Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PBT Question # 2 to ask about any secular picture book:

Is there a sacred theme to the book? (Fruits of the Spirit, Light, Bread, Ritual, Creation, Righteousness, Ancestors, Justice, the Least…)

This is the easiest of the PBT questions to consider when approaching a picture book. Often the major and minor themes of picture books are concepts of social-emotional learning that are also considered aspects of an abundant spiritual or religious life. On this blog, I consider topics that directly connect with themes found in the Old Testament (Hebrew) Scriptures and New Testament Scriptures.

On each post of the Picture Book a Day for a Year list, you’ll see a section in the middle that lists many more PBT Topics than the blog site would allow me to offer for search labels. The blogsite’s search labels are the green words at the bottom of this screen. Click on a word there, and you’ll be taken to all the books I’ve connected to that word.

To demonstrate the abundance of themes that can be found in those lists, here are 6 biblical themes and 6 featured PBT books that connect to those themes (1 each for the first 6 letters of the alphabet):

Biblical Theme     PBT Book Title              Day             Date Featured
Adoption             Miss Maple’s Seeds         38                  5/27/14
Brokenness         Koko’s Kitten                   60                  6/18/14
Change                Fortunately                     135                 9/1/14   
Discovery           The Listening Walk        227                12/2/14
Enemies              Enemy Pie                       118                 8/15/14
Friendship         Bear and Bird                 199                11/4/14

Here’s a favorite illustration from Miss Maple’s Seeds (Day 38 on May 27, 2014) and Bear and Bird (Day 199 on November 4, 2014):

Have fun exploring with this large list of PBT search labels and enjoy the abundance of PBT books that are offered here for your good work and rich conversations. In a few days, I’ll discuss PBT Question # 3.
May your exploring yield many godly possibilities, Hanna

Sunday, April 26, 2015

PBT Question #1 to ask about any secular picture book:

Is God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?)

This question may expand understanding of the nature of God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit.

First, there are books with obvious allusions to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit such as the character of the tree in The Giving Tree (Day 68 on June 26, 2014), the mother in I Love You Stinky Face (Day 137 on September 3, 2014), or lightships in Lightship (day 246 December 21, 2014). This last example demonstrates that God can be found in non-human aspects of stories and in non-fiction books.

There are books where God is lurking in less obvious places. Try thinking in terms of what God represents for you, and see if those ideals are anywhere in the book.  For instance, in Pete’s a Pizza (Day 316 March 1, 2015), you have a silly book about a boy’s disappointment in not being able to play baseball. Within this story, Pete’s father lures Pete into a wonderfully playful distraction while Pete’s mother looks on. I believe God’s nature can be found in both parents because they represent wise and loving attention. More specifically, God looks on with compassion as we are disappointed by life’s circumstances. God lures us into a joyful, loving opportunity (Pete’s dad does this). We call this prevenient grace in the United Methodist Church. God inspires us (or Pete’s dad in this case) to lure others into joyful, loving opportunities. God sees us reap the benefits of such opportunities (Pete’s mom). Lastly, God rejoices when circumstances change and we are able to have our heart’s desire (Pete’s parents are pleased that he is eventually able to play baseball). This silly, delightful book has God all over it!

What I love about this first PBT question is that it can stretch your audience’s image of God in ways that may be very enlightening and/or comforting. I think of the book The Friend (Day 149 on September 15, 2014). Not only do you have a beautiful story that parallels Jesus’ tenderness, teaching, patience, and attention in the loving care of Bea for little Belle. You also have a dramatic situation in which Bea saves Belle. A glorious benefit here are the illustrations (see 2 below) that can break open your heart to a new way of imagining God’s saving grace.

The other 4 PBT questions offer easier ways to consider a book’s potential for your ministry, teaching, parenting, grandparenting, or bibliotherapy. If question # 1 doesn’t seem right for the book you want to use, check out my next blog post on question # 2 in a few days.

May your reading bring others joy, Hanna

Friday, April 24, 2015

PBT Questions to Ask about Any Picture Book

Not all picture books have the potential for use in ministry, teaching, or bibliotherapy, but many do. For instance, ABC books are not usually helpful and books that are especially girly will not be well received my many who are turned off by such books.

