Friday, December 1, 2017

waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting

On Monday I’ll begin featuring December holiday books. Today I suggest 4 secular books for Advent, a liturgical season in the Christian calendar which begins this Sunday and lasts to Christmas Eve. Advent is primarily about waiting for Jesus, the person Christians believe is promised in The Hebrew scriptures such as in The Book of Isaiah. The first 3 books can be read throughout the year. The last is about waiting for snow so I suggest late fall or winter. Consider age appropriateness by asking if your children is too young to understand a story or if there are too many words for their attention span. Any of these books could be appropriate for children, teens, or adults if presented skillfully, mining the wisdom that is here for all ages.

Picture Book: Waiting
Author & