Monday, October 16, 2017

3 Psalms Worship Books

Below you’ll find details on 3 picture books that epitomize what I try to do for you here at PBT. Karma Wilson, a prolific picture book author, and illustrator Amy June Bates have a series of three books. Each explore a well-known psalm. If you’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving soon, you’ll be particularly interested in the first book pictured below, but they’re all great additions to any library at home or your place of worship.

Author: Karma Wilson 
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Hanna’s Comments: This author-illustrator duo offers three delightful picture books grounded in the Psalms for teaching children aspects of worship in a way that is relevant and enjoyable. These books detail 3 important aspects of worship, not just formal sanctuary worship but also authentic, momentary worship that a child might engage in anytime of the day or night. In each of these books you’ll find young children experiencing faithful joy in daily living. They are wonderful role models for children and adults in your community who might need a little reminder of how worship is supposed to feel. Let these little ones inspire your faith family. Note: Give Thanks to the Lord may have a different cover. 
More PBT Books: Karma Wilson also has a very popular series of secular books with titles beginning “Bear....” I would recommend any one of these books for young children to explore living in loving community. Here are links to PBT posts that offer theological connections to two books in that series: 
Original Publisher: ZonderKidz
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at this time
Scripture Connections: Give Thanks to the Lord (Psalm 92); I Will Rejoice (Psalm 118:24); Let’s Make a Joyful Noise (Psalm 100:1)
Idea(s) for Application: Each of these books can easily be used with children for instruction in how gratitude, praise, and joy are all important foundations for worshiping and pleasing God.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grab & Go #12 - Stone Soup

Here’s another great book if you need a lesson for adults or children in your faith community and don’t have much time to prepare. It practically teaches itself! It’s an old tale full of rich meaning that particularly contrasts with modern paradigms of fear and scarcity. The scripture connections are many.
Picture Book: Stone Soup 
Author & Illustrator: Jon J. Muth
Summary: This is an oft-told legend of scarcity, fear, & selfishness in which 3 strangers enter an unwelcoming village & begin to make stone soup, a dish for which sharing is required. Their mysterious soup prep happens in the center of town so the hungry villagers become curious. It takes a child's courage to make contact and urge her elders to come see, smell, contribute, and eventually taste. Little by little, the villagers give out of their scarcity and experience the marvels of generosity and community.
Hanna’s Comments: Various versions of this old tale have been published; this one has a beautiful Chinese setting. Tom Chapin has recorded a wonderful song with the same title and story. The video version of this book was shared during worship at my church when we were launching a year of focusing our local mission activities on food deserts in our city. This is truly a beautiful book with an incredible message that all will understand! 
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2003
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Preschool and upFormats other than book: tablet, video on-line and in several video collections
Scripture Connections: ...and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6); Boy with Loaves & Fishes (Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:31, Luke 9:10, John 6:5); any scripture about generosity, hospitality, or abundance
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to your faith family and explore the importance of hospitality, generosity, abundance rather than scarcity, or unity in community.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Singing in Harmony

Picture Book: We All Sing with the Same Voice
Author: J. Philip Miller & Sheppard M. Greene
Illustrator: Paul Meisel
Summary: The text of this delightful book is the lyrics of a song from the Sesame Street TV show. It's full of children singing joyfully. 
They are quite different. 
Their names are different, Fred and Kareem Abdu for instance. 
Where they live is different. 
They might be from another country,  
from across the street, 
from a mountainous region, or from a coast. 
A repeated refrain uses an expansive concept of "I" making connections across children (and people of all ages) throughout our globe. 
I come from everywhere. 
And my name is you. 
The chorus proclaims the title idea that we all sing with the same voice and in harmony.
Then the children's diversity is explored through their various feelings
and behaviors such as crying 
and the need to sleep with a toy. 
Family structure is another way these children are different. 
Extended family members are mentioned 
as well as pets. 
Some favorite activities are listed like climbing and reading. 
Bedtime rituals are one of the activities these children share. 
The chorus wraps up this book that celebrates diversity and unified harmony. 
Hanna’s Comments: I wish I had known this Sesame Street song when my children were young. A key concept to emphasize for ministry applications is that all of these children (and each one of us) have inside us the voice of God. This is an expression of God’s image. Perhaps that is what “my name is you” means. At a time when diversity and creative expression are not always valued, let’s be reminded that God’s creation is our best model for the value and beauty of diversity. Humanity is the most blatant expression of diversity we have. Despite this, we also have a God-ordained connection that calls for empathy and community. Let’s celebrate when it leads to harmonious problem solving and joyful living. Give your audience examples of such harmony beyond a chorus of diverse voices. We Christians call that The Body of Christ at work. Here at PBT, there are many picture books with song lyrics as text because singing is an act of worship. You’ll find a few of my favorites [here] and [here] or you can use the search engine (below in the web version) and click on "songs." 
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2005 (reprint)
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Several versions of this song are on Youtube. An audio cd comes in the hardback version, and the song is available for download on iTunes.
Scripture Connections: Created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); diversity in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12); the whole body, joined and held together… grows, building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Read (or sing) this book with a group of children and connect it to concepts mentioned in my comments above.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Are you Coming?

