Friday, March 31, 2017

PBT Series: God Book #3

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is well known across religious boundaries. His wife, Karen, is a clinical social worker. Together they have written the PBT books featured below.

Picture Book: Because Nothing Looks Like God
Authors: Lawrence & Karen Kushner
Illustrator: Dawn W. Majewski
Summary: In this well-considered picture book, 3 very general questions about God are explored via diverse characters, both human and non-human. The first is “Where is God?” Answers include, “God is in the way people come together” or “In worms turning leaves into earth. God is everywhere if we look.” Next question: “What does God look like? God looks like nothing. And nothing looks like God. But there are many things you cannot see and still we are sure they are there.“ The last question is “How does God make things happen?” After this question, readers are inspired to look at various contexts (family, school, etc.) and notice how people help each other. Then they are encouraged to look in the mirror and consider how they might help someone today. 

Note: The three questions in this book have been used to create 3 separate board books for younger children. Each could be inspiration for a more focused conversation with elementary children, but don’t show those older kids the board book. Here’s an example:

Hanna’s Comments: I’m particularly enthusiastic about this picture book because it says, “God is with us every day, in every way.” In the back is a section for parents and teachers explaining why this book is not comprised of dogmatic answers. Instead, the authors state that their purpose is to help children “lay down the foundation of what will become a mature adult spiritual world-view.” Then they suggest that parents continue the conversations that begin in this book. When conversations like these begin early at home and are continued in the context of a faith family, those foundations become well-grounded and authentic to the child’s experience.  
Original Publisher & Date: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up        
Formats other than Book: Tablet, 
3 board books versions:
What Does God Look Like?
Where is God?
How Does God Make Things Happen?
Scripture Connections: I have no good apart from You (Psalm 16:2b); the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1); God is love (1 John 4:8)
Idea(s) for Application: I used this book in a class for parents of preschoolers at my church. It's great for parents who are longing for more instruction on how to better spiritually equip their children. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

PBT Series: God Book #2

Picture Book: Does God Hear My Prayer?
Author: August Gold
Photographer: Diane Hardy Waller
Summary: Through a series of questions, this inviting book explores the many ways children can communicate with and experience God. This book emphasizes the assurance that God’s love and presence is always available and attentive. Photographs highlight the ways we experience God, God’s world, and other creatures created by God.
Hanna’s Comments: In a sense I am featuring 5 books today and giving you a link to a 6th! The book above is representative of a series of 5 books. All have the same format and are comparable in content. In ways that are neither preachy nor simple, these books offer thought-provoking questions about God’s nature and our relationship with God and others. Reading these books should lead to some valuable conversations with your children across settings: in faith communities, in private schools where faith conversations are welcome, and in homes. Photographs and other illustrations increase the child-friendliness of these books. This entire series as well as other books from this publisher are "endorsed by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist religious leaders." If you are Christian, note that Jesus is not mentioned, but God is represented in ways that reflect Christian values. At the end of this post are photos of other books in this series, their authors, and photographers.
Original Publisher & Date: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: You make known to be the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11); behold, I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book and the other books in this series anytime you want to explore the nature of God with children in a way that invites their questions and explorations. 

Author: August Gold
Photographer: Diane Hardy Waller
There is another PBT book with this title that you can read about [here.] 

Author: August Gold
Photographer: Diane Hardy Waller

Author & Photographer: Joan Sauro

Author: Kay Lindahl
Photographer: Cynthia Maloney

Friday, March 24, 2017

New PBT Series: God Book #1

Today's post begins a new PBT series in which I offer posts from the past that featured PBT God books. These are picture books that explore the nature of God. Typically I offer secular books here; God books are the exception. Because I have not yet featured these books a 2nd time and they are so rich with ministry possibilities, I'm going to post about these for the next week or so. My elbow is healing well. Doing more re-posting has helped with that process. Thanks for your prayers and patience for new posts. Below I highlight 2 great books for young children that explore what God is like. 

