Saturday, April 30, 2016

Books by Author Max Lucado

Today’s PBT offering is a sampling (7) of Max Lucado’s picture books. Lucado is an American Christian theologian and minister whose numerous books for children and adults have been on bestseller lists for decades. Many can be found in various media devises and formats such as tablets, video and audio.

Picture Book: The Boy and the Ocean
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: T. Lively Fluharty
Summary: This story centers around a family with a young boy while on a beach vacation. As they explore the vast beauty that surrounds them, the boy is inspired by the beauty and his discoveries. His parents offer him theological teachings about the glory of creation and how it expresses our Creator’s unmatched love. Here’s an example of one of these teachings:
"God’s love is like the ocean, my little boy," she said.
"It’s always here.
It’s always deep.
It never ends.
God’s love is special."
Hanna’s Comments: The beauty of Fluharty’s illustrations are one of the strengths of this book. Because this is a large book, sharing it with a group would work well. Be sure to connect the beauty of this world to the beauty of the world that is present to your audience.
Idea(s) for Application: Consider taking this book on a family vacation (beach or otherwise) to read to a child or grandchild before bedtime. You could also use this book with a group of adults to help them better understand contemplative prayer.
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Picture Book: You Are Special
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Sergio Marinez
Summary: Punchinello is one of the small wooden creatures (Wemmicks) who spend their time either sticking each other with gold stars or gray dots depending on how beautiful or talented that Wemmick is deemed to be. Punchinello gets only gray dots for he can do little and has many scratches. He is amazed by a new friend, Lucia, who wants neither stars nor marks. She suggests Punchinello befriend Eli, the Woodcarver, who tells Punchinello that what other Wemmicks think doesn’t matter; only what the woodcarver (Creator) thinks matters. The Woodcarver thinks Punchinello is “pretty special” simply because “your mine.” He goes on to explain that the stickers only stick if they matter to you.
Hanna’s Comments: Lucado has several picture books featuring the world of Wemmicks and Eli the Woodcarver. This is the first in the series. This allegorical world offers children another context to explore God’s love and human relationships.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in a homeschool or private school setting who are learning about basic literary concepts such as symbolism and allegory. In these settings you can share your faith. 
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 1997
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

Picture Book: The Oak Inside the Acorn
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: George Angelini
Summary: An acorn asks questions of his mother tree regarding his purpose. She tells him that within you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be. Later he is planted and becomes a large oak tree. Big Oak wonders what he is meant to do since he is the tallest and widest tree. He discovers that he is meant to provide the limbs for a young girl to swing. Then he watches her grow and change to become the person God made her to be.
Hanna’s Comments: I really like this metaphor that Lucado cleverly uses to encourage children (and adults) to consider and claim that within all of us there is a capacity to become what God intends. I do believe this issue has to be handled carefully though. We don’t want folks to see God’s intentions as simple or singular. Instead, I believe that God encourages our capacities no matter the circumstances we find ourselves. I believe vocation is about loving orientation, generous practices, and self-knowledge of our gifts. Vocation is not a guessing game with only one answer that pleases God. This book offers that kind of open possibility for the girl character.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or teens who are approaching or in the midst of confirmation or post high school experiences.
Original Publisher & Date: Thomas Nelson, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up

Picture Book: All You Ever Need
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Douglas Klauba
Summary: This story is also an allegory, but at its center is a Jesus figure in addition to a God figure. Tobias, the Watermaster, has a wellspring in the desert which he shares with all. His son, Julian, helps people access the water. When Tobias and Julian leave the well, they put Elzevir in charge. Elzevir did as directed until he noticed the people were not grateful so he decided to give water only to those who were grateful. Then he required that they be nice to neighbors and animals. As Elzevir found more fault with the people, the villagers grew sad and angry. Eventually a stranger comes who reveals himself to be the adult Julian who has come to share his Father’s water with all. The people want revenge, but Julian says, “My father’s water is a gift to all. He instructs everyone, ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’
Hanna’s Comments: This book can be quite powerful if you help your audience translate its implications into modern applications. Notice here that neither confession nor a statement of belief is necessary to receive the water.  
Idea(s) for Application: This book would be a great tool for delving into social justice issues with youth and adult groups.
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up 

There is a version of this book with the focus on a young boy.
Picture Book: Just in Case You Ever Wonder
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Toni Goffe
Summary: At the beginning of this book, a mother says to her daughter that “God made you like no one else” and “God sent you to just the right family.” As the girl grows, her father continues the words of affirmation and comfort by promising that “I’ll always be there for you.” The book ends with positive descriptions of heaven. 
Hanna’s Comments: This book offers an opportunity for parents who struggle with how to communicate their faith to their children. For many parents, this is a very real need. Reading these words to their children may lead to more confidence in speaking about faith and future faith conversations.
Idea(s) for Application: This would be a great book to give to families when a new child arrives, when they attend a church-sponsored parenting class, or when they graduate from a literacy program assuming they have young children or grandchildren.
Original Publisher & Date: Thomas Nelson, 1992
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up

