Monday, May 30, 2016

One Country, One Hope, One World

Picture Book: One Today
Author: Richard Blanco
Illustrator: Dav Pilkey
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & Co., 2015
Summary: The text of this picture book is the 2nd inaugural poem for President Barack Obama, first read on January 21, 2013. It is a celebration of the extraordinary that can be found in the USA from dawn to dusk and coast to coast. 
The bright illustrations burst with relationships via work and play. Rituals are evidence of our rich culture. Events such as MLK’s I Have a Dream speech and the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary are touched on as this book repeats the word “one” again and again: one light, one ground, one wind, while demonstrating diversity in our languages, our geography, our skin, our prayers. 
It ends with hope, as you might expect on such a day,
Hope-a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it –
Hanna’s Comments: Today is Memorial Day in the states. It’s a day when we honor those who have given their lives to defend our country so I’m offering a picture book that is a tribute to the best of the United States of America. Regardless of your political leanings, this book has potential for you. As on days like this where we all honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, there is much that we all share and value in this book.
I know some who read this blog are not American. I recognize that many of the characteristics of America that this book celebrates is true for your country as well. 
One of my favorite hymns is This is My Song. We don’t sing it enough in our sanctuaries in the USA. It is a song of peace and an acknowledgement that what we hold dear in our country is likely held dear in other countries too. The words are by Lloyd Stone. It is sung to Jean Sibelius’ Findlandia. Here are the lyrics to the first 2 verses:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine;
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine;
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

Idea(s) for Application: Use this picture book in a teen or adult lesson on diversity or unity in which you are celebrating what makes our country great and thanking God for God's many blessings.
Scripture Connections: From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:16)
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Friday, May 27, 2016

Who Knew Quilting Could Be So Contentious!

Picture Book: Luka’s Quilt
Author & Illustrator: Georgia Guback
Original Publisher & Date: Greenwillow Books, 1994
Summary: Luka and her Tutu (grandmother in Hawaiian) are very close. Luka is delighted to learn that they will be making a traditional Hawaiian quilt for Luka’s bed and is assured it will have loads of flowers on it.
Luka loves the many colors of flowers so she is puzzled when they purchase only one color for the quilt. Eventually Luka realizes that the green she has chosen (she thought it would be the leaves for the many colorful flowers) is to be the background for a silhouette of white flowers. 
Luka declares, “It can’t be a flower garden if the flowers are white.” Tears flow, and their relationship is damaged for a time. Eventually Tutu calls for a truce and takes Luka to Lei Day. As before, Tutu expects Luka to make a traditional lei with only 2 flower colors, but Luka refuses and uses many colored flowers in her Hawaiian necklace. 
Luka’s lei inspires Tutu so that together they begin sewing a compromise. The result is a beautiful quilt that is both traditional and Luka-approved.   
Luka sleeps under the quilt with or without the lei overlay and is very happy their relationship is restored.  
Hanna’s Comments: I appreciate this story for lots of reasons. First, it deals sensitively with the subject of different preferences and the hurt feelings and anger that can result. Secondly, it offers some information about Hawaii that I appreciated learning. The rich sensory and cultural details offer many possibilities for supplemental activities. 
Lastly, it is, at its heart, a story of love between 2 family members. Human nature reveals that the ones we love the most, hurt us most. Explore that idea and God’s desire that we be in loving and respectful relationships, particularly with those we love most.  
Idea(s) for Application: Consider reading this book at a retreat for a church who has been struggling with issues of worship style. It beautifully illustrates the dichotomy of tradition vs. new ideas in a context that will translate well to a congregation. Be sure to emphasize the value of loving relationships and be respectful and sensitive to all perspectives. Keep coming back to your overall purpose which I think you’ll agree is in the scripture connection I offer next.
Scripture Connections: Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Monday, May 23, 2016

Courage Here, Courage There

Title of Picture Book: Courage
Author & Illustrator: Bernard Waber
Original Publisher & Date: Walter Lorraine Books, 2002

Summary: This book begins, “There are many kinds of courage.” Then goes on to cleverly illustrate a dozen or so contexts in which courage is called for, each with a caption “Courage is…. You’ll find everything from a roller coaster ride to a blade of grass breaking through snow. 

