Monday, August 14, 2017

PBT Series: Picture Book Classics #2

Here’s another one of my early posts that is worth sharing again. This little book is a treasure. It’s been in print for over 70 years and is typically read to very young children. In the post below, I suggest you consider a broader audience and give your faith family a chance to see the connections between this little guy's faith in a carrot seed and their own faith.  
Picture Book: The Carrot Seed
Author: Ruth Krauss
Illustrator: Crockett Johnson
Summary: This classic has a simple story but a powerful message about a lone boy’s faith in a carrot seed which he has planted and continues to nurture despite his family members saying repeatedly, “It won’t come up.” Eventually the greens pop above the soil’s surface. Then the boy pulls a huge carrot out of the ground and loads it onto a wheel barrow. I wonder if he shared the carrot with his family.
Hanna’s Comments: This book was published 70 years ago, but its simple message of faith and nurturing that which only you believe in is universal and timeless. I think it should be in every toddler and preschooler’s library. Certainly it should be in your faith community’s nursery, preschool rooms, and community-wide library. Don't limit it's audience to just little ones. With elementary children and adults talk about naysayers and critics. Discuss the concept of nurturing your faith as the boy nurtured his carrot seed. Be sure to point out that the carrot seed might have died had the boy not been so faithful to it. Ask them, “What are some of the ways we “water” and “weed” our faith gardens?” Think this is too abstract? Offer some personal explanation of how you do this and what your faith garden looks like. I bet you’ll be surprised at how they will catch on.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Harper & Row, 1945
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: There are several videos to choose from including “Uncle Wally” Amos reading this book as a part of the Read it Loud library program on, Audio cassette
Scripture Connections: Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:8); If you have faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) 
Idea(s) for Application: Because the concept of faith is so abstract, children (and sometimes adults) have difficulty understanding it. This little book offers a delightfully simple, but profound explanation of faith that is easy to relate to. Read this book in a Sunday school or other small group context and explore the concept of faith and how to "tend" and "nurture" it. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Mysteries of an Elephant

Today’s post is not typical of PBT. I’m featuring 2 books based on an ancient Indian tale traditionally called The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.
I’ll explore why either of these books would be fun and beneficial for a faith family. The labels at the bottom of this post will give you some ideas as well. You might even find another picture book based on this tale. Separately, I’ll give you some details for both books. The first book featured would be more appropriate for preschoolers or young elementary children. The second book attributes the story to Rumi, a wonderful 13th century Persian poet who wrote The Elephant in the Dark as a part of a lengthy book of poems. 

This elephant parable is about the human tendency to make judgments and argue based on our limited experiences and perspectives. Both experience and perspective are crucial, but they can be misleading and righteous judgments can cause division. 
Faith families struggle with these issues. Too often people of faith think they have God all figured out when they simply have projected their experiences and perspective onto a limited image of God. Divisions are often due to such stalwart and narrow thinking. This old story is applied to theology often. In his most recent book about The Holy Trinity, The Divine Dance, Father Richard Rohr says, "We are like blind people touching the side of an elephant, describing the tiny portion we feel with all the conviction we can muster."
Delving in to this human tendency would be beneficial for children and adults in your faith family, but let them decide what the story is telling them about human nature. Don't impose onto them your interpretation of the book or you'll be demonstrating this human tendency yourself! 
Picture Book: Seven Blind Mice
Author & Illustrator: Ed Young
Summary: One by one, seven blind mice explore a strange "something." After each excursion, the mouse gives a different explanation. It’s a pillar…
It’s a snake…
It's a fan...
and so on until the 7th mouse manages to investigate the whole elephant and declares what it truly is.
This book ends with a “Mouse Moral”
Knowing in part may make a fine tale,
but wisdom comes from seeing the whole.
Original Publisher & Date: Puffin, 2002
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio
Scripture Connections: Trust God; don’t try to lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5); … but some doubted (Matthew 28: 17b); If I understand all mysteries but do not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2) 

Picture Book: Elephant in the Dark:                                                                 Based on a Poem by Rumi
Retold: Mina Javaherbin
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin 
Summary: Rumi’s poetic tale The Three Blind Men and the Elephant is beautifully illustrated here. 
Villagers hear of a magnificent creature that has been brought from India by a traveling merchant. 
When they confront the merchant and demand to see the creature, he tells them to let him sleep. 
The villagers decide to inspect the creature themselves.
One by one, several people sneak into the dark barn where the creature is being kept, but they inspect the creature only in part and with haste.
One man says it’s like a snake. 
After wrapping his arms around the elephant's leg,
one man says it's a tree. 
The elephant's ear 
convinces a woman it's a fan. 
This results in lots of arguing and name calling and even shouting and shoving. 
When the merchant arises and parades the awesome elephant through the village, the villagers are too busy fighting to notice the stunning creature or realize how wrong they are. 
But, the children notice and are fascinated! 

