Friday, December 23, 2016

December Holiday Books 12 & 13

Picture Book: Christmas Day in the Morning
Author: Pearl S. Buck
Illustrator: Mark Buehner
Summary: A middle-aged man wakes at 4:00 one Christmas morning and remembers the Christmas gift he gave his father decades before. Rob remembers how they got up at 4 each morning, even Christmas morning, to milk the cows. His father was sympathetic to his teenaged son’s need to sleep, but the work was necessary. One Christmas Eve, Rob wishes he had a better gift for his dad. He thinks a gift in their barn would be like the Wise Men’s gifts to Jesus. Rob gets up at 2:45 and does the milking alone, joyfully anticipating how his father will respond. When the full milk cans are found, both are delighted. Because their work is done, they see the younger children discover their gifts, a first for Rob’s father. Later he tells Rob it is the best gift he’s ever received; he will think of it early every Christmas morning. 
Hanna’s Comments:  Buck’s skills as a Nobel prize winner are evident here in this 1955 story. This son’s creative response to a father he admires and loves immensely is captured beautifully in words and Buehner’s illustrations. Be sure to read the illustrator’s note at the front. After reading, encourage your audience to consider creative gifts of time and work they might offer others and God. This tale celebrates generosity of time and work, good gifts to encourage in December. Gary Chapman's theory of 5 Love Languages calls these types of loving responses the language of ‘quality time’ and the language of ‘works of service.’ Check out a PBT post featuring a book for children summarizing these ideas [here]. No matter the love languages your audience members demonstrate, all would benefit from a discussion about creative ways to say "I love you" during the December holidays. Be sure to emphasize how giving can be as thrilling as receiving.
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2002
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The story of the Wise Men and their gifts is in Matthew 2:1-12.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to people of any age in your faith family who are exploring various types & qualities of generosity during the December holidays.

Picture Book: Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale
Author: Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrator: Matthew Trueman 
Summary: Young Simon, about to immigrate to America, assures his family he will get work and send for them. Knowing her son will need a miracle, Simon’s mom has him promise to celebrate Hanukkah and gives him a menorah, candles, matches, and potato latkes. When his ship hits an iceberg, Simon gives up his place in a lifeboat to a man with a family. Simon survives by jumping on the iceberg. It is the first night of Hanukkah, a night of hope. He lights the candles, says the blessings, and waits. The light attracts a polar bear who shares the latkes, enjoys the songs, catches and shares fish, and keeps Simon warm as they sleep. The miracles and Hanukkah nights add up to 7. On the 8th night, Simon lights all the candles but they burn out. His new friend leaves abruptly just before Simon is rescued by a ship thanks to his candlelight. This 8th miracle saves Simon and brings him to New York City where he is celebrated. The mayor, the man who took his place on the boat, arranges for Simon’s family to join him.
Hanna’s Comments: An unrealistic tale, for sure, but this story packs a lot of rich content that will entertain your children, Jewish or not. A summary of the ancient story of Hanukkah is at the back to help you explain the holiday if needed. Besides the Hanukkah components, many themes connect with scripture: light, hope, ritual, community, resilience, courage, etc. This book offers an experience that has the potential to be culturally enriching as well as inspiring. 
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The story of Hanukkah is based on stories in 1st and 2nd Maccabees in the Hebrew Bible and in some Christian Bibles. Also, connect this book with scriptures about light such as “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”  (Psalm 27:1) & Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path…” (Psalm 119:105) as well as other themes listed above.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this story to any group of children who will enjoy a story about faith-inspired hope and perseverance.