Picture Book: With You All the Way
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Chuck Gillies
Summary: This knight’s tale involves 3 knights trying for the hand of a princess. The prince explains they must journey to the King’s castle via Hemlock, a dark and deadly forest where they will encounter Hopenots, small clever creatures. Each may choose a companion. The prince shows them an ivory flute and explains that they will be guided by the King’s song from an identical flute. The King will play it at the castle 3 times a day.  The knights choose their companions and leave. Later at the King’s castle, 2 men stumble out of Hemlock. It is Cassidon, the wisest, not the strongest or the swiftest, and his chosen companion. He tells of the treacheries of the Hopenots, who would imitate the flute song of the king. “How did you hear my song?” the King asks. Cassidon explained that he asked the prince to be his companion because he held the other flute and was the only one who knew his father’s song. In learning the song, Cassidon was able to distinguish it from the imitations and find his way through Hemlock to the castle. This story was originally published as The Song of the King so you may find it with that title.
Hanna’s Comments: This book uses the symbolic idea of “hearing God’s song” but it is up to you to interpret what that means to your audience. Keep in mind that young children will have difficulty with abstract concepts. Talk about abstract ideas by pairing them with what they look like. Children will understand a behavior before they understand an idea.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book during an elementary Sunday school class and talk about discernment and/or Christian discipleship practices.
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up

Picture Book: Because I Love You
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Mitchell Heinze
Summary: The setting is a wonderful village, built by Shaddai, for the children he loves and knows completely. Around the village, Shaddai builds a tall wall to protect the children from the dangers beyond. When young Paladin finds a hole, he reports it to Shaddai who compels Paladin to stay where he is safe, adding, “If you leave, you will not find the way back.” Shaddai explains that the hole is necessary. Shaddai wants them to “stay because they want to, not because they have to.” Still Paladin squirms through the hole, wondering what Shaddai is keeping from him. The wilderness doesn’t seem dangerous until Paladin realizes that the hole has disappeared. In desperation, he yells over the wall, apologizing and pleading for Shaddai to come help him. Shaddai is already on his way to rescue Paladin.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a story with and open ending, hopeful but not settled. Encourage your children to offer an ending. Then find some modern examples of dangers that faith families hope their children will not explore. Talk in age appropriate ways how these dangers can seem tempting and enticing, but they offer consequences that can be detrimental to their quality of life and relationships with the Holy.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a confirmation class when considering theological issues of temptation, confession, and forgiveness.
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 1999
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More God Books

I’m taking a quick break from the PBT series featuring theological statements for young children and picture books that connect with them to offer you 2 God books that I’ve run across lately. What are God books?
When I started PBT back in April of 2014, I wanted to mostly offer secular books for I believe those were the ones you most likely don’t know or can’t easily access. 
Picture books about specific scripture stories or characters can be found via search engines in libraries or on-line.
There is a treasure of sacred picture books about the nature of God that can lead to rich and meaningful learning experiences. However, they are difficult to find unless you know their titles. These are what I call God books.
During my Picture Book a Day for a Year series, I offered 11 categories of books. God books was one category. Here are those categories (many have to do with how new the books are):
Fresh Off the Press                         Post 2K
Pre 2K (1980-1999)                       Classic (before 1980)
Traditional                                      Non-fiction
Biography                                       Award (winner)
Rare                                                  Song
If you are ever uncomfortable with masculine pronouns for God in a God book, simply substitute with the word God (little Post-it notes can help with this). If your children ask about these, you’ve got a great teachable moment. 

If you are a fan of Max Lucado’s books, you’ll be glad to know that my next post will be about several of his God books!

The first PBT offering today is a surprising book that on the surface seemed a little too “Precious Moments like” for my taste. In fact, it features the Little Blessings characters which are unfamiliar to me.

Despite the saccharine look of the illustrations, this book offers some interesting questions about God – the kind of questions that are valuable for little ones to begin considering. Besides, young children may like the illustrations even if you don’t.
Also this book has Bible References that connects with each of the earlier text sections. These include scripture verses from the Old and New Testaments. There are 25 of these! Clearly this is not a book to read in one sitting but to experience in rich bits with your young children. Here's an illustration that connects with Psalm 23:1 I am the good Shepherd, who cares for each lamb. 
For older children, you might want to use some of the content in this book, without using the actual book. The ideas are appropriate for children of all ages.
What’s here is a series of questions that children might ask of God such as…
Can you really see me when I am so small?
Are you strong or gentle?
How do I know you are somewhere nearby?
Do you always love me or just when I’m good?