This book has in the back an Author's Note and an Illustrator's Note. Check them out before reading to your audience.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Trust in the Lord; do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-8); … but some doubted (Matthew 28: 17b); If I reveal all God’s mysteries but don’t love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

PBT Redux #11 The Story of Ruby Bridges

School is about to start here in Alabama so I’m reposting my favorite “Back to School” PBT book. This true story is about a hero, a young Christian hero, who prays her way through a very difficult school year. Ruby Bridges is a name I wish American children knew as well as they know many sports stars and entertainers. Read this book to the kids in your faith family as they start school and talk about how prayer can ground them in difficult times.
Picture Book: The Story of Ruby Bridges 
Author: Robert Coles
Illustrator: George Ford
Summary: Ruby Bridges, 6-year-old hero of the Civil Rights Movement, daily faced an angry mob as she single-handedly integrated an elementary school in New Orleans. Facing this mob with courage, dignity, and her unyielding faith, every morning Ruby prayed for those who verbally abused her as she walked to school.
Hanna’s Comments: The author, a well-known child psychiatrist, regularly spent time with Ruby Bridges during her school integration ordeal. There is much material about Ruby Bridges, (interviews, documentaries, video dramas including a Disney film, a famous Norman Rockwell painting…) as well as other picture books. This book was chosen for PBT because it is a first-hand account, and it emphasizes Ruby’s resilience and faith.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Scholastic, 1995
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, see my comments above about other resources
Scripture Connections: The Lord is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7); pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44); Christ welcomes the little children (Matthew 19:14); I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a children’s lesson on intercessory prayer, facing fear & other difficulties with faith and prayer, or Contemporary Christian Heroes.

Friday, August 4, 2017

PBT God Book #5 - Where Does God Live?

Here's another entry in the PBT series in which I feature again one of the excellent picture books here that explore the nature of God. I call these God books. Typically I offer secular books, but God books are the exception because they have such great potential for ministry and family conversations. This book is a treasure! I especially love the inter-generational aspect of it.  
Picture Book: Where Does God Live? 
Author: Holly Bea
Illustrator: Kim Howard
Summary: Hope loves to ask questions! When she asks her busy mom about where God lives, her mom gives a simple answer about heaven. Then Hope explores the possibilities on her own as she encounters nature. Later Hope’s wise grandmother, who has lived a long life of faith, clarifies for her God’s presence throughout the world and about how prayer works. Hope goes home and tries out prayer. She finds that prayer is surprisingly satisfying and God is very accessible.
Hanna’s Comments: This book seems quite simple, but it is rich with theology about God’s nature, presence, and accessibility in the world and God’s presence in each of us. Don't assume it is just for children. Hope's questioning nature and the faith presented by her grandmother are fertile ground for rich conversation by people of all ages.
Original Publisher & Date: H. J. Kramer, 1997
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Preschool and up
Formats other than book: Tablet
Scripture connections: My presence will go with you (Exodus 33:14), You will find me if you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13), I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book for a children’s Sunday School lesson on the importance of asking questions of God or an adult lesson about how a life of faith can involve questions and assurance.

Monday, July 31, 2017

PBT Series Grab & Go #10 - He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

I’m on vacation so I am featuring again a post from one of the best picture books that PBT has to offer for ministry. Last Friday and today, I’ve added to my Grab & Go series. These books have such strong connections to scripture that little planning is necessary. Their content is rich and their illustrations are gorgeous. Your audiences will enjoy them and find valuable meaning. 
Picture Book: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands  
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Summary: This popular American spiritual and favorite song for children to sing is beautifully illustrated by one of my favorite picture book artists. He captures a loving family along with children’s drawings. This picture book celebrates God’s care and God's gift of the natural world. Nelson states that he wished to portray the world as a child might see it, vast and beautiful.
Hanna’s Comments: Kadir Nelson offers a historical note about this well-known spiritual and includes the score. The text is a little different from the words you may be used to singing which allows for some stunning illustrations. He includes:
He's got my brothers and my sisters...
He's got the rivers and the mountains...
He's got you and he's got me...
Publisher & Date of Publication: Dial, 2005 
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up 
Formats other than Book: Audible  
Scripture Connections: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers (Psalm 8:3); The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1); For those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28); For by him all things were created (Colossians 1:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to accompany a lesson on God’s gift of creation, especially its diversity and God’s loving care.

