Friday, December 30, 2016

December Holiday Books 14 & 15

This ends the PBT December Holiday Books series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and found the books to be helpful in your ministry, teaching, or parenting.

Please consider donating to PBT via PayPal in the right top margin where it says “Show your gratitude. Buy me a picture book.” I invest long hours for you as a labor of love and hope for high quality spiritual learning. Any amount would be appreciated.      Thank you!   Hanna

Picture Book: The Third Gift
Author: Linda Sue Park
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Summary: This clever book offers a back story to the gift of myrrh, the 3rd offering the magi give Jesus. A young boy is learning his father’s trade, collecting and selling hardened tree sap. He calls these pearls of sap “tears” and “the blood of the tree.” The tears emerge after his father has cut the shape of an X into the bark. The resin inside dries as the tears dry in the hot sun. Once dry and sold to spice merchants, they are sold again to be used for medicine or flavoring wine. The best tears are mixed with oil which is used to wash a body before burial. When the boy harvests a tear as large as a hen’s egg, 
it is sold to 3 men wearing fine robes in the spice merchant’s tent. They explain they already have 2 gifts, gold and frankincense, to give a particular baby. The boy thinks it strange to give such a gift to a child. The story ends with him wondering about the child.
Hanna’s Comments: There is nothing overtly religious in this story, but spiritual ideas can be found under the surface. Talk about the importance of offering gifts to God or others that are of high quality and sincerely given. Mention the boy's godly desire to learn from his father. Find the subtle connections to Jesus’ death. There is an extensive Author’s Note in the back to give you some great context to help make this book even more meaningful to your audience. 
Original Publisher & Date: Clarion Books, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up 
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The scripture story of the Wise Men and their gifts are in Matthew 2:1-12.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in a lesson about the Magi’s visit and the 3 gifts for Jesus. 

Picture Book: The Story of the Three Wise Kings
Retold & Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Summary: In this traditional story of the Magi who visited Jesus, the three kings are named and come from different places:
Melchior of Arabia
Gaspar of Tharsis
Balthazar of Saba.
They are all stargazers compelled to follow the new star that signifies a new king would be born. Each sets out to honor the young king, carrying one of the traditional gifts. They meet along the way. As they approach Jerusalem, they lose sight of the star so they go to King Herod. The rest of the text corresponds to the scripture in Matthew. This story ends with the exit of the kings “by another way.” Joseph’s dream and the family’s rush to Egypt is not in this book.  
Hanna’s Comments: I like this version of the magi story because it is simple and straightforward. It doesn’t have the magi at the nativity. Jesus is a little older and in a home. This corresponds well with the Epiphany season, the liturgical period that follows Christmas. Traditionally Epiphany is on January 6. The art here is beautiful and unusual as well. At the beginning of this book you’ll find A Word about the Kings which gives some literary and historical context. The last paragraph explains that dePaola has chosen to paint Mary and Jesus in a traditional pose found in many Roman paintings of the Magi story.
Original Publisher & Date: Putnam’s Sons, 1983
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up 
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The scripture story of the Wise Men and their gifts are in Matthew 2:1-12.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in a lesson about Epiphany or the Magi’s visit and gifts to Jesus.

Monday, December 26, 2016

PBT Redux Series #6 - One Winter's Day

Today I feature a former post that is one of the newly published treasures of PBT’s 500 plus books. It is for young children, but the themes of generosity and hope are for lifelong learning. Consider this a perfect book for encouraging a lifetime of giving.
Picture Book: One Winter’s Day
Author: M. Christina Butler
Illustrator: Tina Macnaughton
Summary: The wind is blowing hard so that Little Hedgehog’s nest is toppled. He puts on all his winter clothes and heads to Badger’s warm home. Along the way, he meets other animal friends who are shivering in the terribly frigid wind. In his generosity, Little Hedgehog gives his mittens, hat, and scarf to his cold friends. When he reaches Badger’s place, he is covered in ice. Badger greets him, warms him, and listens to his story. After the storm, Little Hedgehog is restored, but he returns home with little hope for his home's restoration. He is surprised to find his home rebuilt, stronger and cozier than ever, by the friends who benefited from his generosity.
Hanna’s Comments: Sometimes PBT stories, like this one for the youngest children, have such mature meaning and relate directly to the scriptures. This is not just a story of generosity and the payback that sometimes comes. It is also a story of the great gift of hospitality in times of need and about a community coming together to help others endure and then recover after a tragedy. The underlying theme is the value of a comfortable home. Young children, more than most, understand the importance of home. They can be encouraged to thank God for their home and their loving generous community. This book can also be viewed as early seeds planted for generosity to come in the young children who hear it.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Good Books, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audio CD, there are amateur videos on Youtube.com
Scripture Connections: If anyone wants your coat, give your cloak as well (Matthew 5:40); just as you did it to one of the least of these… (Matthew 25:40)
Idea(s) for Application: Besides encouraging a conversation about generosity and outreach, this book could serve as a useful tool for children who are recuperating from a disaster. After a disaster, talking about what has happened to your family, members of your family of faith, or others in your community can be very healing and motivating. This book also gives hope that homes and lives will be restored.


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. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

December Holiday Books 10 & 11

Picture Book: Oskar and the Eight Blessings
Author: Tanya and Richard Simon
Illustrator: Mark Siegel
Summary: This is a beautiful story of a child who immigrates alone into New York City on December 24, 1938. His parents have sent him to an aunt after the devastating Kristallnacht. On November 9 & 10 of that year, Nazis destroyed thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and over 30,ooo Jews were placed in concentration camps. The date is also significant because it is the last day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. As Oskar walks the 100 plus blocks of Broadway to the address of an aunt he doesn’t know, he encounters historical figures (First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and jazz musician Count Basie) and other anonymous strangers. All welcome and bless him in 8 various ways as he eventually makes his way to a loving aunt.  
Hanna’s Comments: This is a perfect book for talking in your family or faith family about hospitality, refugees, and generosity across religious traditions. It won the 2015 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature. A map of Manhattan Island showing Oskar’s route, an Author’s Note, and short glossary are all in the back.
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native (Leviticus 19:34); whoever receives you receives me (Matthew 10:40); see to show hospitality (Romans 12:13); do not neglect to show hospitality to stranger (Hebrews 13:2); show hospitality to on another (1 Peter 4:9); The story of Hanukkah is based on stories in 1st and 2nd Maccabees in the Hebrew Bible and in some Christian Bibles.
Idea(s) for Application: During December, read this book to a group in your faith family who are interested in hospitality to refugees or relationships across religious traditions. 

Picture Book: The Message of the Birds
Author: Kate Westerlund
Illustrator: Feridun Oral
Summary: An old owl tells fellow birds the story of Christmas. The coos of the Christ child are viewed as a blessing of joy and good will for all. When a robin asks why the birds no longer sing the story, the owl explains that the humans stopped listening to the song. Then together the birds create a new strategy: sing the story to the children of the world. Perhaps they will listen. The birds fly far and wide singing their message of hope. Birds they meet continue their mission. The children do listen and what unfolds is a coming together of the world’s children in a circle to celebrate the Christ child and honor the possibility of peace.
Hanna’s Comments: For me, this book seems like a mash up of Old Turtle by Wood and Chee (see the post [here]) and Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This story has beautiful illustrations of various birds. You’ll want to spend some time identifying them with your audience. Then explore how Jesus life and teachings connect with the idea of peace and why in December, peace is particularly desired.
Original Publisher & Date: Minedition, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: For unto us a child is born…his name shall be called…Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6); The angel sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace (Luke 2:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family to explore how the Christ child was a promise of peace for all.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