Picture Book: God is Like a Mother Hen and Much,                                     Much More
Author: Carolyn Stahl Bohler
Illustrator: Dean Nicklas with help from daughter Amy
Summary: In simple metaphors and illustrations, God’s nature is explored in ways that are meaningful to young children. God is like a mother hen, daddy, teacher, friend, mommy, the air, a child, you, and love. The last illustrated page offers a blank frame with an invitation, “Can you think of what else God is like?”
Hanna’s Comments: At the back of the book you’ll find a note to parents and teachers explaining how metaphors are important for use when exploring God’s nature. Interestingly, they also suggest you explore with the children ways that God is not like the metaphor. This would offer more distinctive meaning and confirm that God is unique, mysterious, and much more. Lastly, all the symbols used in the book are listed with 1 or 2 scripture references.  
Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 1996
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: See the list in the back of the book for many scripture connections.
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book with young children at bedtime or in a group lesson for imaginatively exploring the nature of God. 

Picture Book: God is Like…: Three Parables for Children
Author: Julie Walters
Illustrator: Thea Kliros 
Summary: In the first of three parables, a rock at the edge of the sea is shown and described. Repeatedly it is emphasized that “the rock stayed the same” despite the waves, weather, and a boy’s attempts to move it. As the boy ages, he notices that the rock does not change. He wonders, “Could God be like a rock?” The appropriateness of this simile is revealed and a scripture reference is given. The second simile begins as a spark of light that grows into a campfire and illuminates a young girl’s play and imagination. She guides other children to the light, and when the sun comes up the next morning, she wonders if God could be like the light. Jesus is offered as the light of the world with a scripture reference. Similarly, the third simile, a breath of wind, is illustrated in the playful activities of another young boy.
Hanna’s Comments: Note the length of this book. I suggest presenting it over 3 sessions. Each parable offers much in terms of conversation and supplemental activities. Don’t be afraid that your children are not able to think abstractly. One of the beauties of metaphorical thinking is that it allows humans to translate abstract thought into concrete, meaningful terms. Focus on the concrete and consider additional metaphors for God that might inspire other stories, questions, and lessons. The other picture book I’ve offered in this post will give you some possibilities, and I encourage you to think of some on your own that would be particularly meaningful for your children. Like mentioned above, talking about what God (or Jesus) is not like, is also helpful.
Original Publisher & Date: Water Brook Press, 1973
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Each of the similes (parables) is tied to a scripture reference.
Idea(s) for Application: This book could easily be translated into 3 simple skits for 3 different children to silently dramatize while the text is read in a lesson or even in a worship experience for your entire family of faith.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PBT Redux Series #9 - If the World Were a Village

In this post, I continue my series in which I highlight again an excellent picture book published since 2000. I’m focusing on these more recent publications because, as I tell adults all the time, "Children's literature is getting better and better!" This book is particularly good for older elementary and youth.
Picture Book: If the World Were a Village: A Book about                                         the World’s People (2nd edition)
Author: David J. Smith
Illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong
Summary: The author imagines the world’s population as a village of 100 people, representing population characteristics & statistics in a manner that is striking and understandable. General subjects are listed in a Table of Contents to allow you to have easy access to just those statistics you want to cover. They include nationalities, ages, schooling and literacy, and electricity. For instance, if the world is a village of 100 people, 9 people would speak English, 75 people would have easy access to safe water, and 32 people would be Christians. These details are from my copy of the first edition, but you get the gist. The numbers would be updated in the 2nd edition. This book is available in many languages. See also: If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States
Hanna’s Comments: This book will broaden the perspective of anyone who reads it! The 2nd version of this book is recommended since it has up-dated statistics. Don't feel compelled to read all of the statistics if they would be too many or not understandable to your audience. I like to use Post-it Notes on sections of a book to remind me to skip particular parts or ask particular questions. Teaching recommendations and activities are included. Note: The video version is of the 1st edition, but it is excellent and recommened. I use this video in lesson 45 of my curriculum for children based on the popular book Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God's Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe by Daniel Erlander. See more about that amazing book that is transforming my church an my curriculum [here]
Publisher & Date of Publication: Kids Can Press, 2011 (2nd edition)
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: video
Scripture Connections: Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10), Paul’s charge to change communion practices in the Early Christian Church (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), any verses about generosity or sensitivity to the poor or those who are different
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book at a Youth Hunger Banquet. The video version might be your best choice.

