Monday, February 27, 2017

Lunch Counter Resistance

Picture Book: Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up                                               by Sitting Down
Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrator: Brian Pinkney 
Summary: This historic story is beautifully rendered in verse. Civil rights issues are cleverly explored metaphorically through lunch counter items (a doughnut, coffee, & cream). 
On February 1, 1960, four college students sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. When they were ignored, they politely refused to leave and stayed until Woolworth’s closed. 

News spread and more students joined them the next day. Still ignored, they did homework. 
Lunch counter protests began in several southern towns. 
Angry white people poured drinks down their backs and flung food in their faces, but they didn’t respond. 
“Practicing peace while others show hatred was tougher than any school test.” The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed; their slogan became, “We are all leaders.”
Other groups began to oppose segregated libraries, buses, parks, and pools. Some were arrested, but they didn’t resist, instead some sang. 
Eventually many businesses integrated just to stay open. In 1964, The Civil Rights Act banned segregation in public places. 

Hanna’s Comments: This book has a treasure trove of supplemental material at the end. There’s a timeline, a photo of the original 4 students, and more info. and references. My favorite is the “right recipe” for integration, 10 pieces of practical advice that could benefit us all.
As Black History Month ends here in the States, I wanted to highlight this important book to help you delve into faith-based resistance in your congregations. I also wanted to give you a link to a disturbing report that I heard from NPR this week about the low percentage of children’s books that feature characters of color. Check it out [here]. This data is troubling, but you’ll find a much higher percentage on this website. At PBT, I make a point of featuring picture books that highlight non-white characters, diversity, and 1960s civil rights history since I worship mere blocks from where some of the most vivid atrocities occurred.
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & Co., 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Like a polluted fountain is a righteous person who gives way before the wicked (Proverbs 25:26); What does the Lord require of you but to do justice (Micah 6:8); Jesus said to a disciple, “Put your sword back into place.” (Matthew 26:52); Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God (Romans 12:2)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book in a lesson for children, youth, or adults on Jesus’ nonviolence and/or the Christian church’s modern methods for doing justice and resisting injustice.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

PBT Techniques #4: Using the Whole Story

Picture Book: Beyond the Pond
Author & Illustrator: Joseph Kuefler
Summary: Ernest D. is bored and curious about the pond in his ordinary yard.
After realizing the pond is very deep or perhaps bottomless,
Ernest D. proclaims, “Oh, how exceptional!” a phrase he repeats for obvious reasons as the story unfolds exceptionally.
Ernest D. and his dog dive in. The dive begins with expected discoveries; then some surprises are within the darkest depths.  
Eventually, they see another shore – “the other side.” 
This fantastical place is “so tiny” 
and “so tall” and “every shape in between.” 
But it’s also “ghoulish and ghastly.”
And Ernest D. battles 
until “the moment between moonset and sunrise.”
Amazed that so much was hiding in an ordinary pond, Ernest D. and dog dive in again, through the dark,
back to his ordinary home which now doesn’t seem quite so small or ordinary.
Ernest D. now sees many extraordinary and exceptional places to explore at home. 
Hanna’s Comments: If you like Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, you’ll love this book! I see big themes of exploration, mystery, wonder, companionship, and of course praise for such an "exceptional" world - all theological ideas. 
Here’s the PBT Technique: Usually when I think about scripture connections to a featured book, I search for distinct Bible stories or a few inspirational verses. This is a traditional way to create content for spiritual experiences. Now and then a book’s story connects with the arc of a Bible character’s story, which is a different kind of connection, usually involving the character's personal attributes and life themes rather than plot details. This technique requires a little more study and a "big picture" orientation to scripture. 
Beyond the Pond connects generally with a large portion of Jacob's story in Genesis, particularly when he leaves home as a young man and returns many years later. If you don’t see those connections, let me know via a comment and I’ll gladly reply with more specifics for all to see. My Life Application Bible has a great profile of Jacob. You’ll easily find other summaries of Jacob’s life on-line.
Here are links to the other 3 posts in the PBT Techniques series. Let's call them secret treasures!
Sources for Inspiration: 9/19/16 
Choosing Portions: 10/17/16
Storytelling: 12/16/16 
Original Publisher & Date: Balzer & Bray, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Jacob’s journey to and from home (Genesis 27-33)
Idea(s) for Application: Connect the broad story of Jacob in Genesis after reading this book to a group of children, emphasizing the draw of mystery, the desire to explore, the constant presence of God (the dog companion), and the cycle of leaving and then returning. Additionally, you’ll find 3 quote graphics on Amazon that you might want to use in a lesson. These are simply posters with a sample of the art and a quote from the book that you can print or show on a screen.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Body Part Thanksgiving