PBT Techniques Series #3 - Storytelling

Storytelling: An Option for Excellence
Typically at PBT, I suggest that you read to your audience. However, there are times when that method isn’t practical such as when a book is wordless and detailed illustrations are key to understanding. If you find such a book that has an excellent story, take the time to learn it well enough to tell. Your audience benefits, and your storytelling skills are improved. Everyone loves to be told an excellent story!
Since I’m breaking with my usual practice and offering sacred stories this December holiday season, I’ll tell you of my favorite Christmas picture book! It is a sacred story involving a small figures in a crèche who come alive to aid a poor and elderly woman. Tell the story since the book is wordless and some illustrations are in small frames, but you must share those clever and funny illustrations afterwards (not before – the surprise will be ruined). As always, having multiple copies of the book is beneficial but not necessary.
Picture Book: A Small Miracle
Author & Illustrator: Peter Collington
Summary: An old woman journeys in the snow to a nearby town to play her organ for coins since she woke up to no coins or food in her small trailer. Earning no coins, at day’s end she reluctantly sells her beloved organ to an antiques dealer. She comes out of the shop and is robbed. 
While walking home, she discovers the robber as he exits the church, charity bucket in hand. 
She grabs the bucket and hurries inside where she finds the scattered crèche. She lovingly replaces the figures and bucket (funds too). 
Hungry and frail, she collapses in the snow on her way home. 
The crèche figures rescue her and carry her unconscious body home. 
Mary and the babe stay beside her side while the others venture out to solve the woman’s problems. 
The Magi use the charity funds to purchase her organ and some groceries. 
They return and prepare a feast. Joseph gets a Christmas tree and repairs her wooden trailer. He is a carpenter after all! A shepherd retrieves her funds from the robber (not sure how this happens!) and decorates the tree. 
The figures leave and the lady awakes. 
The story ends with puzzled but resounding rejoicing. 
 Hanna’s Comments: As you can see, my summary above fails to convey the hilarity of the illustrations. Because the crèche figures don’t change size, the irony of their abilities is comical. Once before on PBT, I offered a wordless book, Flood by Villa. I posted about it because it is a beautiful story of a family’s survival during a flood (an all too common occurrence) which has obvious connections to the biblical flood. Find that post [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Knopf, 1997
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Stories involving characters of The Nativity are early in the gospels of Matthew and Luke; Mary’s declarations against poverty in her Magnificat (Luke 1:44-55)
Idea(s) for Application: Tell the story of this book to a group of children in your faith family who are exploring themes of poverty during the Advent season. 

Are there other wordless books you recommend for a good storytelling session? If so, share them in a comment.

Monday, December 12, 2016

December Holiday Books 7, 8, & 9

Today I offer 3 picture books that are origin stories, 1 for Hanukkah and 2 for Christmas. If you are Christian, still consider using the Hanukkah story for it is not only a part of December culture but our religious heritage as well.

Picture Book: It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook
Author: Stephanie Spinner
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry 
Summary: Here the rituals and elements of Hanukkah are the background for a series of 8 stories told to Owen, the OCL (official lighter of the menorah candles). Owen hears these stories each night of Hanukah from his Grandma. Most are stories of family members with a few obvious exceptions such as the story of an alien who is helped by seeing a menorah in a window. Grandma highlights miracles and connections to the Jewish holiday and Owen’s heritage.
Hanna’s Comments: What a wonderful relationship Owen has with his Grandma! What a fabulous storyteller she is! In the back of this book, you’ll find The Hanukkah Legend, a list of The Hanukkah Blessings, and a short glossary. The text of this book is quite long so I suggest you read it in portions, depending on the age of your audience. It is a great introduction for non-Jewish children who know little of Hanukkah as well as a fun book for Jewish rabbis, teachers, or parents to read to their children. After reading, talk about some particular stories and traditions of your family of origin or family of faith.
Original Publisher& Date: Anne Swartz, 2003
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K 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.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children wanting to learn more about Hanukkah and their own religious heritage.

