Monday, October 31, 2016

Water, Come Closer!

Picture Book: The Water Princess
Author: Susan Verde
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Summary: This story is based on the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, fashion model born in Burkina Faso.
A young African girl, Gie Gie, who is called Princess by her parents, longs for the ability to summon water. 
Despite her dancing, contorting, and pleas for the water to come closer, no water comes. 
Instead, every morning she reluctantly gets out of bed 
and walks with her mother a very long way to get water. 
Half way there, they stop for some nuts under a gorgeous tree. Upon arrival, she plays with her friends, while her mother stands in line. When they fill their containers, they can’t drink the water because it is dirty.
Finally, heavy pots are placed on their heads for the long and careful trek back. Once home, the water is boiled. Then Gie Gie gulps a refreshing and energizing drink of water. 
When her beloved father returns from the fields, their evening meal has been cooked thanks to the water they gathered. 
Later, clothes and body are washed so that Gie Gie can delight in her cleanliness. 
Dreading the next early morning rise to walk for water, Gie Gie asks her mother why getting water is so hard. 
Her mother replies, “Someday you will find a way, my Princess. Someday.”
Hanna’s Comments: Perhaps through her success and in collaboration with a charity called Ryan’s Well, Georgie Badiel has fulfilled her mother’s prophesy. Badiel is finding a way to bring water to the drought-ridden villages of her home country. 
More details and photos are found in the back along with links to Ryan’s Well and the Georgie Badiel Foundation who are working together to encourage better access to clean water in Burkina Faso and beyond. 
This book reminds me of another PBT offering that you might like as well. Find my post about Come On Rain! by Karen Hesse [here].
Original Publisher & Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: They shall not hunger or thirst…, for one who has pity on them will lead them by springs of water (Isaiah 49:10); Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6); Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of water will not lose a reward (Matthew 10:42); Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children, youth, or adults who are learning about issues of access to clean water, activists who improve access to water, “thirsting for righteousness” through activism, or Biblical concepts of prophesy and vocation. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Music From the Trash Heap

Picture Book: Ada’s Violin:                                                             The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Author: Susan Hood
Illustrator: Sally Wern Comport
Summary: Ada lives in a town built on a trash heap. 
When trucks bring in garbage, the gancheros (recyclers) quickly tear through looking for treasure to sell or use. 
Ada is especially drawn to the sounds of violins coming from the radio that her family listens to regularly. When her grandmother learns of free music lessons, she takes her 2 granddaughters. 
They meet their new music teacher, Favio Chavez, but there are only 3 instruments and they are too valuable for the children to take back home for practice. 
Inspired by the gancheros and a band he heard that made their own instruments, Senor Chavez gathers materials from the dump to make his students instruments. 
He and others experiment with different materials until all students have instruments. 
Ada quickly chooses a violin made from a paint can, baking tray, fork, and wooden pieces. The new orchestra practices daily for 3 hours outside in the heat. 
Many children quit, but not Ada and her sister. Soon the children make glorious music together; The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay is born! 
As her skills progress, Ada imagines a different life of making music and traveling to faraway places. 
With budding confidence, Ada performs solos. Soon she is chosen as First Violinist at age 12. Likewise, The Recycled Orchestra's public performances increase and they are soon traveling all over Paraguay and beyond. 
Delighted by the world they are experiencing, Ada and her friends perform for larger and larger crowds. They even tour internationally with a “world-famous rock band.” 
Although this is overwhelming, the cheering of the crowd gives Ada the courage she needs to step on the huge stage and play the music she was born to play, thanks to her town’s trash heap. 
Hanna’s Comments: This is such an inspirational story. The fact that it's true makes it even more powerful! You won’t have any difficulty encouraging your audience to find connections between this story, the scriptures listed below (or others you provide), and their own faith journeys. Emphasize concepts like vocation, courage, transformation, and worship. Talk about Ada's personal experiences as well as the success of the orchestra as a whole. The idea of coming together for good is biblical too. Have your audience reflect on how the mixed media illustrations continue the themes of the story. Be sure to read the Author’s Note where you’ll learn more, including how the money the orchestra makes benefits the children’s families and their community. You can check out photos and website/videos links too. This book is available in Spanish.
Original Publisher & Date: Simon Schuster, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Be strong and courageous... for the Lord is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9); make a joyful noise to the Lord (Psalm 100:1); with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26); one who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); make melodies to the Lord with your heart (Ephesians 5:19)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children, youth, or adults who are learning about how God can use anything to bring about our transformation and the transformation of the world. 

