Friday, December 2, 2016

December Holiday Books 1 & 2

As we approach the December holidays, I’ve decided to break with PBT tradition and offer some sacred picture books along with my usual secular stories. There are so many beautiful Christmas and Hanukkah books so on my usual post days, Mondays and Fridays, I’ll briefly feature 2 books, a secular first and then a sacred. 
Picture Book: A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love
Author: Michelle Edwards
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas 
Summary: Sophia’s neighbor, Mrs. Goldman, taught her how to knit and regularly demonstrates the Jewish practice of mitzvah (doing a good deed) by knitting and giving hats. Sophia enjoys making the pom-poms for these gifts. While walking with her neighbor on a series of blustery days, Sophia worries that Mrs. Goldman has no hat for her own keppie (head) so Sophia decides to remember her lessons and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. Sophia struggles with the task but perseveres. Unhappy with the result, she adds 20 pom-poms to cover her mistakes. Mrs. Goldman gratefully exclaims that each pom-pom has been made with love.
Hanna’s Comments:  Sometimes a title tells me when I’ve found a PBT book! The loving generosity in this title is on every page of this book. I also very much liked the cross-cultural interaction of a Hispanic child (Sophia mentions her abuela) with a Jewish adult. The Jewish concept of mitzvah is an idea all of us would be enriched to know. Sophie’s creative problem solving, which I believe is a gift from God, is another aspect of this book that offers you rich material for conversation and activities in your family or faith community. A pattern for knitting the “Sophia hat” is in the back of this book.
Original Publisher & Date: Schwartz & Wade, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Any scripture that involves generosity to neighbor or patient perseverance through difficult work would connect with this story. In December, this story connects with religious practices of gift-giving and compassion.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about God-inspired good deeds or creative problem-solving. Making pom-poms would be a fun activity to supplement this book.

Picture Book: December
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: David Diaz
Summary: Simon and his mom live in a cardboard house on the street. They have managed to create a simple Christmas tree and decorate with a paper angel named December from a calendar. Christmas eve brings to their makeshift door an elderly woman, poorer even than Simon and his mother. They welcome her and give her a coat and food. Simon gives his guest his one cookie. Early Christmas morning, Simon is awakened by the old woman’s exit. When he gets up to close the door, he sees December, the Christmas angel instead of the old woman. She sings quietly to him as she disappears. The next Christmas eve finds Simon in a much better place. His mom has a job and they live in an apartment. Their decorations are still meager; December still smiles down at them. Simon remembers.
Hanna’s Comments:  Putting it simply, some Christmas picture books are joyous, but others are about suffering. Some might call the second kind depressing or dark and avoid reading them to children. I propose that stories of suffering harken back to the nativity. Jesus was poor and homeless. He and his parents were refugees. Children were murdered. Many of your children know the darkness of these stories already. The Christmas story is about hardship, emboldened by hope, and wrapped in love. All good stories are. Usually children can handle dark stories if you consider the age guidelines and are sensitive to who they are, how they will likely respond, and their reactions as they listen. Giving parents fair warning is a good idea too. If themes of homelessness are too harsh for your young audience, consider a similar story in Christmas Soup by Alice Faye Duncan (illustrator Phyllis Dooley).
Original Publisher & Date: Harcourt, 1997
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Matthew 2:1-18; Luke 2:1-20
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning and exploring the Nativity stories.