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 (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 Abraham’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 offered here in this PBT post.

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Your_Eyes_on_the_PrizeIf 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. www.kohls.com/Kids

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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Finding a Happy Home at the Altar of the Lord

Picture Book: Cathedral Mouse

Author & Illustrator: Kay Chorao

Summary: After escaping a pet store and being chased from a meat market, Mouse scampers into a nearby cathedral. He is at first afraid of the odd sounds and strange sights of the unique space. As he begins to explore the vast and beautiful rooms, he hopes to make it his new home, but he meets hostile resident mice who don’t invite him into their community. He is determined to stay however. He especially enjoys the light from the stained-glass windows and a friendship with the stone carver who creates a special place for him and declares him to be Cathedral Mouse. Mouse has found a home.

Hanna’s Comments: Whether or not your place of worship is a cathedral, a house church, or a store front, your children can benefit from the reading of this beautiful picture book. Certainly Mouse is intrigued and wooed by the beauty of this cathedral, but it is the hospitality and friendship of the stone carver who encourages him to stay despite the resistance of the resident mice. Do you know anyone in your family of faith who is resistant to newcomers? Perhaps they are upset when visitors sit in “their seat” at worship. This book is appropriate for adults in your faith family too for it invites us all to consider the perspective of strangers who wander into our midst, sometimes running from and carrying human fears and hopes for community. The hospitality and encouragement of the stone carver is what God wants us to offer to strangers.   

Another important emphasis you can give when presenting this book is in talking about the importance of a family of faith that feels at home. Connect positive aspects of home to your family of faith and encourage your listeners to have a faith home all their lives. The first verses of Psalm 84 (see below) describe this beautifully.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: E. P. Dutton, 1988

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

# of Pages: 32 

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Pre 2K

Scripture Connections: Treat the stranger who sojourns with you as a native among you (Leviticus 19:34); even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself …Happy are those who live in your house (Psalm 84:3-4a); do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2); show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9) 

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or adults when presenting a program on the importance of finding a home in a family of faith or a lesson on the spiritual practice of hospitality.