Monday, August 28, 2017

PBT Redux #12 Flood

The effects of Hurricane Harvey have people in Texas and Louisiana once again ravaged and afraid, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Today I’ve chosen a book that visually represents the terror and heartbreak of flooding. Why would such a book be read in ministry? It is in our families of faith that we consider the hardest questions and heartbreaks and where we can be motivated to help those who are suffering. Picture books are tools to gently bring such hard matters to the surface so that relevant and meaningful faith conversations can happen. The book below is both beautiful and terrible, but it is not graphic. Consider reading it to elementary children, teens, or adults to explore the effects of flooding or other tragedies and bring about further healing or informed service.
Picture Book: Flood
Illustrator: Alvaro F. Villa
Summary: A family, who lives near a small river, receives flood warnings. With the help of neighbors, they place sandbags around their house, gather some things, escape to a hotel, and hope for the best. But the waters rush into their home anyway. All pitch in to clean and rebuild, and eventually their home is restored.
Hanna’s Comments: I wouldn’t ordinarily recommend a wordless book for use with a group, but this book is stunning and directly relates to scriptures shared by the 3 Abrahamic faiths. Because it is a wordless book, you may want to have several copies of the book. Don't be afraid to have your audience just look at the book in silence for a moment as you turn each page. Also, it is imperative that you do a good job describing the illustrations as you direct their eyes to particular aspects of the story. Encourage discussion that relates directly to their experiences or the experiences of those they love. You could also explore broader subjects such as natural disasters or family tragedies and connect those comments to your beliefs and faith values.
Original Publisher & Date: Picture Window Books, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Noah and the Flood (Genesis 7 & 8); the flood sweeps over me (Psalm 69:1-3)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book in a lesson about the flood in Genesis. If your area suffers from a flood, read this to a serve team and consider how your ministry might respond.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Favorite Posts: Highlighting Shelly Rotner

When we think of picture books, we often think only of fiction. As I’ve delved into the treasure trove that is my local library’s picture book shelves, I’ve discovered a vast range of subjects in the non-fiction section. So many of them offer great soil for growing a garden of lessons for children in religious communities, in private schools, homeschools, or in therapeutic situations. 

As I’ve demonstrated many times here at PBT, picture books can encourage spiritual conversations and important social-emotional growth in children and adults. They can be particularly helpful when crises occur or difficult issues arise in faith communities. 

Using books (of stories, facts, or poetry) as therapeutic tools is called bibliotherapy. I learned this extraordinary word in my training as a school psychologist. I was already a lover of picture books. Because they are non-threatening, familiar, and imaginative objects, picture books can promote journeys of self-reflection and personal growth. 

Bibliotherapy is traditionally used in child therapy, but I suggest that a well-selected picture book and rich conversation with a skilled therapist or spiritual director can open a door to healing and/or better skills in adults as well. Here’s a couple of links if you want to know more about bibliotherapy:

Today’s featured author, Shelly Rotner, has such a wonderful array of books, each with her delightful photographs! Children love looking at photographs so these books are very appealing. You can supplement a lesson or even build a series of lessons around one or more of her books. You might want to consider taking similar photos of your children as a part of your lesson. The kids (and their parents) would love that!

Here's a partial list of Shelly Rotner's books. She is either the author, photographer, or both. The first is a PBT book with the post link:
Shades of People - check out that post [here]
Sometimes Bad Things Happen   by Ellen Jackson
The A.D.D. book for Kids
Changes    with Marjorie N. Allen
Every Season   with Anne Love Woodhull
Feeling Thankful   with Sheila Kelly (Spanish version available)
Different Kinds of Good-Byes   with Sheila Kelly
What’s Love?   By Deborah Carlin
Home   with Amy Goldbas
Lots of Feelings
Lots of Grandparents
Nature Spy    with Ken Kreisler
Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions              with Shelia Kelly
What Can You Do? A Book about Discovering What You Do Well             with Sheila Kelly

Monday, August 21, 2017

New PBT Series: Favorite Posts

This morning, I woke up thinking about today’s total eclipse. Many of us will be fortunate to experience it here in the US. How can I not think of God’s amazing creation and moments of light and dark! I found the following post and wanted to share it with you all, hence this new series. There are 4 beautiful books featured below. Consider the various contexts in which you could feature them in your ministry or share them with your family as bedtime reading or a homeschool lesson. Today (and while reading these gorgeous books later), know that God’s creation is good, very good.

From Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman
Creation and Ecclesiastes
Here are 4 beautiful books that I've been savoring for some time. The first two are about creation, the next two about the commonly known verses in Ecclesiastes about the seasons of our lives. 
From Creation Song by Scott-Brown
In the first book I feature, the creation story as interpreted by one of the world’s leading Christian theologians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Anna Scott-Brown, a woman born in Nepal whose words are inspired by her birth country.
From Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman

Both books offer renditions of the creation of our universe that emphasize God’s desire for relationship and loving delight in the creative process. Also in both, the illustrations are luminous and joyful.
From Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman

Tutu’s book has the 7-day structure. It begins with personal letters from Archbishop Tutu and illustrator Nancy Tillman and ends with images of children and the words, “You are loved.” 
I’ve featured several of this illustrator’s other books here at PBT, check them out [here] and [here].

Picture Book: Let There Be Light
Author: Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Illustrator: Nancy Tillman
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Different but also stunning, Scott-Brown’s book is more abstract and free-flowing. Here God sings... 
and dances the universe into being!
Of the two books, only Scott-Brown’s book ends with images of Adam and Eve, who are merely referred to as the two beings who God made in God’s own likeness. There is no story of eating the forbidden fruit.

Both books use masculine pronouns for God. If you don’t want to use these, try using small Post-it notes with the word “God” on them where the male pronouns exist and substitute that word.
From Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman

Light is emphasized in both books so consider these when wanting to illuminate that subject and not creation necessarily. 
From Creation Song by Scott-Brown

For either book, I suggest emphasizing God’s creativity and how our desires to create with ideas or materials might be evidence of God’s image in us.
From Let There Be Light by Tutu & Tillman

Here at PBT, I’ve also featured another picture book about creation. Check out the hilarious Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen by Nancy Wood and Timothy Basil Ering [here].
Picture Book: Creation Song
Author: Anna Scott-Brown
Illustrator: Elena Gomez
Original Publisher & Date: Lion Children’s, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

The last pair of books are celebrations of the human seasons found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8The text of these picture books is almost identical. Because their illustrations are so different, consider your purpose and audience when choosing. I’ll explain another minor difference below. 
In this first book, the connections between the text and illustration are less obvious, but the images are less pleasant and relatable
Jude Daly offers these verses in the context of her native South Africa. Her illustrations are simple and rural. "A time to be born" is illustrated above. 
You can offer your children a geography lesson as well as a lesson in scripture.
The entire scripture is found again on the last page. I recommend this book for younger elementary-aged children.

Picture Book: To Everything There is a Season
Illustrator: Jude Daly
Original Publisher & Date: Eerdman’s, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

In the second of this pair of books about Ecclesiastes, the illustrators amazingly render coupled statements in the styles of different world cultures. For this reason, I suggest an older audience. Here’s an example:
Above and below you see verse 8 “A time to love, and a time to hate” are offered in the style of stone-cut art created by Inuit people from The Far North (Siberia to Greenland).
Explain to your audience that these images are original to the illustrators; these are not ancient drawings. Below you see "a time to refrain from embracing" represented in the style of art created in Ethiopia in the 17th - 18th centuries ACE. 
This picture book offers wonderful comparative art history while subtly emphasizes how these ancient verses have been true across time and cultures. It would be perfect for a homeschool or private school situation. Below "A time to plant" is represented in the style of a Japanese woodblock print.
Each pair of illustrations is explained in brief in a list in the back of the book. Be prepared to answer questions about the illustrations, like the one below illustrating "a time to heal" in the style of art found in pre-conquest Mexico. 
The small difference in text referenced above is simply that this book ends with the additional verse 9 “One generation passes away, and another generation comes: But the Earth abides forever.”

Picture Book: To Everything There is a Season: Verses from Ecclesiastes.
Illustrators: Leo & Diane Dillon
Original Publisher & Date: The Blue Sky Press, 1998
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 10 & up, 5th and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

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 planted and nurtures despite 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. Ask your audience!
Hanna’s Comments: This picture book classic has a simple message of faith and nurturing that 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, use it as an intro. to a talk about naysayers and critics of faith and hope. Emphasize patience! Discuss the concept of tending your own personal faith like the boy nurtured his carrot seed. Point out that the carrot seed might have died had the boy not been so faithful to it. Ask: “What are some ways we “water” and “weed” our faith gardens?” Offer more personal examples of your faith practices. You might even describe your faith garden. Where is the beauty? What are the pests? How do you harvest and what do you glean from your faith garden?

You'll find a similar book with a more complicated plot and more text in a book by Pat Brisson and Maryann Cocca-Leffler. Wanda's Roses highlights a girl's determination to nurture a thorn bush in a vacant lot. She is sure it is a rose bush. She, and eventually some neighbors, clean up the lot. Through her many days of faithful hard work, Wanda keeps saying to naysayers the lot will be filled with roses. Wanda is right!
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)