found a blue X on Luna’s trunk and realized that it meant Luna would be chopped down soon, she determined to save the tree by climbing it and staying there. With help and encouragement from a community of friends and fellow-tree lovers, Butterfly managed to live in Luna for over two years! The specifics of how Butterfly succeeds are wonderfully illustrated here including some amazing discoveries Butterfly makes within and upon Luna’s trunk. When challenges arise, we see dreams in which Luna promises to hold Butterfly until she is less afraid, and we see Butterfly develop into a promoter of trees and the forest. After 738 days, Butterfly received a promise that Luna would not be cut down so Butterfly climbs down and walks on the forest floor of The Luna Preserve.  

Hanna’s Comments: I love it when a picture book offers a female hero. If the story is true, that’s great! If the hero is young and still passionate and present in the media, that’s even better. Our girls need these role models and our boys need to know that girls can be heroes too. Besides the Author’s Note at the end of the book, you’ll find more details about the true, more complicated story of Luna and Butterfly on this hero’s website. Here’s the link: You’ll also find some video that you might want to use to supplement your lesson and her slogan, “Yes, yes, you make the difference.” Relate this message to your faith community’s mission to make a positive difference in the world and the courage and perseverance that your community is being called to demonstrate. As you show the illustrations, be sure to have your audience look for Luna’s face in the bark. OR Relate Butterfly’s ordeal and determination to the trials and faith of biblical characters.   

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Christy Ottaviano Books, 2015 

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Non-fiction, Fresh off the Press

Scripture Connections: Jacob waits to marry Rachel (Genesis 29); the trials of the Israelites in the wilderness (begins Exodus 14); then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord (1st Chronicles 16:33)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or youth learning about modern heroes who make great sacrifice for their beliefs.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Creation Celebration in Word and Song

Picture Book: All Things Bright and Beautiful

Author & Illustrator: Ashley Bryan
   Based on the hymn by Cecil F. Alexander

Summary: This inspired illustrator offers a brightly colored, paper-cut rendition of this beloved Irish hymn. An historical note about the hymn writer who is well-known for her verses, both hymns and poems, and a musical score, including 4 verses, can be found in the back of the picture book.

Here are the lyrics of the chorus:     
All things bright and beautiful                 
All creatures great and small                   
All things wise and wonderful                   
The Lord God made them all.

The illustrator offers a nice personal touch. He includes images of his mother’s sewing/embroidery scissors which were the tool he used to skillfully cut the colorful papers used in the beautiful collages of this picture book.  

Hanna’s Comments: The lyrics of this song are well worth simply reading to children if you are not inclined to sing or play the tune. The book is large so you may not need multiple copies of the book. If you do plan to sing it, it’s a good idea to read the text while showing the illustrations. Then talk about the ideas supporting the lyrics before teaching and singing the tune. Focus on these words in the chorus: bright, beautiful, great, small, wise, and wonderful. Plan a creation celebration after singing this much loved song. Focus your supplementary activities on the key words of the chorus listed above.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Atheneum Books, 2010

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up

# of Pages: 40 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Song, Post 2K

Scripture Connections: Any scripture verses that celebrate the beauty of God’s creation

Idea(s) for Application: Use this book and sing the song as a part of a lesson for children on the extraordinary and beautiful creation that God has given us. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Response to "But we've always done it this way!"

Picture Book: Shh! We Have a Plan

Author & Illustrator: Chris Haughton

Summary: In very few words but vivid pictures, this clever story begins with four companions creeping in a dark woods. Three have nets. The fourth, much smaller and in the rear, does not. An extraordinary bird is spied. The smaller figure immediately offers a verbal greeting but is quickly shushed by the other three. Their plan, demonstrated time and again as they follow the bird, is to catch it in a net. After a refrain of, “Ready one, ready two, ready three... go!” they always fail comically and miserably. Ultimately the little character breaks from the pack and engages the bird with an outstretched hand of breadcrumbs and a “one, two, three.” More birds gather and are fed. Ironically, the flock of birds turn on the three aggressors with a “Ready one, ready two, ready three.” The human-like characters run away and then spy a squirrel. The three quickly shush the little character and again offer familiar assurance, “We have a plan.” They haven’t yet learned the possibility of a new plan.