Friday, July 28, 2017

PBT Grab & Go #8 - Nova's Ark

Here's the latest book in my Grab & Go series. These are repeated posts about books that lend themselves to a super easy lesson because their content directly relates to biblical traditions or spiritual ideas.
Picture Book: Nova’s Ark 

Author & Illustrator: David Kirk

While playing with his family’s ancient treasure, a wooden ark and a set of wooden animals, Nova, a robot boy, misses his father who is on a space mission. Later, he accidentally rockets himself to a new planet (Nova is an engineering genius!) and uses his amazing talents to invent new mechanical animals to keep him company. After being reunited with his father who is injured, Nova & each animal sacrifice a component of their mechanics to save his father. Eventually father & son discover on this new planet the energy source that their planet desperately needs.

Hanna’s Comments: There is a great deal to talk about in this story. Encourage discussion among older listeners about connections between this tale and the biblical ark story. Ask about why this old story has various versions in cultures and media. What message does the old story (and this new one derived from images of that old story) have for us today? Younger listeners will simply enjoy the story and help you find connections to Genesis.

Publisher & Date of Publication
: Scholastic, 1999

Age and Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up

Formats other than Book: None at present 

Scripture Connections: Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6-9)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to children, youth, or adults to explore the power and themes from the biblical story of Noah’s ark.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gathering Places

Picture Book: Out of the Woods: A True Story of an                                                    Unforgettable Event
Author & Illustrator: Rebecca Bond
Summary: The author's grandfather, Antonio Willie Giroux, loved to tell this amazing story:
In 1914 when he was almost 5, Antonio lived in a lodge near the edge of Lake Gowganda in Ontario. 
He lived with his mother who ran a 3-story hotel, a primitive lodge. 
Antonio often interacted with the lodgers. They included lumber jacks, those who worked at the lodge, trappers, sportsmen, and travelers. 
Antonio especially loved the gathering places. On the first floor was the large dining room. Antonio's room was in a little alcove.  
The second floor consisted of bunks where the travelers and sportsmen would stay briefly. He was fascinated by their equipment. 
The third floor was Antonio's favorite. This was another open space that housed the trappers, lumberjacks, and silver miners who stayed for months at a time. They played cards, told stories, and made music. 
Antonio liked to wander in the woods too, but the animals were well-hidden, too many trappers around. 
One day in the midst of a very dry summer, someone on the third floor spotted smoke. 
Quickly, all were warned of the very real danger and headed for the only place where they might be safe 
Lake Gowganda. All the people stood in knee deep water hoping the fire would turn.
It was another sort of gathering place where everyone waited and hoped to be spared while they stared at the flames. 
Remarkably, they were soon joined by the forest animals that had steered clear from them before. 
The threat of fire was bringing all sorts together. Another kind of fear, a common fear was taking over.
Enemies were side by side! Trappers stood with deer and moose. Foxes were beside rabbits. 
They were close enough to touch. The sky was black, the air was gray, and the living inhabitants of Gowganda were determined to survive beside one another through the fire.  
When it was safe to leave the lake, the animals of all kinds did just that. 
The lodge had been spared. The humans went back to their usual routines and Antonio too. 
He lived at the Lodge for several more years and never forgot the fire that created such an unusual gathering place at Gowganda Lake. This story of distances disappearing between humans and animals was his favorite story to tell his grandchildren. 
Hanna’s Comments: Right now many people are struggling with wild fires in Canada and here in the US. Australians had similar challenges during their last summer so this is a picture book that is evocative and relatable to many. People all over the world have stories of gathering places during disasters. Such events tend to bring out the best of humanity and apparently non-humans too. Connecting this powerful story to biblical images of diversity brought together in community would offer meaningful conversations about how fear and empathy change us and connect us. In the back of the book, you'll find an Author's Note and a photo of Antonio made about the time of this story. 
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up 
Formats other than Book: Digital
Scripture Connections: The Lord is good to all; the Lord’s mercy is over all that God has made (Psalm 145:9); Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 65:25); All flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)
Idea(s) for Application: People of all ages would find this story enjoyable and compelling. Encourage them to connect this story to images from the scriptures like Peaceable Kingdom, Holy Communion, and Pentecost to name a few.