Then there are responses from God after God encourages the reader to look in the Bible for answers.
Here are some of those answers that will be connected to scriptures in the Bible References section referred to above:
…don’t be upset that you can’t see my face. You can look at my work in this beautiful place!
I’m as tall as the heavens and as wide as the sea.
But even your hairs are all counted by me.
Picture Book: What is God Like?
Author: Kathleen Long Bostrom
Illustrator: Elena Kucharik
Original Publisher & Date: Tyndale House, 1998
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

The other God book I’m offering is by Joseph F. Girzone, the author of the popular 1995 book for teens and adults: Joshua: A Parable for Today. Here he explores the question What is God? with text and his own beautiful illustrations. He emphasizes that God is all around us.
Here are a couple of photos of the illustrations.
I think you’ll get a sense of how exquisite they are and how intriguing are the ideas.
This is a small book so you’ll want to offer it to a relatively small audience. Also, these ideas are quite abstract so note that it is recommended for older elementary children and up. Adults would also enjoy exploring the ideas in this book.
Picture Book: What is God?
Author & Illustrator: Joseph F. Girzone
Original Publisher & Date: Doubleday, 1996
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 10 and up, 5th and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Friday, April 22, 2016

PBT Blog Series: Theological Statements for Young Children #9

Illustration from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
The ninth entry in this series of simple statements that you can say while reading the particular books below involves the heart of God’s love and Jesus’ mission.

There are many secular books for young children that involve a poor decision and end in forgiveness and mercy. While reading one of these books, simply say or paraphrase, “All bad choices can be forgiven. God/Jesus loves us no matter what we do.”
The first PBT offering is a great story about 3 young bears who live by the sea. When they accidentally break their mom’s prized blue shell, they naively venture off in a boat to find a replacement.
They encounter several sea vessels with interesting characters that seem to have some familiar literary or artistic significance. See how this crew of characters is in a boat named Melville? 
I assume this is a tip of the author/illustrator's hat to Moby Dick. I didn’t get all the allusions, but I sure enjoyed puzzling over them. This is not for your children to do however. Back to the story…
When told by a sea captain where to find such a shell, they venture off to “an island shaped like a lumpy hat.” Before they leave he explains, “if you look in the right place, I reckon you’ll find it.”
They pass a number of interesting islands and have some memorable experiences, eventually making it to their island destination. However, after looking high and low, no shell is found. 
They return to their boat, grumpy, disappointed, and missing home. Then the blaming begins. 
Meanwhile, a storm comes and tosses them so that they no longer care about blame. Instead they confess while clinging to each other for safety.  
The storm ceases, and they see their home island ahead. As they pull their boat onto shore, they find a beautiful blue shell. Home was the right place after all. 
Mama greets them at the door with a face and posture all little bears fear, but they confess and offer her the new shell. 
Forgiveness, hugs, kisses, supper (but no dessert) provide the happy ending you and your children will desire for these 3 little bears.
Besides the great story with simple but profound lessons, this is a really big book with many beautiful double page illustrations so it’s perfect for reading to a group.
Picture Book: Three Bears in a Boat
Author & Illustrator: David Soman
Original Publisher & Date: Dial, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

My other PBT offering that connects to this statement is from the Curious George series. Keep in mind that many Curious George books would connect to this statement for he does have a way of making a mess of things, but loving forgiveness often ends George’s adventures.
In this Curious George episode, he is invited to a pizza party. Since George loves parties and pizza, he is especially excited. 
The man with the yellow hat reminds George to be on his best behavior before sending George on to the party.
Upon arrival, each child and George is given an apron, chef’s hat, and a piece of dough to make his own pizza. While the children leave the room to play Pin the Pepperoni on the Pizza, George stays in the kitchen since he’s curious about the pieces of dough. 
He gathers all the children’s dough together and begins making a giant pizza.
A mess ensues and George realizes he should have left the dough in the original small pieces so he gets scissors and cuts the dough into shapes.
Eventually the mom discovers the mess and threatens to send George home, but the children like the idea of making uniquely shaped dough and help him clean up so that he can stay. 
The children are inspired to make various shaped pizzas of their own and even the mom is thankful to George for the great-looking pizzas.
Curious George is a great character to help children connect with their life in God because George is delightfully innocent and troublesome, kind of like most children, and redemption, in some form, always follows.
Here at PBT I offered another Curious George book (Curious George Saves His Pennies) and tied it to faith concepts of stewardship and generosity. Find that post [here].
Picture Book: Curious George and the Pizza Party
Author: Cynthia Platt
Illustrated in the Style of H.A. Rey by Mary O’Keefe Young
Original Publisher & Date: HMH, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, downloadable audio

Other PBT books that connect with links to posts:
When Sophie Gets Really, Really Angry - 6/3/14
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse - 6/23/14    
Beautiful Oops! - 8/12/14
I Love You, Stinky Face - 9/3/14
Rainbow Fish - 12/3/14
You are Not My Friend But I Miss You - 1/16/15
It's Okay to Make Mistakes - 1/4/16   
Too Tall Houses 3/22/16
Virgil and Owen series (2 bks) 4/5/16