Here are a few more:

My favorite illustration is below. The caption reads, “Courage is holding onto your dream.”
Hanna’s Comments: I’m a strong advocate of building resilience in children and in adults. It’s good for everyone, including the church as a whole, when we are able to withstand the harsh realities of our world. Likewise, programs and conversations that help children, their parents, and other adults identify where they have already demonstrated courage and where they might need it in the future offers valuable hindsight and foresight. These give evidence of and empowerment for courage. Then offering an opportunity to see how our faith and the presence of God can be called upon at such times is so valuable. An added benefit is the authentic bonding that may occur across members of your faith community that may lead to informal mentoring relationships.  
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a bibliotherapy session with a child or adult client who is struggling with anxiety or fear issues. Use this book in a Sunday School lesson on courage or about Bible characters who showed courage.
Scripture Connections: from The Message paraphrase: Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's Your Piano?

Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano
Author & Illustrator: David Litchfield
Summary: This beautiful picture book involves a bear cub discovering a piano in a forest. 
He is intrigued by the sound the pressed keys make and experiments. Years later, he plays beautifully and a forest audience forms. The bear is happy and dreams of “strange and wonderful lands.”  
When a young girl and her father, hear the music and discover the artist, they lure him to the city to experience and play music . There he can perform for bigger crowds!
He is a great success, winning fame and awards. He realizes all he had hoped for in the city, but he misses the forest and his friends. 
He returns to the forest and anxiously looks for friends to tell of his success. When the piano is not where he expects, he worries that his friends have forgotten him or were hurt that he left. After encountering another bear who runs away, he follows while apologizing for leaving. Then he finds the piano. 
Behind it is an altar of sorts, with memorabilia of his musical success. The bear realizes that his earliest audience members were watching from afar and hoping for him to have success and fulfill his dreams.
Hanna’s Comments: I love this beautifully absurd book! There is so much here about the God-given desire we have to explore, create, and experience art & beauty. When you discuss this book with children or adults, don’t just focus on the bear character. Have your audience consider the perspectives of the forest audience, the daughter, and others who encourage the bear’s success in the city. Might you consider the piano similar to the burning bush? This book also relates to the homecoming of The Prodigal Son. He doesn't have to be presented as a negative character. All of us go away from our home in one way or another. Also, there's Abraham & Sarah's journey away from home and God's promise that they will be blessed to be a blessing. In a discussion with adults, end with the question, "What's your piano?"
Original Publisher & Date: Clarion, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Made in God's image (Genesis 1:27); Abraham & Sarah leave home - blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-5); Jacob leaves home and then returns unsure (Genesis 33:1-17); The Great Commandment  (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:31); Make a joyful noise (Psalm 100:1); Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30); the homecoming of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace (1 Peter 4:10)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of elementary students or confirmands who are learning about how human artistry is the result of God’s image in us so that we may create for joy and problem solving. You can also explore the importance of a supportive community to help us realize who we are supposed to be. Adults would enjoy this book in a small group or team who is considering ways to contribute to the Kingdom of God through artistry or support of the arts. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

God's Pleasing Puddles

Picture Book: Puddle

Author & Illustrator: Hyewon Yum

Original Publisher & Date: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016

Summary: This is a clever story where the artist just might be the mother in the story. There is switching between the central story and the one created on a drawing pad. 
It starts with a young boy, disappointed on a rainy day because there’s “nothing to do.” His mother tries to engage him with her drawing pad. He resists, but eventually he joins in. 
They both enjoy the story they create about the two of them experiencing the rain and enjoying splashing each other with a puddle.  
Then they decide to go for “a real walk.” Mirroring their drawn story, they come upon a puddle. Help your young audience predict the joy that's on the next page.
Hanna’s Comments: A common passion that modern parents have for their children is getting them outside to play and discover nature. This kind of play can be even more beneficial when you add a spiritual aspect to such experiences. Early in this story, this mom encourages her child’s creativity and playfulness. Later, she expands his play so that he experiences nature. An easy next step, would be to give God some credit for the beauty and fun. Simply begin a conversation. Who created the rain? What's it for besides fun splashing? Is there any beauty in these puddles that we should thank God for? Close your eyes and hear God’s world raining. 

