Friday, July 29, 2016

An Excellent Family

Picture Book: Excellent Ed
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Julia Sarcone-Roach 
Summary: The Ellis dog, Ed, is convinced that he doesn’t get to sit at the table, ride in the van, sit on the couch, or use the inside bathroom because he isn’t excellent at something, like all the other kids in the family. 
This hilarious book has Ed deciding that he is excellent at something just before one of the children comes home with an announcement that depletes Ed’s idea. For instance, Ed decides he is excellent at breaking stuff. 
Then Elaine announces that she has just broken the record for the most soccer goals in a season. Everyone cheers and Ed believes he is not the one in the family so excellent at breaking stuff. But when Ernie drops his sandwich, Ed is declared excellent at cleaning the floor. Perhaps this is why he isn’t allowed to sit at the table. 
When Emily and Elmer arrive, Ed is declared an excellent welcomer so he figures this is why he doesn’t get to ride in the van. When all the Ellis family pile on the couch, Ed is declared an excellent foot warmer. No wonder Ed isn’t allowed on the couch! 
The story ends with Ed still wondering why he can’t use the indoor bathroom.
Hanna’s Comments: Using words of affirmation is my top language of love so I adore this book! Excellent work, Stacy McAnulty and Julia Sarcone-Roach! Besides the clever way Ed’s desire to be excellent is presented here, this is a (dare I say?) excellent family to share with your children. They get along and affirm each other. They spend time together and are exploring their giftedness. 
Any time you can offer that view of family functioning to children is great. At the heart of this book is a dog who wants to please those who love him most and a family whose love is not conditional. 
Isn’t that the heart of being a child of God, wanting to do what pleases God and do it excellently? Help your children (in your family, faith family, or classroom) see that this kind of excellence is a worthy goal. Help them also remember that being a child of God is often times enough.
Original Publisher & Date: Knopf, 2016 
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: For in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith (Gal. 3:26); It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more… so that you may approve what is excellent (Phil. 1:9-10); if there is any excellence… think about these things (Phil. 4:8b)
Idea(s) for Application: Read Excellent Ed to a group of children and help them explore the way God is pleased with us when we exhibit excellence and how important it is to show our love by affirming excellence in each other. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

You Shall Mount Up with Wings

Picture Book: Flight School
Author & Illustrator: Lita Judge
Summary: When Little Penguin shows up at flight school, he claims he has the “soul of an eagle” and was “hatched to fly.” 
He is allowed to stay and practice with the other birds. When students attempt their first flight, Penguin’s flight is a disaster. 
He becomes discouraged. This troubles his flight teachers who suddenly have a creative idea. More feathers are attached to Penguin with string and soon he is in flight, soaring with joy, at least for a little while. 
But how did this happen? With help from a friend. 
This time Penguin’s eventual fall did not bother him for he had “soared on the wind.” He went home and soon returned with another friend who offers an even bigger challenge for the flight school teachers.
Hanna’s Comments:  This is a great book for parents and teachers to read for it is a tribute to those who encourage the young and find creative ways to help them be successful. 
How does this inspiring book fit with theology? How about reading this book to children and attaching it to Isaiah 40:31, a verse often heard by children but rarely explained. You could also focus on the benefits of community and friendship for encouragement and helping us soar into our dreams and vocations. 
Also, connect with the Body of Christ imagery that Paul gives and you’ve got many potential scripture connections.
Original Publisher & Date: Atheneum, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections:  Those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31); Body of Christ imagery (in Paul’s letters); look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4); encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11); do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16) 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of private school or homeschool teachers who you want to encourage to be creative in helping their children succeed. Connect to a scripture choice from above to give it a godly vocational dimension.  

Update: This book now has a sequel that is delightful!

In the new book, Penguin, with the help of his friends, flies home to Antarctica to teach them the magic of flight. However, they're more interested in swimming. Penguin must accept that his penguin friends don't share his desire to fly. They do tell him they are quite proud of him and will be looking up at the sky and thinking of him, their much-loved Penguin with the soul of an eagle.