Monday, October 24, 2016


Picture Book: Come Home Angus
Author: Patrick Downs
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Summary: Kulikov's illustrations are crucial to the power of this story, even on the first page. 
Angus is a young child who wakes up with the kind of anger that is big, huge even. No reason is given for his anger. 
He responds badly to his “slow” dog, his “loud” canary & cat, and his mom who expects and apology.  
Great line here, “In this house, being angry doesn’t let you be rude.” 
After a verbal tug of war, Angus packs a full bag and heads out the door. His mother says, “I’ll miss you.” Angus replies, “No, you won’t.” 
As he walks away, his size diminishes while buildings grow so that eventually he is little, lost, and afraid. 
Angus sits on a bench and realizes he’s forgotten his lunch. 
Just as strangers surround him, his mom brings his lunch (and pets) and asks if he’s ready to come home. 
Is he ever!
Hanna’s Comments: This book reminds me of Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are and 2 PBT books by Molly Bang: When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry and her sequel When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt. See a post about those last 2 [here]. What does this book have to offer ministry more than Bang’s books? First, you have a beautiful maternal image of God, God as provider & comforter and God as one who is expecting more from us than we offer. 
Secondly, you have a perfect visual representation of our human tendency to think we are big deals and shove God away. Daniel Erlander in his brilliant book for adults Manna and Mercy, calls sin “trying to become a BIG DEAL.” See more about this book and the children’s curriculum I’ve written based on it in Other Resources by Hanna, a tab above. It is when Angus realizes he is not such a big deal, that he becomes lost, afraid, and wanting his mom. 
Thirdly, Angus thinks all his “stuff” will comfort him, but it doesn’t. 
Instead, he needs his important relationships with his mom and his pets, all of whom love him unconditionally.
Original Publisher & Date: Orchard Books, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: In Your presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11); for me it is good to be near God, my refuge (Psalm 73:28); where shall I flee from Your presence (Psalm 139: 7); neither death nor life… shall separate us from the love of God… (Romans 8: 38-39)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to children or adults and talk about these human inclinations: our tendency to separate from God although God is always present, our tendency to try to be BIG DEALS, or our tendency to be oriented to our “stuff” rather than our loving relationships. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

From the Front Porch

Picture Book: Homer
Author & Illustrator: Elisha Cooper
Summary: Homer is sitting on the front porch, looking toward the beach. He’s considering what to do today as family members pass on the way to the beach.
Chase his fellow dogs around the yard? No
Go exploring with his girl? No
Walk on the beach? No  
Swim or go to the market? No
Instead he watches his family delight in their day.
As all return, they greet Homer, who is still on the front porch, and tell them of their experiences. 
He is glad to hear and see the results. When asked if he needs anything, 
Homer realizes he has everything he wants right there. 
Hanna’s Comments: This beautiful book is about an old dog who is an integral part of his family. 
Despite the limits of his body and his inclinations, he is happy gazing at his family’s fun at the beach and being surrounded by them as they enjoy the afternoon. At end of day inside, Homer finds the busyness of a loving family 
and a way to again be in the midst of them. 
The book ends with gratitude for having such a loving family and lovely place in the world. It is no coincidence that the word home is in Homer's name. As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of those in my church who are less able to do the meaningful church activities of their past. Instead, they encourage those of us who are more able to go and do, and they pray for our success and well-being. I am very grateful for them and see this book as a way to encourage children and adults to offer appropriate inclusion, hear their stories, and consider their ministry needs.
Original Publisher & Date: Greenwillow Books, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man (Leviticus 19:32); do not cast me off in the time of old age… (Psalm 71:9); when you serve the least you serve Jesus (Matthew 25); Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him (1 Timothy 5:1)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adults in your faith family who are planning a particular ministry for their senior adults or shut-ins.