Psalm 37 verse 4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord!” This is contemplation! This is active prayer!

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to grandchildren on a rainy day. Then put on your rain gear and help them experience the potential and delight of God’s wet world.

Scripture Connections: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1); Delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4a); worthy are you… for you created all things… (Revelation 4:11)

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

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beautiful Work for Hands by Hands

For a while, I’m going to be trying out a shorter format compared to the posts I’ve done recently.  I’ll be focusing on one picture book at a time, offering ideas and scripture connections. These will be similar to the Picture Book a Day for a Year series that launched PBT here on 4/20/14. I’d love some feedback on this or other formats that I’ve used. What is most helpful to you in your ministry, family, or school context?

Today’s picture book is short, beautiful, and rich with ideas. It offers both a feel-good read-aloud experience with some inspiration for art making.

Tell me what you think about this book or the new format. If there are picture books that you’ve used that have inspired great art projects, let us know via a comment. We’d love to hear from you here at PBT.  

Picture Book: Beautiful Hands
Author & Illustrator: Kathryn Otashi
Author: Bret Baumgarten
Summary: The central idea of this book is the question: What will your hands do today? Surprising possibilities include planting (ideas), lifting (spirits), stretching (imaginations), etc.  

The look of this book is quite unique. The rainbow-colored illustrations seem to primarily be hand or thumb prints. In the back you’ll find About the Story & Illustrations, where you’ll read that this book began with Baumgarten’s experience holding his children’s hands and asking the central question of the book. Otashi explains that the rainbow image “embeds the handprints of over a hundred family members and friends.”
Hanna’s Comments: What I enjoy about this book is how it jumps from concrete ideas to abstract & unusual applications of those ideas. Hands touch hearts for instance. However, this jump must be supported by good teaching, particularly if your audience is young. For each idea discuss the concrete concepts that the children likely know already. 

For my example, talk about what concrete things your children’s hands might touch. Then transition them to think about the idea of touching hearts. Give examples. Explain what touching hearts feels like. Have them move physically through these ideas if that makes sense. Controlled movement often helps children obtain and retain concepts especially when a book refers to body parts as often as this one does. 

For each idea, you may want to connect with your faith. The easiest way to do this might be to use examples of people in your faith family who demonstrated these concepts. Does your child or children know someone who plants ideas? Lifts spirits? Stretches imaginations? 
For those of you teaching, parenting, or grandparenting very young children, this book fits in well with my PBT series 12 Theological Statements for Young Children. Consider statement #3: God gave you a great body to do great things. (post date 3/16/16) and #4: God loves it when we do even greater things together. (post date 3/22/16). 
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book to help children broaden their concepts of using their bodies for service or missions.

Scripture Connections: Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3); give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her (Proverbs 31:31); work heartily, as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23); having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:6); we are made in Creator God’s image (Genesis 1:27) 

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Monday, May 9, 2016

PBT Blog Series: Theological Statements for Young Children #12

Illustration from The Incredible Peepers of Penelope Budd by Marie Karns
Today’s post wraps up this PBT series highlighting secular books that teachers, parents, or grandparents can use to have a short conversation about their faith with toddlers or preschoolers.

The last statement of 12 is God wants to be worshiped. Note that worship here is a broad term for any activity that sincerely calls God to mind. Anytime we bring God to mind, I believe it is worship, no matter where we are.  Also, worship doesn’t need to last a long time. A moment of thanksgiving, a shout of praise, or a quick cry for help is worthy of the label worship. God is pleased whenever we turn our thoughts to that which is Holy.
 The first book I offer is a delightful rendition of the song Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It’s in board book form so it will survive the treatment of little hands. 
There’s just one line per double page spread so sing it slowly with the help of your children. The lyrics are just the first verse so you and your children will likely have no trouble singing along.
What I’m simply suggesting is that after you read this book, talk about how looking at the stars and thinking about God’s beautiful universe is a way of worshiping God. Teach your children the word “wonder.” Then use this word over the next days and weeks as you and your children wonder about aspects of God’s glorious creation.
Picture Book: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Author & Illustrator: Caroline Jayne Church
Original Publisher & Date: Cartwheel Books, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