Friday, July 22, 2016

New Blog Series - PBT's Grab & Go #2

Here's another secular book, already featured on PBT, that is super easy to use in sacred settings. Just read my post below, grab the book, and go. Consider your audience when deciding which to offer first, the story or scripture. Then simply encourage your listeners (children or adults) to find the connections and consider where the holiness is in these wonderful pages. 
Picture Book: A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Summary: Amos is a volunteer at a zoo where he has hilarious daily rituals with specific animals. The day he doesn’t show up, a group of his animal friends rides the bus to his home to check on him and engage in those important rituals. Because of Amos’ low energy, some rituals have to be adapted. Soon all are ready for a good night’s sleep at Amos’ house, all snuggled in together.  
Hanna’s Comments: This story is full of ministry applications because Amos and the animals are so attentive and present with one another in their rituals. Additionally, the story and illustrations are hilarious! It would be a wonderful gift for someone who is recuperating from an illness or a grandchild whose grandparent is ill. I recently read this book to an adult Sunday School class and they loved it! There were obvious connections between Amos’ daily inclinations and the way Jesus would meet people right where they were and give healing and attention.
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2010
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Preschool and up
Formats other than Book: Audio book
Scripture Connections: The Woman at the Well (John 4), 3 of the Beatitudes – Blessed are the meek, the merciful, and the pure in heart (Matthew 5)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book as a part of a Stephen Ministry (or any caregiving) training. For children, this book could help explore subjects of honoring and respecting elderly family members or church members. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Microphones, Bullies, & Stinky Feet

The following 3 books are a series. Each is rich with potential conversations about what it means to be meek and yet self-determining, manipulated and then powerful, anxious and yet willing to trust joy. Through these 3 books, you’ll see Willow evolve in ways that are worth examining. It is likely that the children in your faith family are like Willow at times, struggling with the demands of school and their own uncertainty. Adults could learn a thing or two from Willow’s tenderness, courage, and determination.  
Picture Book: Willow’s Whispers
Author: Lana Button
Illustrator: Tania Howells
Summary: In this introduction to Willow, we learn that she is very soft-spoken.
This causes some problems in her classroom because she is not able to communicate her desires. Eventually, she cleverly creates a microphone that helps. 
When the mike is accidentally crushed, she realizes her strength to speak so that she can be heard.
Hanna’s Comments: The reasons for Willow’s soft voice are not told to us here. Instead, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to be unheard and even unseen.
This situation can be applied to all sorts of individuals and groups, in school situations and in adult situations such as in the office, in faith contexts, or in situations of disenfranchisement. Think broadly and personally while getting to know Willow. Consider how your children’s faith might inform their responses to personal limitations and others who are left out.
Original Publisher & Date: Kid’s Can Press, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections:  Put on then… compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12); Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:4)
Idea(s) for Application: Let Willow teach the children in your faith family all about striving beyond personal limitations with determination and God’s creative problem-solving.

Picture Book: Willow Finds a Way
Author: Lana Button
Illustrator: Tania Howells
Summary: In the 2nd book, Willow and her classmates struggle with a class bully. We glimpse Kristabelle in book 1. Here she comes to class with a party invitation list and threatens to mark off the name of anyone who doesn’t follow her demands. 
Eventually, Willow is the one who courageously marks her own name off of the list. Other classmates follow. Kristabelle is hurt and isolated until Willow goes to the back of the line to “stand with Kristabelle” who then apologizes. 
Kristabelle tears up the invitation list saying, “My party will be fantastic… if all of my friends will come… please.” 
Hanna’s Comments: This book is about hospitality and courage, 2 important subjects for children to explore with their faith families. The world is hurting right now because of bullies sowing division and good people on the sidelines feeling powerless to speak up in ways that are civil, courageous, and kind. Point out that Willow also stands with Kristabelle, when she is hurting, and that makes all the difference. 
Ground all of this behavior in the context of biblical principles so that your kids will feel more empowered to make a positive difference in their classrooms and their world. Teach your children well and perhaps their parents will learn from them.
Original Publisher & Date: Kid’s Can Press, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections:  The righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1); God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)
Idea(s) for Application: Let Willow teach the children in your faith family how to stand up to bullies and then be compassionate towards their hurting.

Picture Book: Willow’s Smile
Author: Lana Button
Illustrator: Tania Howells
Summary: In book 3 Willow is anxious about picture day. Again, the reason is not given, but her anxiety is very real. 
Her teacher handles this beautifully by asking the photographer to allow Willow to be his assistant. As photos of her friends are taken amidst the shouts of the silly names such an occasion calls for, Willow is encouraged to help each friend smile. 
When it’s her turn, Willow doesn’t smile until her friends give her many reasons, including a shout of “Hey, Mrs. Tickle Toes!” At the group photo, Willow joins all her friends in saying “Stinky Feet!” with a smile.
Hanna’s Comments: My favorite point in this story is when Willow, without hesitation, gives a ribbon to her friend who forgot it was picture day. 
This is such a simple gesture, but it speaks volumes to Willow’s character and lack of vanity. Children need examples like this. Spend some time on just this little Willow moment, connecting it with scripture and your faith family’s values.   
Original Publisher & Date: Kid’s Can Press, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections:  The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9); Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2)
Idea(s) for Application: Let Willow teach the children in your faith family how to let their community help when they are struggling with anxiety. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Tale of a Tail

