Monday, August 29, 2016

PBT Grab & Go #3 - This Little Light of Mine

Here's the 3rd selection in my Grab & Go Series, comprised of repeated posts (with some editing) of books that are so good they almost stand on their own. Simply find connections to one or more of the scriptures I provide. Be sure to consider the age appropriateness of each book you select. Look for additions to this series. Email me if you want a top ten list!

Picture Book: This Little Light of Mine
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis 
Summary: This beautifully illustrated version of the African-American spiritual begins with a boy looking in the mirror and then interacting with family & neighbors in delightful and helpful ways. His activities include giving his grandmother a hug, waving to neighbors, picking up spilled groceries, offering comfort to a boy who is upset, and then inviting that boy to join a group of friends to play basketball. 
Hanna’s Comments: On the book jacket, the introduction begins, “There is a light inside of YOU.” What a wonderful way to begin a PBT lesson! This book would be especially valuable to children who know this song. It gives the song meaning that they can relate to and expand on. Note that the song’s score is in the back.
There are several other book versions of this song, some with an audio component, some combined with other songs. I found a board book version that I like for young children by Mcnicholas. However, for children 4 and up, I especially like Lewis’ illustrations especially for children who are not exposed to neighborhoods comprised primarily of black people. Such positive images are important for all to see.

Update: Here’s a new version of this song in a board book by Pattinson & Skelton. It is bigger than most board books, has interactive pages (lift the flap), and a beautiful pop-up at the end. This book has the verse about Satan. If you prefer to avoid that word, simply say “someone” instead.
Original Publisher & Date: Simon & Schuster, 2005
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present 
Scripture Connections: The Lord is my light & my salvation (Psalm 27:1), a lamp under a jar (Luke 8:16), a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16); may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace (Romans 15:13); rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this beautiful book to a children’s music class in your faith community or private school. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

It is Not Good to Be Alone

Picture Book: Mouse Island
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Dominic Catalano 
Summary: Mouse lives alone on an island with a lighthouse that has been electrified so human operators are no longer needed. 
He is safe and comfortable, but he feels that something is missing in his life. He interacts with animals that come and go, but he is lonely. 
When Mouse sees a ship sink, he jumps into the water to help save the passengers. The humans on the ship are able to get into a lifeboat, but Cat is left in the water. 
Mouse drags Cat to shore. Once revived, Cat explains to Mouse that cats eat mice.
Mouse is stunned, but Cat reassures him that Cat will never eat Mouse. Instead, Cat wants to hear about his new home.
They begin teaching each other about their lives. Cat promises to teach Mouse to play beach volleyball. The book ends with Mouse contemplating how strange it is to find what you didn’t realize you needed.
Hanna’s Comments: Be sure to show the illustration on the title page before reading. 
It gives some perspective, showing the island and Cat before the shipwreck. The central message of this book is subtle so you may need to help your audience find meaning. Mouse needs loving companionship. Then a companion is provided by unusual circumstances. God does that sometime. Genesis 2 says we are not meant to be alone. Even though Cat is an enemy according to the world, Mouse sees Cat as a creature to save, befriend, and share the island, despite their differences. The lighthouse can be viewed as God’s light or Jesus. Lastly, you might want to discuss with your children how sometimes heroes are quite small.
Original Publisher & Date: Boyds Mills Press, 2008
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18); love your enemies (Luke 6:27); all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
Idea(s) for Application: Consider reading this story as part of a lesson for children about the importance of close relationships, the concept of enemies and how to treat them, or God’s wise provision. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Secrets and God’s Presence

Picture Book: Can I Tell You a Secret?
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Summary: The hook with this book is that you, the reader, and your audience are Monty’s friend to whom he is confessing his secret.
This little frog can’t swim; he’s afraid of the water! 
He acknowledges that a frog should be able to swim, but since he was a tadpole he has been finding ways to avoid the water. 
Thanks to his new friends (you and your audience), Monty decides that he must confess this to his parents. 
After a few tries, he tells them the news. Like the good parents they are, they already know and decide it’s time he overcomes his fear and learn to swim. 
He invites his new friends (you and your audience) to come with him as he tries. 
He has limited success, but he’s thrilled with his progress and thankful you came along. 
You get the sense that Monty’s going to be a swimmer after all.
Hanna’s Comments: Here’s an idea for a simple but very meaningful lesson for your children at home or the children of your faith family. Read the scripture below. Talk about how the Israelites had been in the wilderness where they had struggled with the idea of God being with them wherever they went. It took a long time for some of them to believe this.
Next, begin the book by explaining that Monty is addressing your listeners. Then read this fun book straight through with no commentary. Lastly, read the book again but direct the children to imagine that Monty is talking to God. 
The story will be transformed and the conversation you facilitate as you read will be rich and full of possibilities for understanding how God can be a comfort and companion in times of fear. That's the power of Picture Book Theology!
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9); Do not fear for I will be with you… (Isaiah 41:10)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a child who is struggling with any new or difficult situation and encourage him or her to remember God’s presence and unconditional love. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