Below you’ll find a list of questions to help you approach a picture book that you think might have potential. For the next few posts, I’ll expand on each question and offer some examples of picture books I have already featured here at PBT.

Picture Book Theology (PBT) Questions to ask about any secular picture book:

1. Is God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?)

2. Is there a sacred theme to the book? (Fruits of the Spirit, Light, Bread, Ritual, Creation, Righteousness, Ancestors, Justice, the Least…)

3. Does the book remind you of scripture? (a Story, a Character, or a Verse) 

4. Does the book contain or encourage a spiritual practice? (Compassion, Generosity, Gratitude, Prayer, Praise, Hospitality, Peacemaking, Reconciliation…)

5. Does this book have the potential to positively affect the behavior or future of those who experience it? (teach important Social Skills such as The Great Commandment or inspire with a connection to a Resilient or Creative Bible Character)

Monday, April 20, 2015

“A Picture Book a Day for a Year” is accomplished!

You might be wondering what will happen next here at Picture Book Theology (PBT). This is what I know:

·         Because I wanted the 365 consecutive posts to be very consistent for your future use, I kept the same format each day. Now I get to be creative and have even more fun telling you about the possibilities of using picture books for ministry, teaching, and bibliotherapy.

·         I want to have more feedback and input from you. Please consider responding with your ideas, successful use of picture books, questions, etc. Let’s have some PBT community conversation!

·         There’s no way I can stop reading picture books so I will continue to post about wonderful books you might not know, but the format will be more varied including author features, theme based book lists, and blog posts written by guests.

·         I will not be posting every day. My family has been so patient and supportive over the past 365 days. I’m very thankful for their encouragement and understanding, but I can’t keep up this pace.  

·         God continues to want me on this journey with you.

·         I hope you’ll look for another post in a few days.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 365!!!!!!!!!!

Picture Book: Big and Small, Room for All

Author: Jo Ellen Bogart

Illustrator: Gillian Newland

Summary: The first double page spread of this book has a little girl in a tree. The words read, “Big and Small, Big and Small.” Then a visual jump is made to the vast universe. “Room for all, Big and small.” With each page, a tighter view occurs. First the big sky (universe) and small sun, then the big sun and small Earth, and so on until you read, “What is smaller than a flea? A world of things too small to see.”  

Hanna’s Comments: This book captures my values in a nutshell. I believe every element of this universe is a beloved creation of our loving God. Also, here the mystery of the Divine is captured in the big sky and even in the tiniest creatures. My church’s vision statement is “An Open Place for All to Worship, Grow, and Serve.” This big statement is an invitation to anyone who happens to walk in our doors, no matter how small they are feeling. We are a big church, with a big steeple, and big stained-glass windows. But we know that small things matter, a warm greeting for a visitor, a phone call when someone is missed, or a touch when a beloved friend is hurting. I love my church because our big hearts for our much bigger God are expressed in the small ways we are the hands and feet of Christ to others on a small corner of this world in downtown Birmingham, AL, USA, Earth….

I have now demonstrated for you 365 times that big ideas can be found in even small picture books. The two extremes represented in this picture book ground my faith in a way that is comforting and has kept me writing these blog posts for you for 365 consecutive days, a big goal that I have managed, with God’s help, to accomplish, one small step (day) at a time. Praise God!

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Tundra Books, 2009

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: Post 2K

PBT Topics this Book connects with: abundance/bounty, adoration, animals, attentiveness/observation/seeing, awe, babies/children, beauty, belonging, blessings, creation, diversity, Earth/world, the environment/nature, God’s care/providence, heaven/sky, life, moon/space/stars/sun, mystery, reverence, variety, wonder

Scripture Connections: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers… who are we that you are mindful of us? (Psalm 8:3-4)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children, youth, or adults who are wanting to consider both the enormity and detail of God’s creation and the way in which God is in the big picture and the details.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 364

Dynamic Duo: Book 2
Picture Book: The Boy Who Changed the World     

Author: Andy Andrews

Illustrator: Philip Hurst

Summary: Nobel laureate, Norman Borlaug, saved the lives of more than two billion people when he developed seeds that grew into super plants that were more hearty and potent. His fascination with agriculture began when he was a young boy in Iowa. In reverse chronology, three other individuals are highlighted here because their influences greatly affected Borlaug’s work. Henry Wallace was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who asked Borlaug to do his research with seeds. George Washington Carver, well known plant pioneer, was a student of Henry Wallace’s father. While in school, Carver, roamed the fields and forests of Iowa with young Henry, teaching him about plants. Moses Carver, the adoptive father to the famous scientist, saved young George from the raid in which George’s biological parents were killed. The book ends by explaining the Butterfly Effect.