Hanna’s Comments: Now and then I run across a picture book that resonates on many levels. This is such a book. I recently read in the writings of spiritual author Linda Douty that failure is caused by the refusal to try anything new. That is the central message of this book, especially when new ideas involve compassion and relationship and  when old ideas don’t have compassion and relationship as priorities. This powerful book could stir within a group of children or adults (such as your governing body or small groups) important conversations about evangelism, greeting visitors, integrating new members, worship styles, and even the manner in which you consider your successes (numbers vs. relationships, dollars vs. spiritual depth). I think it’s interesting that all the approaches involve 3 steps. Might this represent a hopeful representation of the trinity or a tendency to wrap up our plans (and sermons) in neat packages of three?

There are other possibilities for application here. The smallest character (Be careful not to assume they are all male.) could easily be a Christ figure, one who offers a new approach toward building the Kingdom of God. The scene in the book with the flock of beautiful birds is particularly potent. Like the Israelites of the Hebrew Scriptures, the disciples of the New Testament, and us, we are slow to break bad habits and old paradigms. Old ways and assumptions are hard to leave behind.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Candlewick Press, 2014

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Award Winner, Fresh off the Press  

Scripture Connections: Any scripture where a new idea is being offered or resisted or a negative pattern of behavior is being criticized such as... Behold, I am doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19); woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13); those who are in Christ are new creations. The old has passed away, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of ministers or leaders who need some lighthearted conversation about the battles they must wage when up against the refrain, “But we’ve always done it this way!”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The First Worship Lessons: Joy, Praise, and Gratitude


Picture Book: I Will Rejoice    and    Let’s Make a Joyful Noise

Author: Karma Wilson 

Illustrator: Amy June Bates

Summary: This author-illustrator duo offers three delightful picture books grounded in the Psalms for teaching young children aspects of worship in a way that is very relevant and enjoyable. These books detail 3 important aspects of worship, not just formal sanctuary worship but also authentic, momentary worship that a child might engage in anytime of the day or night. Two of these books are pictured above. The third is Give Thanks to the Lord, based on Psalm 92 and offered on this PBT blog’s Picture Book a Day for a Year list on Day 220 (November 25, 2014). In each of these books you’ll find young children experiencing faithful joy in daily living experiences.  

Hanna’s Comments: Karma Wilson also has a very popular secular series of books all titles beginning “Bear....” I would recommend any one of these books. You’ll find 2 in the series on this PBT blog: Bear Feels Sick (Day 46 on June 4, 2014) and Bear Says Thanks (Day 213 on November 18, 2014).  

Original Publisher: ZonderKidz

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 24 (each)

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet (Let’s Make a Joyful Noise only at this time)

PBT Category: God Books

Scripture Connections: I Will Rejoice (based on Psalm 118:24); Let’s Make a Joyful Noise (based on Psalm 100:1)

Idea(s) for Application: Each of these books can easily be used with young children for instruction in how praise, joy, and gratitude (in the book featured earlier) are all important foundations for worshiping God.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

“What Am I Doing to Make Malala Proud?”

The title of this post is the question my teenage daughter, Julianna, asked herself the spring before her senior year in high school. Her answer was to pay her way on a mission trip with a group of our church’s adults to teach English to Panamanian children. I think Malala would have been pleased!

When I first heard my daughter’s question, I thought of the WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets that were a fad with teens here in the states for a while. That fad is long gone; those teens have grown up. Ironically, my Christian daughter seems to have found a meaningful role-model in a Pakistani, Muslim girl near her own age. I hope Malala survives the continued threats to her life and lives a long life inspiring my daughter and others.

Malala Yousafzai, advocate for the education of Muslim girls, victim of an assassination attempt, and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner is only a few months younger than Julianna. When the already famous and outspoken 16-year-old Malala was called out and shot on her school bus by the Taliban in Pakistan, she became more famous. Julianna began to read articles about Malala’s advocacy, recovery, and amazing courage to continue speaking publicly for the rights of all girls to be educated. Like Malala, Julianna has a passion for education. She plans to be a teacher and has a heart for urban children. She was quick to read I am Malala, Yousafzai’s best-selling memoir, and we all enjoyed seeing Malala tease John Stewart on The Daily Show. I highly recommend the feature length film about her, He Named Me Malala.   

Above I’ve offered photos of 3 picture books about Malala Yousafzai. You’ll have no problem finding these and other picture books at your local library or on-line. Video content is easily found too. It’s important for young children and teens to have heroes, especially if the heroes are near their age. Your message can be that being a child/teen doesn’t give you an excuse for not doing justice or working for peace. Everyone can do something now.