Monday, March 13, 2017

PBT Grab & Go #7 - Our Tree Named Steve

Thanks for your patience as my broken elbow heals. Here's another PBT repost of one of the many excellent picture books here at PBT that you can just grab, go, and trust that rich, meaningful conversation will follow.

Picture Book: Our Tree Named Steve
Author: Alan Zweibel 
Illustrator: David Catrow
Summary: A father writes his children a letter in which he celebrates all the gifts that have been given to their family by Steve, the large, unusual tree near their home. Steve (how the youngest child said "tree") has become an important part of their family history: playmate, shelter, place of dreaming and important milestones.... The dad explains that the tree was knocked down by a storm while the children have been absent, but Steve's wood has been moved to a nearby tree and transformed into a tree house. Despite the storm, Steve will continue to nurture & protect them all for a very long time.  
Hanna’s Comments: This delightful tale has such symbolic undercurrents and is full of potential for ties with scripture and conversations about important elements of family life and spiritual journey such as presence, play, ritual, protection, & sacrifice. Allusions to Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection are here as well as Steve being a symbol of God who is ever-present, ever-nurturing, ever-loving. Your audience (of any age) will love Steve and perhaps think differently about the trees in their life.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Puffin, 2005
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: God’s presence with us, giving us rest (Exodus 33:14), God’s plans for our welfare & future (Jeremiah 29:11), Jesus’ sacrifice (John 3:16), I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
Idea(s) for Application: Consider reading this book at an Arbor Day Celebration, an outdoor faith family festival or retreat, a family reunion, or in a church Sunday school class during Lent.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Tribute to Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Two bad things happened on Sunday. I learned via [this] amazing article that my favorite picture book author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is dying, hence a PBT tribute. Later, I fell and broke my elbow. The two don’t compare at all, but I did want to tell you to expect a lot of repeated posts on PBT while I’m healing. I wish AKR was healing too.
Please pray for Amy, her family, and friends. Her life and her writing are full of joy and hope. We need her and her work so much right now. And consider purchasing some of her books, including her two unusual and very funny memoirs for adults. [Here’s] her Amazon page. It’s no wonder I chose the following book to lament our losing her. At the end, I list AKR’s PBT books so far (there will be many more) and dates (links) to those posts. 
Picture Book: It’s Not Fair
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Summary: In clever rhyming verse, children, 
even planets 
and aliens 
complain about life’s injustices. The familiar refrain involves everything from turns 
to teams, 
to illness,   
to work
These injustices start early 
and are even inside books
and about books. 
Ridiculous? Yes, and very true.
Hanna’s Comments: One of the benefits of PBT is making "God talk" more meaningful by connecting it to the real-life situations found in picture books. Everyone knows that children complain, “It’s not fair!” Adults may not say those words so often, but we think them. Offer this book as a conversation starter; then explore how faith informs times of unfairness. Laugh at this book’s silly situations, but also talk about hard parts of life when it seems that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to those who don’t deserve them. 
Make sure your audience, young or old, doesn’t expect to always get answers. Your job is to help them realize that such answers don’t come easily and sometimes never come, but the questions are still valuable. Instead explore how faith offers mystery and comfort. I believe God is present with us in our protest, disappointment, and hurt. Being thankful for that relationship is fortifying. Talk about the importance of prayer, humility, and finding that which is good in all situations. You might even want to mention that one of the Ten Commandments is about not coveting. 
Original Publisher & Date: Harper Collins, 2008
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Do not covet (Exodus 20:17); All thing work together for good (Romans 8:28); rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer (Romans 12:12); God is love (1 John 4:8)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children when there have been many complaints about fairness or when your church family is suffering due to loss or struggle. Connect to one of the scriptures above.