Picture Book: All of Me: A Book of Thanks
Author & Illustrator: Molly Bang
Summary: Various body parts are celebrated by a small, very grateful boy while his tolerant cat looks on.
From feet 
to heart, 
this little guy delights in all the many ways his anatomy helps him. Here’s a couple of favorites:
When I sit down, I sit on my good bottom. Thank goodness!                                 AND
I smell with my …nose. So many different smells!
(And sometimes my nose rubs other noses.)
When listening ears are explored, lots of sounds are mentioned as well as…
At end, he declares that today he did so many things and felt so many feelings. Then he lists them, ending with feeling thankful and calm. 
One double page spread shows his family of 3 plus cat that feels “loving and perfectly safe."   
The last bit of text has this wonderful boy declaring that he is part of this whole universe, his home, and it is all "inside all of me! What a wonder." What a wonder indeed.
Hanna’s Comments: Celebrating bodies and exploring feelings are such good experiences for young children. Between the lines, add some statements declaring God to be the giver of those body parts and feelings. Just a simple refrain of “Thank you, God!” works great. Write on and insert Post-its if needed. Easy peasey!
In my PBT series, 12 Theological Statements for Young Children (check the 1st post in the series [here]), I encourage inserting particular statements as you read. This book directly relates to statement #3 (God gave you a great body to do great things.) but you can make up your own simple statements.   
If your children are old enough and you are Christian, connect the last few pages to the theological concept of The Body of Christ. At the end of the reading, help your children offer prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and even silence (for prayers of wonder) for their various body parts while celebrating them with quick body prayers.
In my PBT post last Friday, I encouraged you to incorporate art experiences into your ministry with children. The art in this book is so unusual, incorporating traditional paintings finished at the base with crayon lines. This technique is very child friendly. It will easily inspire some art experiences. Suggested materials are even shown on the end papers. The design harkens to a handmade book. At the end, you’ll find a section on how to make your own book and what the Molly Bang did to create the art for this book.
This book needs to be read with joy, gratitude, and lots of movement, just like the child at the center. Speaking of feelings, I'm a big fan of Molly Bang's books about Sophie and her feelings. Check out my post on those 2 picture book treasures [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Blue Sky Press, 2009
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Oh give thanks to the Lord (Psalm 107:1); For it was you who formed my inmost parts…I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… (Psalm 139: 13-15); every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young children while helping them be explicitly thankful to God through word and movement.

Friday, February 17, 2017

PBT Redux Series #8 - Ruth and the Green Book

To continue my series in which I post again some of the best PBT books published in this century, I chose a story from American history that I believe the whole world should know. This picture book will offer another opportunity to explore how spiritual values can be tied to important historical phenomena. This book also reminds Americans how things used to be here. I believe remembering our history (especially our mistakes) is especially important politically and spiritually.

My impetus for posting this particular book today is an announcement I heard on Central Alabama's public radio WBHM. A play has opened in Birmingham that explores the relationship between black people and Jewish people during segregation. Highlighted in this drama is The Green Book, the title of the play and a publication for African Americans who were traveling through the segregated south. The WBHM article explains that The Green Book was inspired by a similar book published for Jews. Here's the story I heard and details about the play if you'd like to learn more. Below is my previous PBT post describing a fabulous picture book which tells the importance of The Green Book through the eyes of a young girl. 

