Monday, March 28, 2016

Brave Girls

Illustration here and below from Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube
Taking a break from the PBT series on theological questions for young children, I’m offering a couple of picture books about bravery, one for young children and one for older children. Both have young girls as protagonists which is becoming more common in children’s literature.
The Holy Scriptures have loads of examples of humans being brave in difficult circumstances, but they are usually male and adult. Pairing one of these Bible stories with one of these two books invites all to hear stories of bravery that they can relate to with real possibilities.
Illustration from Brave Irene by William Steig
My favorite Bible verse about bravery is not a story. It’s Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. I know this verse by heart because of a wonderful VBS (Vacation Bible School) song I taught when my children were little. Also, it has offered me comfort in times of fear, and I hope it will offer my children the same since they know the verse thanks to the song. The first book I offer is for young children.

Each time she gets off the school bus and greets her Papa, Hannah is asked if she wants to pet Sugar, a peer’s dog, and each time she says, “No, thank you.”
When Sugar goes missing, the other children are very upset. Hannah promises to help look for the dog although she doesn’t. What she does do is empathize with Sugar. 
Hannah imagines how scary and sad it would be if she was lost and hungry. That night, when Sugar has still not been found, Hannah hears a whimpering from outside her house.
She finds Sugar, whose leash is tangled in some bushes. The next sentence is crucial for a PBT lesson. “Hannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.” She reaches for Sugar with trembling hands. Sugar rubs her hand, glad to have been found. All are relieved and Hannah’s father is proud of her.
As the book ends, Hannah is not only petting, but lovingly hugging Sugar at the school bus stop. Hannah has been transformed!
In a PBT lesson, you could focus on several aspects of this book. Hannah’s empathy, a foundational biblical instruction, sensitizes her to hear Sugar’s whimpering. After closing her eyes (prayer) and taking a deep breath (Holy Spirit as strengthening breath), Hannah has the courage she needs to reach out to Sugar. Hannah’s father’s pride could allude to God’s pride when we do the hard tasks and rely on God for strength. 
Lastly, Hannah is transformed; her life is more abundant because of her new relationship with Sugar. 
Picture Book: Hannah and Sugar
Author & Illustrator: Kate Berube
Original Publisher & Date: Abrams Books, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

The next book is an old-fashioned story from a classic children’s author. Here’s a list of others of his books I’ve featured here at PBT:
Pete’s a Pizza – 3/1/15
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – 6/12/14
Amos & Boris – 12/29/14

Irene’s mother is a dressmaker who is finishing a gown for the Duchess to wear to the ball, but the dressmaker is feeling ill. The ball is tonight! Irene offers to take the gown despite the snow and distance. Her mother is reluctant to allow it, but Irene is determined. She places the gown in a big box and wraps herself up in lots of warm clothes.
The snow is deep and the wind is cold and fierce so that the box is very awkward to hold. Eventually the gown is blown out of the box and disappears.
Irene continues, but she’s distraught. She twists her ankle and falls into deep snow. Nevertheless, she perseveres and still holds on to the box so that she can explain to the duchess.
Irene ingeniously uses the box as a sled to carry her that last leg of the trip to the Duchess’ door. There, pressed against a nearby tree, she finds the gown, places it in the box, and rings the doorbell.
Irene is greeted with cheering and joyful admiration. She’s invited to spend the night and attend the ball where the Duchess looks beautiful and Irene gets to dance with men who hold her so that her feet float above the floor.
The next morning, Irene is returned to her mother along with a doctor who brings treats from the Duchess including a note declaring that Irene is a brave and loving person. Her mother knows this is true and is so proud of Irene for her courage and devotion.
Although this is a more complex story than Hannah & Sugar, it’s theme is the same: bravery born out of loyalty and love for others, a theme that could be easily connected to many stories of courage found in our Holy Scriptures.

