Monday, October 30, 2017

PBT Series: God Books #7

Here's another PBT God book, the sequel to Old Turtle, featured in Friday's post. Another book in this series will be highlighted on Friday. Enjoy! 
Picture Book: Old Turtle and the Broken Truth 
Author: Douglas Wood
IllustratorJon J. Muth
Summary: In this sequel to Old Turtle, a “truth” falls from the sky but breaks apart.  Animals find 1 piece but drop it after realizing it’s a half-truth. Later, a man finds it and reads “You are loved,” an incomplete message. He assumes this truth is especially for him and keeps it with pride, sharing it with his tribe. They treasure the affirming message and soon have little compassion for Earth and its other inhabitants who begin to suffer in the wake of such pride. Other people begin to war over the half-truth and suffering grows. A brave girl finds Old Turtle, the wisdom character in the previous book, who explains that the found truth is only a broken truth and the world needs the missing part. This mending will happen when all know that “every being is important, and the world was made for each of us.” Old Turtle gives her the missing half. Upon her return, she brings together the 2 pieces and see the whole truth: “You are loved...and so are they.”
Hanna’s Comments: This is a long and wordy tale, but it beautifully offers further reflection on humanity’s place on Earth and our limited understanding of the value of other inhabitants, the love of God that we all share, and how we can all live more peacefully. Whenever you offer such a tale, be sure to connect it to real situations and find the instruction in the experience. Don’t settle for simple enjoyment. Make it meaningful.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2003
Age and Grade Appropriateness4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, dramatic versions on Youtube
Scripture Connections: The story of Jonah (Jonah 1-4); you shall know the truth & the truth shall set you free (John 8:32); God is love (1 John 4:8b)
Idea(s) for Application: With the examples on Youtube, a youth group or older elementary group could also offer dramatic re-tellings of this book and its prequel. Additionally, simply read or tell this story to a group of children or adults who are talking about truth, wisdom, or God's intention for humanity's relationships with other Earth inhabitants.

Friday, October 27, 2017

PBT Series: God Books #6

One of my newest series is to repost about my PBT God books. God books are picture books that explore the nature of God. Some are secular, with allusions to God that are not obvious. Most, like the book below, have God as their subject. When mentioning God books, I use Old Turtle as an example. It’s a very popular book from the 1990s, but many people don’t know about the two other books in the series. I'll post about them next week! Check out all three books. There are many ministry applications for they are rich with provoking ideas about humans, God, and God's intentions for Earth. 
Picture Book: Old Turtle
Author: Douglas Wood
Illustrator: Cheng-Khee Chee
Summary: Long ago the animals & other inhabitants of Earth argue about God. Each attributes to God characteristics like themselves. The wind argues that God is never still. Then the rock insists that God never moves. The lion describes God as a hunter. The robin claims that God is gentle. Eventually, Old Turtle stops the arguing, offering a description of God that incorporates all the previous ideas and ends simply with “God is.” Old Turtle forewarns of a new animal coming who would be even more like God. Humans do come, but they forget to be like God. When the humans argue about God, they use their power to hurt others and the Earth. A new response comes from the other Earth inhabitants who declare God’s presence in a variety of sources. After a lonely and scary time, the people listen and even begin to see God in one another and the beauty that surrounds them. Old Turtle and God smile.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a fabulous fable exploring ecological responsibility, peace, and our human legacy as being made in God’s image. Interconnections with other inhabitants of Earth are emphasized. Look for posts about the other  two books featuring Old Turtle's wisdom to follow on PBT next week! For you music lovers, a choral symphony has been written based on this picture book.  Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has written a similar book titled 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), I am that I am (Exodus 3:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book before taking a group of children from your faith community to a zoo or in a lesson exploring ecology or being made in God's image.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Leaves - Evidence of God's Cleverness

Picture Book: A Leaf Can Be…
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Violeta Dabija
Summary: This author-illustrator duo has a series of 3 stunning books, each celebrating one of Earth’s simple but abundant gifts. This book celebrates leaves, but it's not about the leaf cycle. Instead it's about all the many ways leaves are useful to creatures (like us) who live near them. Who knew the list would be so long! Below is a sample of pages containing the paintings and poetry that make this book so original, gorgeous, and accessible. 

Hanna’s Comments: Anytime we can celebrate God’s good creation in a faith context such discussion are important and meaningful. Right now in most of the USA, leaves can be a strong reminder of the cycle of life. Throughout the year, they can serve to be reminders of God’s provision and beautiful creation. A Leaf Can Be is a perfect read to remind your faith family that God’s clever abundance is evident all around us and year round. Salas and Dabija’s other 2 books in this series directly relate to scripture as well. 
Connect A Rock Can Be… to scriptures such as “There is no rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2b). 

I recently used Water Can Be… when teaching about Moses striking the rock with his staff to bring water to the thirsty Israelites in the wilderness. (Exodus 17:4 & Numbers 20:11) During lessons in all three of these books, have your audience imagine what Earth would be like if the subject (leaves, rocks, or water) was lacking or absent. In the back of each book in this series, you’ll find short explanations for each poetic entry so if your audience needs clarification, you’ll be able to do that. Additionally, a glossary and reading list are provided.
Original Publisher & Date: Millbrook Press, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Any scripture about abundance or God’s provision such as “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are focusing on God’s creative and clever creation and provision or let this be a simple lesson in the power of attentive and contemplative gratitude to one earthly gift.

Friday, October 20, 2017

PBT Redux #13 - Follow Me!

Here’s another great book I’m offering as a part of my PBT Redux Series in which I offer again (with a little editing) an earlier post about a particularly good picture book that was published recently. The books in this series are treasures! Little ones will especially love this silly book, but it packs some theological punch for sure. 
Picture Book: Follow Me      
Author & Illustrator: Ellie Sandall
Summary: Lemurs, many of them and of all sizes,
follow their leader towards food, 
away from danger, 
and eventually sleep. 
This fast-paced rhyming book is packed with double page spreads of racing, chasing, 
and community delight. 
"Follow me” is read time and time again as the lemurs experience a crazy day in the rain forest.
Hanna’s Comments: Preschoolers know how to follow, so this is a good book for beginning to build concepts of discipleship to Christ and devotion to God. Hopefully these concepts will grow throughout their lives. To convert the reading of this book to a religious lesson, begin with a game that involves following. Then talk about the concept while giving examples of following in the secular world and how that word is commonly used in your family of faith. Specific behavioral examples will help them understand. For instance, say “Jesus listened to people. If you want to follow Jesus, then be like Jesus and listen to your parents.” OR “God wants us to follow God’s rules. ‘Do not lie’ is one of God’s rules. Telling the truth means you are following God’s rules.” These concepts are at the heart of discipleship and righteousness, but those 2 words are too complex for young children so simpler words with concrete examples are necessary. My PBT series Theological Statements for Young Children offers 12 posts based on 12 simple religious ideas. Each post lists age appropriate books that connect to each statement. Follow Me connects directly to several of these statements. Check out the beginning of this series [here].
Original Publisher & Date: McElderry Books, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-26); they left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11); whoever follows me will not walk in darkness (John 8:12); if anyone serves me, you must follow me (John 12:26) 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to young children when introducing them to the concepts of following Jesus or following God’s ways.

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.