This next book is brand new and such a treasure! Listen to Our World is simple but rich. It begins with a several children in an apartment building being awakened and encouraged to “hear the sounds of our world. Listen! Listen! Listen!”
Then with each double page spread you are introduced to a particular habitat that is named.You view a particular animal or family of animals making a particular sound. Here’s an example:
Most species here are exotic. All the art is gorgeous and inviting.
On the last page, we are back at the apartment with the human animals where one Mommy says, “All is well in our world.”
There is some reference material for each of the species on the last few pages. With this book, you can have a combination science and faith conversation! God’s creativity are all over these pages!
Picture Book: Listen to Our World
Author: Bill Martin, Jr. & Michael Sampson
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Original Publisher & Date: Simon & Schuster, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

The book I feature next is similar in that it encourages listening. 
Instead of taking us to places all over the world, it shows us a young girl who enjoys listening to the simple aspects of her life:
Waves crashing,
“the wind playing with” her kite,
her heart beating when she runs,
her breath when she’s still.
At night she listens for “what the stars tell”.
In the morning she listens for “what the birds say.”
This book would be so easy to tie to Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. For on the last page you have:
Be still.
How many things can you hear?
Interestingly, this book is published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Certainly, the APA is learning the psychological benefits of mindfulness and meditation for children and adults. These practices, developed in the Eastern world, have much in common with prayer and worship.
You might notice the unusual word in the author & illustrator slot below. The authors are a group of artists and designers who share a studio in Barcelona, Spain.
Picture Book: Silence
Authors & Illustrators: Lemniscates
Original Publisher & Date: Magination Press, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Update: This author also has several other beautifully simple books about holy ideas. Worshipping God via these 3 gifts of nature (seeds, trees, and birds for which there are memorable scriptural connections) would be as easy as lying under a tree among its seeds, listening to the birds, and feeling very grateful!

The last book I’m offering to wrap up this PBT series about 12 theological statements for young children begins in this way:
“This is a boy whose head is filled with wonder.”
On his way to school, we are shown several aspects of the world that he wonders about such as “where birds are flying to” or “who makes the clouds” or “what the best playground in the world might be like.” What great questions!
A few adults warn him to be more attentive, but he’s not deterred. As the book progresses, his wonderings are represented by colorful possibilities that are in direct contrast with this little fellow’s bland world.
When given a blank piece of paper in art class, he is encouraged to use his imagination. Boy does he! He is able, in vivid ways, to bring possibilities to the page. Have your audience notice that the masterpieces correspond to his earlier questions.
When his art teacher says that the students must share their art, he walks to the front of the room with much trepidation. The teacher affirms his incredible imagination. He takes his art home to his parents, and then the timeline jumps years to a large and crowded exhibit space where his large sculpture, The Wonder, is being revealed.
When you offer this book to little ones, don’t just talk about the life of a traditional artist. I believe that all of us have the potential to be some kind of artist. It might involve offering beauty with a paintbrush or a solution with a machine, setting up a classroom or a worship space, using our bodies to serve or our ideas to motivate, changing others with a touch or a kind word. The possibilities are endless. Thanks be to God!
Within each of us is that “image of God” that encourages us to create. When we create and then offer that creation for the betterment of the world or simply in gratitude, it is a kind of worship to God.
Picture Book: The Wonder
Author & Illustrator: Faye Hanson
Original Publisher & Date: Templar, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Other PBT books that connect and links to posts:
Give Me Grace - 2/26/16               
Anna Hibiscus’ Song - 8/26/14
If You’re Happy and You Know It - 1/17/15              
The Quiet Book - 6/30/14              
The Incredible Peepers of Penelope Budd - 2/7/15             
This is the Day - 5/2/16
This Little Light of Mine- 4/27/14