Picture Book: Brave Irene
Author & Illustrator: William Steig
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Friday, March 25, 2016

PBT Blog Series: Theological Statements for Young Children #5

Illustration from When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
The 5th PBT theological statement for young children is: Feelings are not good or bad. What matters is how you act on your feelings.
For this post I’m offering lots of books for young children about feelings. Because there are so many, I’ll not go into detail about each book. Instead I’ll tell you how they are unique or particularly beneficial for young children to experience. Also, I might suggest a way to use the book.
Illustration from When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
Then I’ll list the PBT books that I have already posted on this blog. My favorites of all are the 2 Molly Bang books which I posted about earlier this year on February 12, 2016. The two illustrations above and the one below give you a little taste of the quality of these books. A range of emotions are dealt with here, not just anger as the title of the first one might indicate. 
Being able to identify and put labels on feelings is a crucial first step for children (and adults!) to understand them. Then talk about appropriate ways and inappropriate ways to express their feelings. Everyone benefits when children (and adults!) can do this and then learn to work through their feelings appropriately. 
The first PBT book I offer is part of a series called The Way I Feel Books. There is a Note to Parents at the beginning and the multiple situations are very young child oriented. Besides this book in the series, the titles I found are listed next. There are lots of PBT possibilities in this series! All have the same initial author.
When I Feel Sad
When I Feel Jealous
When I Feel Worried
When I Feel Scared
When I Miss You
When I Feel Good about Myself
When I Care about Others
Picture Book: When I Feel Angry
Author: Cornelia Maude Spelman
Illustrator: Nancy Cote
Original Publisher & Date: Whitman & Co., 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

The next offering is a new book that’s great for encouraging adults to tell children that they too struggle with controlling their actions when they have strong feelings. This book’s text and illustrations use lots of fun similes such as “stubborn as a mule” or “clumsy as an ox” and emphasize that everyone (even adults!) feels these ways sometimes.
Picture Book: Wild Feelings
Author & Illustrator: David Milgrim
Original Publisher & Date: Holt & Co., 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis writes a wonderful selection of books that children really enjoy. On 12/4/14 I featured on PBT Is There Really a Human Race? Remember to look up earlier PBT posts by going to the Archive files on the right side bar. Click on the year and month. Then use the tabs at the bottom to go to newer posts or older posts. I have over 400 books on this blog for your benefit!

Curtis’ book about feelings has a girl’s point of view so some boys may not appreciate it. Girls will absolutely love it though! Cornell’s illustrations are very fun and full of details.
Picture Book: Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day
Author: Jamie Lee Curtis
Illustrator: Laura Cornell
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 1998
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Not at present

Several times here at PBT, I’ve mentioned Todd Parr’s brightly colored and simply perfect books for young children. Note that there is a board book version of this feelings book and it has a set of corresponding Feelings Flashcards that you can purchase on Amazon.
Picture Book: The Feelings Book
Author & Illustrator: Todd Parr
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & Co. 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

This next book is quite old but not dated. It has lots of detailed illustrations and small text. You may want to read this book over a series of experiences and with a small number of children to allow them to see the illustrations and talk with you about their own feelings and experiences. Aliki (Aliki Brandenberg) has several other great books for young children including one on manners, one on growing, and one on hands. Her illustrations are often the jewels of her books.
Picture Book: Feelings
Author & Illustrator: Aliki
Original Publisher & Date: William Morrow & Co., 1984
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Not at present

The next feelings book offers wonderful and large illustrations over a series of situations and feelings with different children. There’s a companion book by another author but still illustrated by Janan Cain called The Way I Act.
Picture Book: The Way I Feel
Author & Illustrator: Janan Cain
Original Publisher & Date: Parenting Press, 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Not at present

This book began as lyrics to a song written by award winning children’s recording artist, Laurie Berkner. My version has a CD inside the book. The illustrations are fun, and it’s about accepting all sorts of feelings. The score and text to 4 verses are in the back of the book.
Picture Book: The Story of My Feelings
Author: Laurie Berkner  
Illustrator: Caroline Jayne Church
Original Publisher & Date: Orchard Books, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Not at present