Picture Book: A Beach Tail
Author: Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Summary: Gregory and his father are at the beach. With a big stick, Gregory has drawn, Sandy, a lion. 
His dad suggests that Sandy needs a tail. Before sitting down, he warns Gregory not to go in the water. Gregory begins his lion’s tail and continues it parallel to the water’s edge, maneuvering through and around various objects. 
Gregory doesn’t go in the water and he doesn’t leave Sandy. He writes his name in the sand and then eventually comes to a jetty where he must stop. That’s when he looks back for his dad and realizes how far he has gone. Sandy's tail is really long! Gregory's dad isn’t visible, but he’s not worried. 
He literally traces his way back to Sandy’s body and his father, who comments on how very long Sandy’s tail is. 
Gregory is quick to point out that he didn’t get wet or go in the water. Dad and son both decide to do just that together.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a big, beautiful book. Notice the spelling of tail in the title. You might start your introduction to the book with a question about why that spelling might be used (don’t show the cover at first). This book easily leads to conversations about spiritual paths and being oriented toward the One who is Holy and home. 
Consider using this book in a lesson about Jesus having breakfast with his disciples on the beach. Some of those disciples had wandered away from Jesus during his trial and execution and were finding their way back to him. Be sure to point out Gregory’s desire to be obedient to his father as he wanders on his journey and remember Gregory’s pride that he was obedient.
Original Publisher & Date: Boyds Mills Press, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up 
Formats other than Book: Audible and Audio cd
Scripture Connections: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15); breakfast on the beach (John 21:1-14); other scriptures about spiritual journeys or paths
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a lesson for children or adults when exploring the story of Jesus and his disciples having breakfast at the beach or when discussing obedience or spiritual journeys/paths. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

TAKE my hand. GIVE me a hug.

Picture Book: Give and Take
Author & Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Summary: A farmer begins his day inspecting his apples, hoping for ripe apples. A small man leaps out and introduces himself as Take, explaining “Listen to me and your life will be fine.” 
The farmer takes him home despite feeling pretty satisfied with his life already. When his neighbor asks the farmer if he would like any of her pumpkins, Take instructs him to “Take them all.” He dumps all the apples and replaces them with pumpkins.
Then his neighbor tells him to take her advice and make pumpkin soup. Again Take insists that the farmer “Take her advice, take all of it.” Once the hard work of transporting the pumpkins and making the soup is done, the farmer remembers he doesn’t like pumpkin soup and craves an apple. 
Later he throws out Take. The routine repeats the next day, but another little man appears named Give. Give insists that if the farmer will listen to him, life will be sweeter. When they meet a pig farmer, Give says, “Give him your apples. Give away everything you have.” The farmer not only gives all of his apples, but he also gives all of his opinions and runs off the pig farmer. When at home the farmer realizes he has nothing 
so Give is thrown out too. The next day when his basket is full of ripe apples, the farmer finds Give and Take wrestling and arguing about who is greater. 
The farmer picks up both of them and takes them to the miller. The  farmer GIVES some apples and TAKES some flour. Advice is exchanged as well. When the farmer makes an apple pie, the wrestling stops with these words from Give and Take: “Take my hand.” “Give me a hug.” Then all enjoy the pie.
Hanna’s Comments: This is such a clever story! There’s so much to talk about that ties to scripture and living in community. I'm glad to tell you that I had the pleasure of experiencing a Chris Raschka presentation on Saturday at our local library. 
He drew, directed young children in simple dramatic renditions of several of his books, and even sang. I was very impressed with how well he understood how young children think and do which is why his books are so engaging. No wonder he has won 2 Caldecott medals. It is incredible what he can do with broad strokes of watercolor and ink. 
My favorite Chris Raschka is Yo! Yes? which I featured on Day 145 (9/11/14). Here’s the linkI’ve written a children’s lesson about hospitality based on this book. Comment or email me and let me know you’re interested in purchasing.
Give and Take demonstrates that Chris Raschka writes really smart. Don’t let its unusual characters keep you from delving in. Besides exploring concepts of generosity or gluttony, you might have a conversation about the opposites of an issue, the need for moderation, and of course the value of hands to hold and hugs.
Original Publisher & Date: Richard Jackson, 2014 
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); any scripture about generosity, gluttony, or moderation
Idea(s) for Application: Let this book help you and your children understand the fruits of the Spirit more fully by talking about how we should both demonstrate them (give) and experience them (take) in order to have the kind of world God hopes for.