This brand-new picture book is about empowering positive responses to the anger and hatred we see in media. It will prompt meaningful faith-based conversations with children and adults about how together our small actions will make a difference. This story ends with an invitation to you!
 Picture Book: Come with Me
Author: Holly M. McGhee
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaitree
Summary: A little girl is fearful while watching the stream of news. The anger and hatred that she sees - "people against people"- is troubling.
She asks her papa how she could help. His response? "Come with me. " They go to the subway. 
While there, the girl notices her father tips his hat to everyone he meets so she begins doing likewise. 
As they ride the subway, they are willing to risk kindness and connection. 
They find that these small acts help them overcome their fears and connect them to each other and the people of their world. 
The news of violence and hate doesn't end though. 
The girl turns to her mama next, asking how to make the world better. 
Her mama says, "Come with me." This time the journey is to the local grocery store where they see the bounty and diversity of our world. 
The little girl realizes that the people she has seen on the screen don't tell her about one person or one family or one race or people. 
Once home, the ritual of setting the table is helpful to her as is the company of her parents and her dog as she eats her meal.
She becomes inspired! She asks if she can walk the dog so she can do something on her own to make the world better. 
Her parents consider this. It's risky. They decide to let her go, another sort of message to the world, a refusal to live in fear. 
Just as the little girl exits, across the hall a boy asks where she is going. 
She decides two people are better than one. Like her parents, she offers an invitation, "Come with me." 
He does come and together they discover that it's good to be out of their homes. 
They see the world is not so bad. All living things deserve their bravery, gentleness, strength, and kindness.  
They see simple ways they can respond with goodness. 
They learn that even small gestures matter to the world. 
And everyone's small contributions matter too. They can even come together for more goodness.
Then the author speaks to the reader, "Your part matters, too. Come with me."
Hanna’s Comments: This timely story is a proclamation that hiding in fear and homogeneity is not going to make our divided world better. Here adults will be reminded that children watch everything we do. When we're out in the world, we are modeling our approach to the world. I love it's simplicity because these small acts are doable, goodness in small and hopeful ways. Think of it as a clarion call to action for children that will be heard by adults who need reassurance that simple gestures (the ones they can fit into their busy lives) matter too. The author & illustrator offers a dedication, saying this book was written "in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren't powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel." The scripture connections are so many! I've just offered a sampling below. 
Original Publisher & Date: Putnam’s, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17); Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9); The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12 & Ephesians 4); Who is wise and understanding among you? By your good conduct show works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to begin a conversation with your faith family about responses to anger, hatred, and violence in our world. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Good People!

Waking up to headlines of 50 plus dead and hundreds injured, I need a reminder that there are good people doing good things in this world. I need to read some of the many scriptures that profess God's good influence in the world. As we pray for Las Vegas (and those still suffering from storms and earthquakes), let us notice the goodness that lies in most people most of the time and be thankful while brokenhearted.
Picture Book: Good People Everywhere
Author: Linea Gillen 
Illustrator: Kristina Swarner
Summary: This is a simple book filled with simple ideas, but such ideas ground us and give us hope for a better day. 
The context is a community of normal people doing normal things, good things, the kind of things that make a huge difference but may not be noticed. 
Carpenters are building or repairing the structures we need for safety and contentment. 
Family members provide sustenance with loving dedication 
and others provide meals for those who have no home. 
Doctors and midwives deliver babies - good people of the future - 
while teachers prepare us for that future. 
Artists, such as musicians and dancers, 
risk their hearts and invest their time and bodies to create beauty. 
Farmers, forgotten heroes, plant seeds 
and glean harvests. 
Then people transport that good food to us. 
Children are affirmed here... for studying, 
caring for others, 
 and being friends. 
The wrap-up declares that millions of people will do millions of good things today and encourage readers to consider what good things they will do. 
 Hanna’s Comments: The last 2 pages encourage application. The suggested activities  could easily be transformed into a faith-based devotional and sending forth. The simple practices of acknowledging and expressing gratitude for simple gifts, ordinary graces, and humble work leads to hope, perseverance, and resilience which are especially needed when the news or  events are discouraging. As you read this book, at each double page spread, encourage your audience to think of related acts of goodness and verbally give God thanks for each of these people and their good work. For instance, at the pages of the baby being born, talk about nurses and grandparents. In the section about food production, explore more thoroughly the seed to feed process and express gratitude for all whose humble work makes so many choices available to us in grocery stores, farmers' markets, and restaurants. If you want to take this further, acknowledge God's presence and influence in the situations on each page. Making the ordinary sacred is a founding principle here at PBT. Don't forget to talk about the humility that is present in many of the illustrations and point out how humility and meekness are encouraged in the scriptures. Lastly, be clear that God's love is the source of all goodness. 
Original Publisher & Date: Three Pebble Press, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6); I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13); Oh, how abundant is your goodness (Psalm 31:19); Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5); All things work together for good (Romans 8:28); Let love be genuine (Romans 12:9); The fruit of the Spirit is …goodness… (Galatians 5:22-23); Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17); Who is wise…? By good conduct, let them show works in meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13) 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family when discouraging news abounds.