The last two books are both by Mo Willems, a favorite picture book author and illustrator. I offer one from each of his two popular series for young children. His books are more about the characters and plot than the teaching of feelings so you’ll have to offer your own instruction in the context of the characters’ feelings. Be sure to point out all characters’ feelings and note how they change as plots develop. The first comes in a board book version.
Picture Book: The Pigeon Has Feelings Too!
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2005
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Picture Book: My Friend is Sad
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Other PBT books that connect with links to posts:
When Sophie Gets Angry… - 6/3/14
When Sophie’s Feelings… - 2/12/16        
Bear Has a Story to Tell - 6/22/14
Words are Not for Hurting - 2/16/15

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PBT Blog Series: Theological Statements for Young Children #4

Illustration from Blackout by John Rocco

So much of our faith is about relationships, certainly our relationship with God, but also our relationships with others. Family and community are vital for joy, for personal meaning, and for having positive effects in the world. If our faith doesn't motivate us to feel joy and belonging, do good work, and contribute, what meaning does faith have? All of these aspects of faith are enhanced by relationships. 
Illustration from My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo & Mike Wohnouka

Building on this idea and PBT's 3rd theological statement for young children (God gave you a great body to do great things.), I offer the 4th statement: God loves it when we do great things together. 
Illustration from Stone Soup by Jon Muth

This statement encompasses aspects of the Body of Christ, a Christian ideal proposed by Paul, a New Testament writer. He wrote in several of his letters that we are one body in Christ, and through this unity, we build up love for one another and the world. Christianity, and I suspect all faiths, are enhanced by cooperation, collaboration, and collective contributions of time, energy, gifts, and assets.  
Illustration from My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo & Mike Wohnouka

This concept is easily understood by children because their dependence requires them to always be in community. The first PBT book I offer today, demonstrates the joy of living together and relying on others. 
This beautiful and instructive book begins by explaining that in Swahili Bibi means Grandmother and Tembo means elephant. It goes on to explain that "elephants communicate across vast distances with a long, low rumble."
Tembo, a young elephant, hears the rumbling of her grandmother who is signaling all the herd to follow her toward a place where she remembers water. 
Tembo gets distracted and separated from the line of elephants, but each time she is gently brought back to the line and told to come along because Bibi remembers the way to wet.
When they arrive at a vast sandy puddle, Tembo, alongside Bibi, reaches her trunk into the mud and stirs. A muddy puddle forms and grows large enough to wet and cool the elephants. Tembo dreams of being the Bibi someday. 
There is an Author’s Note in the back that gives some more context. Also, this author has a series of similar books that celebrate family relationships in the context of wild animals.  
Just Like My Papa
Little Loon and Papa
Stay Close to Mama
Picture Book: My Bibi Always Remembers
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: Mike Wohnoutka
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

The second PBT offering today demonstrates both the turmoil of working against one another and the relief when competition ends and all work (and live) together. 
Rabbit and owl live happily in houses very close to one another. Rabbit works in his garden; owl enjoys his view of the forest. When Rabbit's garden gets too tall for owl to see the forest, owl complains, but Rabbit has to grow his food. 
Rather than collaborating on a solution, Owl begins building his house taller. Rabbit gets mad and does the same, placing some of his plants on the roof of his house. Extreme building ensues. 
Their pride and competitive spirit result in the loss of their friendship. Eventually the houses are so high that Rabbit can't bring water so far up for his roof plants and owl can't see the forest.  
The two extremely tall houses get blown down in a high wind. Left with little, they realize that "alone they had nothing, but together they had all they needed to build one small house."
Picture Book: Too Tall Houses
Author & Illustrator:  Gianna Marino
Original Publisher & Date: Viking, 2012  
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Other PBT books that connect with links to posts:
One Family - 1/22/16 
The Very Lonely Firefly - 6/8/14
Bear and Bird - 11/4/14                                    
Blackout - 7/11/14
One Love - 6/16/14     
Bear Feels Sick - 6/4/14
A Little Bit of Love - 5/12/14
You and Me Together - 10/18/14
Tulip Loves Rex - 2/14/15     
I Love Hugs - 12/12/14
Stone Soup - 4/23/14
Going Places - 3/14/16
Think Big - 3/14/16