AKR PBT Books & Post Dates (links):
Yes Day!                       7/5/16
Spoon                            10/22/14
Christmas Cookies     12/5/16

Monday, March 6, 2017

PBT Grab & Go #6 – Old Turtle

Today I offer another in my PBT Grab & Go series in which I post again about a picture book that is extremely easy to use in sacred settings. Today’s feature book is a PBT God book, one of the few PBT books that seem to be about the nature of God. Most PBT books are secular; these are the exception.
Picture Book: Old Turtle
Author: Douglas Wood
Illustrator: Cheng-Khee Chee
Summary: Long ago the animals & other inhabitants of Earth (the oceans, the rocks, etc.) began arguing about God. The animals gave God characteristics like themselves. The wind argued that God was never still while the rock insisted that God never moved. The lion described God as a hunter; the robin claimed that God is gentle. Eventually Old Turtle stopped the arguing and offered a description of God that incorporated all the previous offerings and then ended simply with “God is.” Then Old Turtle forewarned of a new animal coming to join them who would be even more like God. The humans did come, but they forgot they were to be messengers of love. The humans also argued about God’s nature and used their power to hurt others and the Earth. Then new kinds of responses came from the inhabitants who had argued before. This time they offered one another’s attributes as aspects of God. After a lonely and scary time, the people listened and even began to see God in one another and the beauty that surrounded them. Old Turtle (and God) smiled.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a wonderful fable of ecology, peace, and our legacy as being made in God’s image and interconnected with other inhabitants of Earth. A choral symphony has been written based on this picture book. There’s also a sequel: Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has written a similar book: In God’s Name. I highly recommend it as well. It is published by Jewish Lights, a publisher of books for “Peoples of all Faiths, All Backgrounds.”
Publisher & Date of Publication: Scholastic, 1991
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Youtube video
Scripture Connections: Humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and other aspects of the Genesis 1 creation story; I am that I am (Exodus 3:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book before or after taking a group of children from your faith community to a zoo. Encourage them to talk and think about how the animals they see might reflect God’s nature.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Singing Praise is for the Birds

Picture Book: Sing…Sing a Song
Lyrics: Joe Raposa
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld 
Summary: Today’s PBT book is an illustrated version of a song first sung on Sesame Street and made popular by The Carpenters
Three tiny birds are happy in a nest. 
Green Bird sings (green notes) 
and flies away. 
Orange Bird does the same (with orange notes). 
But when Purple Bird tries…
And tries again.
The disappointment is too much, 
it stays put and falls asleep.
Later a boy with his guitar 
joins the sleeping Purple Bird and begins singing, 
singing out loud 
and strong! 
The nest is lifted by the forceful song, 
Purple Bird gets awakened, surprised, displaced and inspired. 
It's birdsong comes spontaneously 
and Purple Bird is off to find it’s companions. 
Once reunited, 
all sing together (green, orange, AND purple notes)! 
Hanna’s Comments: This is a perfect book to explore with young children the spiritual practice of praising God. During or after your reading, talk about how God is always pleased whenever we sing, no matter how well we sing. Point out that singing is a common way to praise God, not just in a place of worship but anywhere and anytime. Teach your children this simple song. The lyrics (in English and Spanish) are in the back and you could have your children sing along with some professionals.  [Here] you’ll find a video of the song being sung by Nathan Lane and friends on Sesame Street. Don’t like this video? You’ll find many others online. You'll also find a page about the history of this song. Here at PBT, I have featured several “song books,” picture books that are simply illustrated lyrics to a familiar song. To find other song books, simply click on the word “songs” which you’ll find in the search engine at the bottom of the screen on the web version. You’ll be taken to those books as well as a few others that are about singing. You can do the same with the word "praise" to find several other PBT books that connect to that worship practice. 
Original Publisher & Date: Henry Holt & Co., 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! (Psalm 100:1); how good it is to sing praises to our God (Psalm 147:1); Do not worry about your life…look at the birds of the air (Matthew 6:25-26)
Idea(s) for Application: Feature this book in a lesson about singing as praise to God. Talk about how such an act pleases God and can sustain us and affirm our abilities even when they seem lacking. Also, explore Purple Bird’s struggle for this is also a book about perseverance, self-expression, and the power of music to heal.