Note this book has 2 very different covers depending on publication date.
Picture Book: The Nativity
Illustrator: Julie Vivas 
Summary: The story of Jesus’ birth is illustrated here with very human but unusual illustrations. Beginning with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, the illustrations encompass the journey, birth, and response from the community. It ends with the departure of the shepherds and wise men.
Hanna’s Comments: This is the book I usually choose when I want to read about Jesus’ birth to children and adults. Audiences respond so positively to the juxtaposition of the old King James text with the delightful and surprising illustrations.
Original Publisher & Date: Gulliver, 1986
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The text in this book is from the King James version of Matthew and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

Note that this cover is different from what you may find.
Picture Book: The First Christmas
Illustrations: Paintings at The National Gallery, London 
Summary: This stunning book offers scripture texts of Jesus’ birth with corresponding paintings from masters of the Renaissance. For instance, the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary in the Book of Luke are paired with this [beautiful painting] by Lippi from The National Gallery of London.
Hanna’s Comments: There are many picture books that celebrate Jesus’ birth. Here I’ve chose two that are very different. This book is most appropriate for school age children or older and has an additional art history component. An index in the back offers information about each of the paintings.
Original Publisher & Date: Simon & Schuster, 1992
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present, but it is likely that most of these paintings can be viewed on-line [here] at the museum’s website.
Scripture Connections: The text in this book is from the King James version of Isaiah, Matthew, and Luke.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a homeschool or private school setting as a combined religious and art lesson.

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. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

December Holiday Books 3 & 4

Picture Book: Christmas Cookies:                                                                     Bite Size Holiday Lessons
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Jane Dyer
Summary: This second book in Rosenthal and Dyer’s series of picture books about cookie baking celebrations is not a book just about baking Christmas cookies. Each double-page spread teaches a key vocabulary word within the fun context. Many have resonance this time of year. Here’s a sample of the text on one page:
                            TRADITION means
     that each year at the same time we make the same
     cookies and wear our special matching aprons.
Other key words include ANTICIPATION, CELEBRATE, CHARITABLE, BELIEVE, JOY, PEACE, and HOPE.
Hanna’s Comments: Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a favorite author. She has a couple of TEDx talks and likes to encourage quirky artistic adventures for everyone. She has written 2 nonfiction books for adults that I have enjoyed. Here at PBT, I’ve featured 2 of her many clever picture books. More will be featured later. Check out Spoon [here] and Yes Day! [here]. I like this book and the others in this series, because they are not just offering the communal and scrumptious delights of baking cookies together. They also offer some instructions on how to live better. The recipe is in the back for each kind of cookie baked in each book in the series. This book offers a yummy recipe for Christmas cookies (sugar cookies).
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2008
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4); eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. (Proverbs 24:13); God gives good things to those who ask for them (Matthew 7:11)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book to inspire a homeschool, private school, or church school lesson and cookie party on ways to delight in God’s gifts and each other particularly during the holidays of December.

Picture Book: The Donkey’s Christmas Song
Author & Illustrator: Nancy Tafuri
Summary: When a special baby is born in a stable, under a bright star, the donkey of the title is among the animals to desires to welcome him. “How to approach and welcome Baby Jesus?” is the question the donkey considers. The shy donkey fears his bray is too loud. He sees the doves, cows, goats, chicks, and mice offer gentle welcoming songs. Then the baby looks at the shy donkey and smiles. In joyful response, the donkey sings his noisy bray and the baby laughs. Then the donkey snuggles in to keep the babe warm.
Hanna’s Comments: This book is a great tool for introducing the concept of worship and humility to young children. In simple terms, humility is knowing that you are not the center of the room, the family, the classroom, church, the world. In this book, humility is about a desire to worship God. Even little children can learn the importance of being worshipful before God. They can also learn that all loving and humble responses can bring God (and Jesus) joy. Distinguish humility from the characteristic of shyness which is how the donkey is described. Explaining humility's opposite, pride, might be helpful too. Use other stories of Jesus’ humility and other’s humble responses to God to help your children begin to build concepts of worship and humility which will hopefully be life-long lessons.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2002
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about Jesus birth; scriptures about humble worship
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young children when studying the Nativity story. As described above, emphasize concepts of worship and humility.   


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.