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stories as Gifts

I believe that God, as the Great Creator, places in each of us a potential for creativity. It is an aspect of the Image of God we read about in Genesis 1. With this potential is a desire to create, skilled artistry, and satisfaction when we do so or others do and we are the beneficiary. These desires come in all sorts of forms. 
Here I celebrate the gift of story, received, inspired, heard, spoken, written, and artfully demonstrated. Just look at the variety of illustrations in these 3 PBT books!
Some of us have been gifted with the ability to write or tell good stories. Certainly the scribes of the Old & New Testaments had these gifts. Their generosity benefits us to this day. 
Writing and telling are two demonstrations of God’s image in us. Our Great Creator delights in our creating in this way.
Some of us have been gifted with the ability to match story to reader. I hope this blog demonstrates that gift in me. Perhaps you know Bible teachers or passionate librarians that gift you in this way. Our Great Creator delights in our connecting stories to the people who need to hear them.
Then there are the listeners. My husband is one of these. He can talk with anyone and manages to ask just the right questions so that stories are told and connections are made. These story encouragers are not determined to tell their own stories so much as to hear others'. Our Creator God delights in our willingness to listen to others. Hearing their stories can offer affirmation and healing to both the teller and the listener. You know ministers and small group facilitators who can do this well. 
In all of these creative tasks, there is generous giving of stories. Here I offer 3 books that demonstrate each of these inclinations. These books contrast well. 
In the first you have a young child who is confident and enthusiastic about the stories he can write and share. 
In the second, you have a bit of a misfit who hides behind her books and has difficulty sharing them. It is only near the end of her life that she realizes that her stories are to be shared so that others can be transformed.
In the third PBT offering, you have one of my favorites. I posted about this picture book initially on June 22, 2014. Here it is in listening to and meeting the needs of others, that Bear's need to tell a story is satisfied and he can say goodbye for the winter.
Use these picture books in your ministry, teaching, or therapy practice to emphasize the importance of sharing stories - our own or someone else’s -  sacred or secular. Stories make connections, transform, teach, and delight. God wants us to engage in all of these creative tasks for the good of God’s kindom and the betterment of God’s world.

On the first page of this book Rufus decides that he isn’t going to have the traditional lemonade stand. Instead he’s going to have a story stand. 
Soon after setting up his station, potential customers come around. Rufus barters stories for special items that his friends bring him from their adventures. 
A sea shell is traded for a story about fish in the ocean. A new kitten is given to Rufus so he in turn gives a story called The Wallet and the Cat. Each time the children return for their stories, they sit down and read them immediately. 
The last story is presented as a birthday gift to Rufus little sister. As he reads it to her, all the children listen.
Picture Book: Rufus the Writer
Author: Elizabeth Bram
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Original Publisher & Date: Schwartz & Wade, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

In clever rhymed verse, the story of Elizabeth Brown - book lover extraordinaire, is told. Her passion for books is told not just through the words, but the captivating illustrations as well. 
Near the end of her life, when her house is so full that she cannot bring in another book, she goes to her town's courthouse and makes a donation: 
"I, E. Brown, give to the town all that was ever mine."
Picture Book: The Library
Author: Sarah Stewart
Illustrator: David Small
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1995
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: audio cassette and dvd

As for Bear and his listening skills, his humility and devotion to his animal friends allows him to meet their needs rather than his need to tell a story. This is so hard! Yet we all know how healing it can be to be. And we see how Bear misses his friends when they are gone for the winter. 
When they return, they are finally ready to listen to Bear, but he's forgotten it. Instead, he begins a new story about how Bear had a story to tell. Let Bear inspire you to do more listening and less telling. That too is generous and can lead to relationships being transformed, particularly when vulnerability is present.
Picture Book: Bear Has a Story to Tell
Author: Philip K. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up
Formats other than Book: Audible