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.