Hanna’s Comments: My summary above is somewhat dry and confusing. In contrast, the author deftly connects these 4 men in a way that makes the point repeatedly that daily choices can make a positive difference in the world, even the choices that kids make. Note that this book has been published with 2 titles: The Boy Who… and The Kid Who….  This picture book is based on the author’s popular book for adults, The Butterfly Effect.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010

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

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet, I could find no video of this book. On, there is a quick promo about the book done by the author. You will also find a short video about 7 children who changed the world. Here’s that link:  

PBT Category: Biography, Non-fiction, Post 2K

PBT Topics this Book connects with: abilities, America, children, beginnings/morning, bonds/connections, call/calling/vocation, choices/decision, communication, consequences/punishment, creation, dependence/interdependence, discovery/invention, eggs/seeds, encouragement, the environment/nature, feasting/food/hunger/nutrition, gardening/planting/pruning/sowing, gifts/talents, harvest, heroes, labor/work, leadership/servant leadership, legacies, mentors/teachers, nurturing, power, relationships, wisdom

Scripture Connections: Be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may discern the will of God (Romans 12:2b); having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:6); whatever is true, whatever is honorable… think on these things (Philippians 4:8-9); encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family who are learning about how their choices can influence the world in positive ways. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 363

Dynamic Duo: Book 1
Picture Book: Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah 

Author: Laurie Anne Thomson

Illustrator: Sean Qualls

Summary: Emmanuel, born in Ghana with only one fully developed leg, was not cast out as tradition would have it. Instead his mother, Comfort, named him “God is with Us” and told him he must do common tasks on his own. He learned to do what typical African boys do, like climb trees and fetch water. He earned money for the family by shining shoes. Comfort carried Emmanuel the two miles to school until she could carry him no longer; then he hopped to and from school. At school, he wanted to play soccer (“football” in Africa), but the boys wouldn’t let him so he saved his money, purchased a real ball, took it to school, and required them to let him play. When his mother became ill, Emmanuel went to the city to work to support his family. He worked at a food stand, but he continually dealt with prejudice. Before his mother died, she encouraged him to “never beg and never give up”. He decided to honor her by demonstrating to his country that “being disabled does not mean being unable.” The Challenged Athletes Foundation in California sent him a bicycle, helmet, shorts, socks, and gloves. After training, going door to door for support, and receiving a royal blessing from the king, he tied his handicapped leg to the bike frame and pedaled with the other leg nearly 400 miles in 10 days! When he stopped to rest, he spoke about the unfair plight of disabled people. As he pedaled, he wore the colors of his country and the words, “The Pozo” which means “The Disabled Person.” He gained attention from his fellow citizens, both disabled and able-bodied, and people from around the world, becoming a national and international hero who had changed the world.

Hanna’s Comments: This is the first in a PBT Dynamic Duo about heroes who have changed the world. In this book you’ll find a Note from the Author and information about Emmanuel’s charitable organization. Appropriately, religious lessons for children often focus on characters from scripture. It is my position that children will benefit greatly from lessons about contemporary heroes as well, especially if those heroes have faith-based reasons for their significant work. In today’s and tomorrow’s book, children can hear how the seeds of these changes began in childhood. Let these and other stories of contemporary heroes inspire the children in your family of faith to make positive changes in the world.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Random House, 2015

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

# of Pages: 40 

Available in Spanish? Not at present 

Formats other than Book: Tablet, There are several videos about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah on including a trailer for the feature length film that shares the title of this picture book. 