There are other, less decorated and lesser-known teens and tweens in our world making it more just and loving. A little internet searching and some creativity on your part might lead to some very meaningful programming for the young people in your faith family. Be sure to identify the traits that your children can emulate from the heroes you offer. Point out when their passions are grounded in their faith. 

Your children and teens are going to have heroes. When the substance of their fandom can be about more than beauty, sports, or entertainment, then our world has better opportunities for God's desires. I believe Malala would be very proud of such changes. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two Picture Books of Abraham and Sarah: Stories Crucial to Our Faith Heritage

Picture Book: Abraham’s Search for God

Author: Jacqueline Jules

Illustrator: Natascia Ugliano

Summary: Beautifully presented, this is the story of Abram's (later Abraham’s) certainty that there is something greater than the many idols of clay and stone in his culture. Even as a boy, he questions the assumptions and ways of his elders. A lover of the outdoors, Abram spends one evening absorbed by the beauty of the moon, but when the sun replaces it in the skies, he believes the sun to be the ruler of all. Clouds, thunder, a rainbow, and the sun again come and replace the object of Abram’s worship. After each change, Abram believes dominance is being demonstrated. Eventually he realizes that there is something greater and more beautiful than all of these, a great power that is the force behind these changes. That great power is the one true God whose evidence is everywhere. From then on Abram worships the one true God.

Hanna’s Comments: The last line of this book summarizes why this story is so important to all in the Abrahamic tradition: “Today, we remember Abraham as the father of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” Explain further this last line to children who are unaware of the connections between these 3 great religions. If age appropriate, spend some time talking about the conflicts these traditions still have with each other and consider how God might view these struggles. Abraham’s story continues in the other book featured below. Additionally, this author/illustrator duo has at least 2 more books in this series: Benjamin and the Silver Goblet and Miriam in the Desert

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Kar-Ben, 2007

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 32 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: God Book, Biography 

Scripture Connections: Genesis 12

Idea(s) for Application: Read this story to children and explore the importance of Abraham to your faith heritage. Emphasize the worship of the one true God in contrast to the worship of idols of Abraham’s time and today’s idols.  

Picture Book: Sarah Laughs

Author: Jacqueline Jules

Illustrator: Natascia Ugliano

Summary: Beautiful Sarah’s laugh is said to make “the whole world clap hands with joy.” She marries Abraham, who did not pray to idols like others, instead, he prays to the invisible God. When Abraham tells Sarah he hears a voice saying they should move to a new place, she agrees. In Canaan, Abraham tells Sarah that God promised the land to their children. In a dream, God visits Abraham and tells him to count the stars for there will be that many children of their children. When he tells Sarah this, she dances but does not laugh for they have no children and she is old. As their prosperity increases so does Sarah’s sadness. Sarah encourages Abraham to take her servant Hagar as his wife. Hagar has a child, but Sarah is still not happy. When three strangers come, Sarah prepares a fine meal. When they tell of Sarah’s child to come within the year, Sarah declares that she and Abraham are too old. The baby does come despite Sarah’s age. She names him Isaac, meaning laughter and declares, “God has brought me laughter.”

Hanna’s Comments: Abraham’s continuing story is offered beautifully here through the perspective of Sarah. Too often the few stories of women in the Bible are not explored with children. Such perspectives are invaluable to young girls and to young boys. This author and illustrator offer 2 glorious books that easily allow you and your children the privilege of learning about these important spiritual ancestors. Be sure to connect their stories to modern questions and hopes while explaining their crucial importance in your faith heritage.   

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Kar-Ben, 2008

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up

# of Pages: 32 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: God Book, Biography 

Scripture Connections: Genesis 18 and 21

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are studying the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Hebrew Scriptures. Make connections to today’s faith struggles, personal and global.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Violence at a Sacred Place and How Healing Comes

In the aftermath of the murder of 9 people in Charleston who were at a Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church, I urge you to offer opportunities for conversation with the adults and children in your families of faith, classrooms, and homes. This can begin healing for all of us who are hurt and shocked by this event. Picture books are a wonderful way to start these kinds of difficult conversations because picture books are comforting and nostalgic. Trust can be more easily established. Adults need picture books in times like these.

