Friday, December 9, 2016

December Holiday Books 5 & 6

There is an astounding range of topics and tones in the 500 or so picture books here at PBT. Today I offer 2 books, 1 secular and 1 sacred, which are very different. Each offers a rich experience for ministry or family/classroom reflection this time of year.
Picture Book: Penguin Problems
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Lane Smith 
Summary: This hilarious book celebrates the grumps in our lives through the scornful perspective of a lone penguin who complains and complains about his life. His beak is too cold. He hates snow. The fish won’t jump out of the water. The ocean smells too salty. Everyone looks the same which makes finding Mom and Dad impossible. The ironic complaints and their clever illustrations continue for pages and pages. When penguin declares, “I have so many problems!” a wise walrus offers wisdom. Here's a summary:
Notice the beauty.
Be thankful for all; they adore you.
We all have difficult moments.
Know that you are exactly where you need to be.
Penguin’s initial response is not particularly appreciative, “Who the heck was that guy?! Why do strangers always talk to me?” but then he notices the mountains and admits the walrus might have a point.
Hanna’s Comments: I passed this book on to my husband to read saying this PBT post was inspired by him. Bill is my personal Christmas Grinch. He was laughing within the first few pages. Thanks to Bill, I see the potential for using this book during the December holidays. Underlying this penguin’s attitude is a lack of gratitude and a sense of despair. Both feelings (in children or adults) are worth addressing this time of year. If you can make their new perspective a faithful one, even better.
Original Publisher & Date: Random House, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about gratitude and Joy (Psalm 118:24 & 136:1, Romans, 12:12 & 15:13, Eph. 1:16, Phil. 4:4, Col. 3:17, 1 Thess. 5:18, James 1:2 & 17)
Idea(s) for Application: Any time of year, read this book to a group of children, youth, or adults in a lesson on how gratitude leads to joy. 
Picture Book: Refuge
Author: Anne Booth
Illustrator: Sam Usher
Summary: From the point of view of the donkey which carried Mary to Bethlehem, this dark story for children focuses on the refugee status of the nativity family. I was especially moved by this part:
   …we left some gold for the innkeeper for he had been good to us when others had not. And we set off, under star light, through empty streets, while people were sleeping, hoping for the kindness of strangers. Again.
They do find refuge in Egpyt. The last illustration is of them being served at table.
Hanna’s Comments: We can only hope that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were greeted with a spiritual practice of hospitality. Many refugees are not. You might want to consider reading this book at a post-Christmas gathering. Talk about the plight of refugees. If this is too dark a subject for your children, then talk about God’s desire for us to show hospitality and what that looks like at church, home, and in classrooms. When I was a child, I was struck by the 1879 painting Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Luc-Oliver Merson. View it [here] and consider showing it to your children. This painting helped me better understand this important scripture story, and I imagined the journey more vividly.
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & C0., 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Matthew 2:13-23
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book after Christmas to help your audience understand that Jesus’ birth and early years were difficult and dependent on the kindness of many strangers.