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press, Biography, Non-fiction  

PBT Topics this Book connects with:  abilities, acceptance, action, adaptation/assimilation, Africa, aspiration/dreams, bravery/courage, challenges, commitment, confidence, difficulties, disabilities/handicaps/limitations, heroes, journeys/migrations/pilgrimages/quests, labor/work, leadership/servant leadership, mission, mothers, parents/parental love, participation, perseverance, power, steadfastness, strength/strength in God, underdogs, wisdom

Scripture Connections: We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character… (Romans 5:3-4); count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2); blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial (James 1:12)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family to inspire them to make positive changes in the world. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 362

Picture Book: Me and Dog

Author: Gene Weingarten

Illustrator: Eric Shansby

Summary: Sid is just an ordinary kid with an ordinary dog, Murphy, who loves him, perhaps too much. Sid suspects that Murphy believes him to be the absolute ruler of the world. When things go badly, Murphy thinks it must be his fault. Happy times mean Murphy is being good. Sid declares,” It isn’t true! The world is large. And I’m a kid. I’m not in charge!” The fact that Murphy so often begs is also bothersome to Sid because he knows he gives Murphy everything he needs. Sid wonders if Murphy would be so good if he understood that Sid is not in charge of everything. Would he be more fearful? Less friendly or cheerful? Sid realizes things are pretty right the way they are so he pleads, “Let’s not tell him… ‘cause I love him and he loves me.”

Hanna’s Comments: Besides the thought-provoking questions that this picture book encourages, its clever rhymed verse and illustrations are extraordinary! Eventually guide your audience to think beyond these characters to human relationships with God and approaches to prayer. How do your listeners respond to God when bad things or good things happen? Notice the conclusion is about a loving relationship. Let love be the framework for the big questions and personal examples. Don’t feel as if you must have all the answers. Children are more comfortable with mystery than you may suspect. The points here are to enjoy this story, linger on the privilege of being loved by pets, and ask the big questions such as those about human relationships with God and the purposes of prayer.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Simon and Schuster, 2014

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

# of Pages: 48

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press  

PBT Topics this Book connects with: animals, awe, blessings, companionship, consequences/punishment, dependence/interdependence, God’s nature, goodness, grace, guilt, humanity, idolatry, love, manna, perspective, pets, pleasing God/the Shema, prayer, questions/questioning, relationships, righteousness, sin, truth

Scripture Connections: Love the Lord your God… (Deuteronomy 6:5 & Luke 10:27); love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4); let all you do be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14);

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children when talking about issues of who or what we worship, how we view God in the context of good and bad happenings, or various approaches to prayer.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 361

Picture Book: A Day’s Work

Author: Eve Bunting

Illustrator: Ronald Himler

Summary: Francisco is a young boy whose grandfather has just arrived from Mexico and speaks no English. It’s Saturday, so grandson and grandfather go to be day laborers. When a man needs one laborer to do some gardening, Francisco convinces him to take them both and tells him that his grandfather is an experienced gardener which is not true. They are given brief instructions on-site to weed a large area, being sure to pull the roots. Then they are left alone. At the end of the day, the employer arrives and is furious that they have pulled the wrong plants. When the grandfather realizes that Francisco lied, he says they will return the next day for free to plant the correct plants. When offered partial payment, the grandfather refuses, saying they will take payment when the job is done. The employer is impressed by the grandfather’s work ethic and says he will hire him again and teach him gardening. Francisco is relieved that more money will be coming into their home.   

Hanna’s Comments: There are several aspects of this story that I think are particularly valuable. One is the context of day laboring which is a very real facet of many cultures that remains hidden to most children. Francisco’s love and pride in his grandfather and his desire to be a working man himself are poignant and realistic. Lastly, there is a struggle for basic needs that is an underlying theme here. Francisco is hoping that they will make enough to have meat for dinner and his grandfather’s presence will make a significant difference in his family’s income. You might want to also consider with your listeners the symbolic meaning of the concept of roots in this story and how it connects with religious values.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Clarion Books, 1994

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

# of Pages: 32

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio

PBT Category: Pre 2K 

PBT Topics this Book connects with: affirmation, aliens/immigrants/refugees/strangers, ancestors/patriarchs & matriarchs, babies/children, commitment, communication, consequences/punishment, dependence/interdependence, deception/dishonesty/lies, ethics, family, gardening/planting/pruning/sowing, goodness, grace, grandparents, labor/work, language/literacy/reading, legacies, Mexico, North America, partners/teamwork, poverty, pride, sin, truth  