There is a lengthy list of words in the search engine on this PBT blog usually found at the bottom of the computer screen. Click on words such as violence, death, loss, racism, and hatred. Then you will be taken to picture books that I have determined to have potential for conversations on these topics. Choose according to age appropriateness and carefully consider issues of trust and places for deep listening before you start what I hope will be meaningful conversations in the wake of this horrible event.
Here are a few PBT Books you might want to consider and the date they were offered her on PBT:
Let There Be Peace on Earth             8/17/14
The Butter Battle Book                       3/4/15
The Goodbye Boat                               5/25/14
My fellow picture book bloggers on the Storypath Blog have written an excellent posting on how you might respond to this tragedy. I commend them on the writing of it and urge you to check it out. Here’s the link:

Waiting for Whales and Gardens Thanks to Kohl's

I Need to See a Whale
Now and then life gets in the way of your delights. I’ve not posted for a while because I promised myself that writing a post would be my reward only after I applied to numerous jobs, the kind that will pay me money. Today we both get my reward! It’s no surprise that I found just the perfect picture book to explain my absence thanks to, of all places, a Kohl’s department store display. More about that later. 
Picture Book: If You Want to See a Whale

Author: Julie Fogliano

Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

Summary: This delightful book is full of advice on how to look for a whale. “You will need a window and an ocean.” AND Don’t look at "the ship that is sailing and the flag that is flapping.” There is not enough time to do the things you may want to do like smell the roses or determine if the pelican is smiling because pelicans and roses can never be a whale. Be sure to keep both eyes on the sea and wait and wait and wait….

Hanna’s Comments: Among the many helpful suggestions when looking for a whale, two struck home with me this month as I focused on applying for jobs. Whale-watching, like job-hunting, takes “time for waiting and time for looking and time for wondering ‘is that a whale?’” Is that the right job? Also, “possible pirates (in the ship mentioned above) won’t help at all. Neither will watching movies or reading novels. There are many wonderful things I could be doing instead, but I just might miss that whale. The whale encounter at the end of the book is (whale!) worth the wait! Sorry! I hope my new job will be as intriguing and rewarding.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Roaring Brook Press, 2013

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 32 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press, Award Winner

Scripture Connections: Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33); no one who puts his hand on the plow should look back (Luke 9:62); Paul and Silas freed from jail (Acts 16:16-40); be sober-minded; be watchful (1 Peter: 5:8)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to children who are learning about Paul and Silas in jail. Here’s the connection: The folk song Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, popularized in the American Civil Rights Movement, is based on an old spiritual Hand on the Plow which is all about Paul and Silas being freed from prison. Here’s a Wikipedia link that explains: you want to hear a great modern version of Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, listen to one of my favorite Christian singers, Sara Groves. It’s on her Invisible Empires album.

Now about that Kohl’s display…

I’m pleased to tell you that if you have access to Kohl’s (on-line or a store) you have the opportunity to purchase 4 great picture books (hardbacks for $5 each!) while donating to local health and education initiatives. Kohl’s calls this their “cause merchandise.” What I call it is a treasure trove! The books are from one of my favorite illustrators, Erin E. Stead. Four cute plush animals based on characters from the books are also available for $5 each. Kohl’s will donate 100% of the net profit from these items toward local kid’s health and education initiatives. Here’s a link if you want to know more.

Two of these Erin Stead books are favorites so they are already in my A Picture Book a Day for a Year list. Both of these are the kinds of picture book you could give to any child, as well as an adult who is hurting or needs a laugh. Their potential for ministry is unending: (A Sick Day for Amos McGhee - PBT Day 9 on April 28, 2014 and Bear Has a Story to Tell – PBT Day 64 on June 11, 2014). The third book is featured above. Here are the details and ideas for use for the fourth book which I liked a lot!

Picture Book: and then it’s spring

Author: Julie Fogliano

Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

Summary: After a snowy winter, a boy and dog begin to plant a garden. Colors begin as browns. Then the two characters do the necessary work of planting, caring, and watching for their plans to come to fruition. Waiting, anticipation, hope, and patience are emphasized here. Finally, colors evolve from browns to wonderful greens.

Hanna’s Comments: This would be a particularly great book to read to children at the end of winter, but it would also serve well for a group who has been through a hard time or a long transition, adults or children. Connect the required patience when waiting for changes in this book with the changes you are anticipating in your group. Perhaps your faith community is hoping for a new leader or the completion of a building project. Then turn your conversation around and imagine how patient God must be while waiting for each of us to change. Emphasize God’s love, mercy, patience, and constant hope as we resist positive change.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Roaring Brook Press, 2012

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 32 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Audible

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press, Award Winner 

Scripture Connections: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3); I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Idea(s) for Application: Besides the ideas in the comments above, consider reading this book to a group who is doing some long-range planning. Anticipate the difficult waiting and the inevitable doubts. Emphasize the importance of your faith in God and in your ability to discern God’s good work toward your goals.