Friday, December 8, 2017

December Holiday Books 3 & 4

Today’s picture books are nativity stories from classic authors of children’s literature. Both are beautiful but in very different ways. The first offering is straight from scripture. 
The second gives us a bird’s-eye view on the events of Christmas. 
Share these beautiful books which bring new visual possibilities to spiritual imaginations grounded in the coming of Christ. 


Picture Book: Nativity
Scripture Adaptations & Illustrations: Cynthia Rylant
Summary: In this beautiful rendition, adapted scripture accompanies simple painted figures that tell the major events of the nativity story before the magi’s visit. The shepherds are featured.  
Two elements are present that are unusual. This story features the scripture, “Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart.” 
And surprisingly, this book ends with Jesus giving The Sermon on the Mount. 
Four Beatitudes are highlighted: 
Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
 Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
 Blessed are the pure in heart...
 for they shall see God.
Hanna’s Comments: The simplicity of Rylant’s illustrations are stunning. She is usually considered an author only. I’m thankful she shared her visual skills in this book. Children will love the pictures, but share this book with people of all ages. I especially love another book with this title that also uses scripture as its text. Find Julia Vivas’ Nativity featured on PBT [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Beach Lane, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Rylant notes that her text comes from adaptations of Matthew 5 and Luke 2-6.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to children during Advent or Christmas; then encourage some similar painting in your young artists.

 Picture Book: The Birds of Bethlehem
Author & Illustrator: Tomie de Paola
Summary: In Bethlehem long ago, the birds are excited. Strange things are happening. 
People are flooding into the city. The inns are full. One poor couple have caught the eyes of the birds. 
They are quite concerned because the woman is pregnant and the couple can't find a place to stay. Eventually they are given a mere stable for sleeping. 
Then there are surprises in the skies! An angel announces to shepherds that a special babe is born.  
More angels come and the birds are amazed at their chorus. 
The birds think this is an awesome sight so they follow the shepherds. 
All see the amazing star above that same stable the poor couple had entered. 
Inside they see a child has been born.
Surely this is a special couple and a special babe the birds decide.
 
Hanna’s Comments: If you're looking for the traditional Christmas story with a twist, this is a beautiful selection that young and old will enjoy. Help your audience place themselves in the scene and imagine how they might respond to the events in Bethlehem so long ago. St. Ignatius' imaginative prayer practice would be a wonderful accompaniment to reading this book. It helps you place yourself fully in a scripture text. [Here} are background info. and a description of that process that says the Nativity is a classic subject for this exercise. And [here] are some steps simple enough for children.
Original Publisher & Date: Nancy Paulsen Bks, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The Nativity Story
Idea(s) for Application: Share this book with a small group of adults (or children & teens) and talk about their spiritual experiences with birds and how these might relate to the themes of Advent and Christmas, particularly anticipation and wonder.