Scripture Connections: The story of Ruth and Naomi (the book of Ruth); commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3); train children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6); blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…like a tree that sends out roots by the stream… (Jeremiah 17-7-8); you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend (Ephesians 3:17); walk in Christ, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith as you were taught (Colossians 2:6-7); do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9); work heartily, as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about integrity in poverty or hard labor, the commandment to not lie, and/or how values are passed on from generation to generation. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 360

Picture Book: Over There

Author & Illustrator: Steve Pilcher 

Summary: Shredder, a tiny shrew, is happy in his forest home. It’s cozy and food is aplenty, but there’s no one to talk to or sing with him. He wonders if there might be something more, something better. He sees a shiny object in the distance and decides it might provide the answer. Despite his fears, his curiosity leads him to set off and explore. His point of view changes as the sky gets bigger and the grass gets taller. When he reaches a stream he must cross, he finds the shiny object there. It is a silver boat (aluminum foil bowl) which he expects will serve him nicely as his journey continues, but it quickly capsizes. A dark furry mole fishes him out of the water and introduces himself as Nosey, a professional digger. Nosey invites Shredder to dig. They dig together until a shadow falls over them. Together they quickly hide until it is gone and decide to find Shredder’s home. Shredder, wearing red and blue, says to Nosey, who is wearing purple, “Did you know that red and blue make purple?” At this question, Nosey responds that purple is his favorite color. Everything did seem better.

Hanna’s Comments: This book is part of a series of books that highlight the artists of Pixar Animation Studios, makers of movies like Finding Nemo and Up. The illustrations are luscious! The story is poignant and has potential for much discussion about the benefits of considering the possibility of more, exploring beyond your ordinary, and being in community. Both children and adults would enjoy this book. Consider starting with the question, “Why did Shredder want someone to sing with him?”

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Disney Press, 2014

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

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press

PBT Topics this Book connects with: adventure, attentiveness/observation/seeing, beginnings/morning, belonging, bonds/connections, choir/music/singing/songs, community, companionship, discovery/invention, emotions/feelings, exploration, found, friends/friendship, God’s will, hiding/isolation, home, hope, journeys/migrations/pilgrimages/quests, loneliness, openness, presence, questioning/questions, searching

Scripture Connections: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil… (Ecclesiastes 4:9); where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18:20)  

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about the benefits of being in community. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 359

Picture Book: Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen 

Author & Illustrator: DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan 

Summary: On those days when his mother works, a young nephew is always pleased to be picked up from school by his Uncle Willie who works at a soup kitchen. The young boy has lots of questions about the soup kitchen so on a day off from school, the two go to the soup kitchen together. Uncle Willie introduces his nephew to the soup kitchen volunteers including the cat Underfoot. The young boy helps prepare the fruit salad. He is amazed by the size of the appliances and how much it is like his school cafeteria. He learns that, “in the soup kitchen you only have to be hungry,” and “there’s always a little bit more.” Uncle Willie explains the difference between being homeless and hungry. The boy gets more comfortable with the strangers, even the Can Man, who he has seen around town collecting cans. He begins to understand the joy his uncle feels when so many hungry people are fed.   

Hanna’s Comments: Children can become quite comfortable as a part of a team serving those in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Much of their initial anxiety can be prevented through anticipating and answering their questions. This book is a great resource for such a conversation. Arm your children with information and they will be more ready to engage and help. Also, give them your faith-based reasons for serving. Because of the age of this book, I suggest you look on the internet for some up-dated statistics and names of soup kitchens in your city to replace the information found in the section titled About Soup Kitchens which is at the beginning of the book.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Morrow Junior Books, 1991

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: Pre @K

PBT Topics this Book connects with: action, aliens/immigrants/refugees/strangers, blessings, bonds/connections, brokenness, caring/tending, community, dependence/interdependence, diversity, family, feasting/food/hunger/nutrition, goodness, helping, heroes, hospitality, image of God, joy, kindness, labor/work, leadership/servant leadership, manna, mentors/teachers, neighborhood, partners/teamwork, passion, poverty, servant/service/serving, sharing, social justice, at table

Scripture Connections: Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17); …they all ate and were satisfied (Matthew 14:20); just as you did it to the least of these in my family you did it to me (Matthew 25); give to the needy (Luke 12:33); by working hard in this way we must help the weak (Acts 20:35)  

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to your family or a group of children before taking them to a soup kitchen so that they may understand better the plight of the poor and the response the Lord encourages in us.