For Wind-Wild Tweens & Teens

Picture Book: Wind-Wild Dog
Author: Barbara Joosse
Illustrator: Kate Kiesler 
Summary: This is the story of Ziva, a future sled dog, born with a brown eye and a blue, making potential buyers wary. They believed this would make her half-wild. 
One man does purchase and train her for mushing. 
Told from the point of view of Ziva, the desire to run wild is ever present, particularly when she sees the Man running and hears in the wind the call of a wolf. 
The Man suspects Ziva’s inclinations. At the first opportunity, Ziva does run for freedom.
When she encounters a wolf, it smells wild like the wind, but Ziva also smells on herself the smell of the Man. 
She knows the Man’s smell is her smell now and misses the Man so she returns. 
The Man has tears of relief in his eyes once Ziva returns. He hoped the wind-wild dog he loved so much would stay with him. 
A helpful Author’s Note in the back serves as a glossary of unusual words.
Hanna’s Comments:  Now and then I read a book that connects directly to a Bible story. Do you see the connections between Ziva and the Prodigal Son? Your children will. They are used to finding connections across literature in school. One of the benefits of PBT is that secular books often offer a window into a world in which readers know little or nothing. Few of your children will know the world of dog sledding and particularly how the dogs are trained. 
Children will like this book for that reason. When you add a faith component to this reading experience, the learning becomes more meaningful. Be sure to link the concept of running wild to the scripture as well as to modern contexts. If your children are tweens or older, they are likely already facing temptations involving the “wild” possibilities of adulthood. Learning how to handle their freedom, like Ziva, is an important aspect of faith development. 
Use this opportunity to offer wisdom and direction grounded in their faith. Like the father in the parable and the Man in the picture book, emphasize the freedom God gives us and the availability of God’s mercy no matter what they might do in their futures. Returning is always an option. 
Original Publisher & Date: Henry Holt & Co., 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or teens who are studying about Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son and God’s ever-present mercy.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Jesus as Miracle Man

Picture Book: Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus
Author & Illustrator: John Hendrix 
Summary: This author/illustrator is known for his use of unusual fonts incorporated into his creative illustrations. Here he offers a unique perspective on 7 of Jesus miracles and 4 of the last crucial events in Jesus’ story. Children will love this book! 

The featured miracles:
Calling Disciples & a Miraculous Catch of Fish
The Healing of the Leper
The Healing of the Paralytic
Jesus Calms the Storm
The Healing of the Blind Man
The Feeding of the 5000
Jesus Walks on Water

The featured last events:
The Last Supper
The Betrayal of Christ
The Crucifixion
The Resurrection of Christ
Hanna’s Comments: I’m not inclined to feature books about Jesus on my PBT blog, not because I don’t think they are important. I do! Instead I choose to focus on secular books you might not suspect would be great resources for ministry and God books that are difficult to find. Jesus books (and picture books about other Bible stories) have obvious potential and are easy to find in a search engine. 

This book, however, is exceptional and brand new so I wanted to make sure you knew about it. There is so much here that you might want to read it aloud in portions so that you and your children can dive into the questions and theology of each miracle. Share with your children what you thought about these miracles when you were a child and then tell them what you think now. Be sure to read the Author’s Note in the back before reading to your children and give children access to these fabulous illustrations while reading.
Original Publisher & Date: Abrams Books, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio CD
Scripture Connections: The scripture connections for these stories are listed on the last page of the book.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book over a series of lessons or family readings and talk about the implications of Jesus’ many miracles. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Absence, Comfort, and Connection

Picture Book: Life Without Nico
Author: Andrea Maturana
Illustrator: Francisco Javier Olea
Summary: Niko and Maia are best friends who are often together having fun.
Even when they aren’t together, they seem connected. There is surprise and a big adjustment following the announcement that Niko’s family is moving to Australia. When it’s time to say goodbye, Nico gives Maia a globe ornament to remember him. 
Maia's sorrow is beautifully expressed and her grief is given space:
Now time passes slowly,
and the emptiness follows Maia
everywhere she goes.
It’s boring. She can’t play with it,
and it won’t let other children near.
Maia is sad at first, but healing comes little by little, particularly when she discovers a kitten, 
makes a new friend at school, and explores a new passion playing the piano. 
On the day of Nico’s return, Maia worries that her new life is too full for him to have room, but when they are reunited, Maia understands that Nico has always been with her. 
Time and distance has not changed that.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a simple story, but it has such depth and is beautifully told and rendered via the illustrations. Recent events in my church family have reminded me how important it is to help children process their feelings about sudden goodbyes, no matter the circumstances. This story, unlike some about loss, offers a return. When such separations are painful, it is very valuable to offer lessons to children about the comfort God can give, hope that strengthens us, and how human connections can endure, especially when those lessons are grounded in faith or scripture.  
Publisher (in English) & Date: Kids Can Press, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Relate this story to any Bible story where someone who is loved has to say goodbye. If hope for a reunion is evident all the better. This works well with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection or ascension and return.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are feeling a loss or the absence of a friend or key figure in your faith family. Relate the return of Niko to concepts of hope and/or eternal life.