Picture Book: Ruth and the Green Book
Author: Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Summary: Ruth is excited because she and her parents are driving from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandmother. It’s the 1950s so before the trip, Ruth’s mother spends days cooking meals knowing there will be few restaurants willing to serve Negros. After being rejected from various gas stations, hotels, and restaurants, Ruth’s family spends the night it their car. Eventually they learn to look for Esso stations where they will be welcomed. At one Esso, they purchase The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide to places that would welcome black travelers. Ruth learns to use the book and is so happy to experience the hospitality of fellow African Americans.
Hanna’s Comments: I am a passionate advocate of the spiritual practice of hospitality so I especially loved the part of this story where Ruth’s family is welcomed into a “tourist home.” These were homes listed in The Green Book where travelers were warmly welcomed, in this case for no charge and a fun night’s sleep. In the back of the book, find The History of The Negro Motorist Green Book. 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Bill which outlawed Jim Crow Laws and therefore also the anniversary of the last edition of The Green Book. Thank goodness, this book is now a relic of the last century and no longer necessary for black individuals to comfortably travel for long distances. It is my prayer that families in our country will never have to travel in fear, surrounded by hatred.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2010
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Treat the stranger as the native among you (Leviticus 19:34); the Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:30-37); seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13); do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2); show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this picture book in a lesson or sermon on how scripture, like The Green Book, can be a comfort, a safety net, and a guide. Also, consider that the author of The Green Book might have been inspired by God’s desires for humans to be safe and hospitable in all situations.

Monday, February 13, 2017

PBT Stories #2: I’m going to be an artist!”

(In this post, enjoy a sampling of illustrations from PBT books.)

from Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman                  See post [here].

Friday’s PBT post was my 500th! Did you know that there are nearly 600 books featured or mentioned here at PBT? The many words in the PBT search engine (at the bottom in the web version) allow you to find books easily just by clicking on a word that is a theme or issue you want to explore.

from The Three Questions by Muth            See post [here].

I began this work wanting to demonstrate to those in ministry the worth of hundreds of secular picture books that were easily and cheaply accessible in local libraries or on-line. I’m convinced that God has called me to help you offer meaningful programs to all in your faith family. Check out the tabs above for more about picture books, PBT, and my professional rationale as a nationally certified school psychologist.

from The Hugging Tree by Neimark & Wong            See post [here].

In celebration of my 501st post, I’d like to tell you a quick story. Several years ago, our church welcomed into our faith family some urban children we did not know. These children attend Birmingham public schools where the arts program is sorely underfunded.

from Ada's Violin by Hood & Comfort             See post [here].

One of the first activities we did had the children painting a picture with tempera paint. As I interacted with the painting children, their delight was palpable. Suddenly, one young boy declared, “I’m going to be an artist!” I was struck by his hope and his confidence and sorry that most of his days in school would not develop his skills or enthusiasm about visual art. Neither would it expose him to the vast beauty of visual art.  

from My Two Blankets by Kobald & Blackwood    See post [here].

In a conversation about the importance of seeing beauty as spiritual sustenance, On Being host Krista Tippet, asked Celtic writer John O’Donohue about those who don’t have “beauty at hand.” O’Donohue replied:
“…an awful lot of urban planning, particularly in poor areas, has doubly impoverished the poor by the ugliness which surrounds them. And it’s understandable that it is so difficult to reach and sustain gentleness there.”
This thought offers more reasons why children, particularly inner city children in underfunded schools, should be exposed to picture books in ministry. Beautiful illustrations will feed them spiritually and counteract some of the ugliness that surrounds them and the deficits of their education.

from When Sophie Gets Angry - Really Really Angry by Bang   See post [here].

In these samples of illustrations from some favorite PBT picture books, can you see how their beauty would be a gift for a child? If such a book is paired with a conversation about the art and an opportunity to delve into a similar artistic experience, then the beauty will more likely take hold and sustain them spiritually.

from Bear Has a Story to Tell by Stead & Stead   See post [here].

While reading a picture book to a group of children, express your delight in the art. Point to some features. Be outwardly grateful to God for such beauty and skill in the artist. Claim the God-given talents that bring art forth, and help your children aspire towards their own expressions of beauty which would truly be Godly endeavors that could bless the whole world just as beautiful illustrations bless us all.  

from He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Nelson  See post [here].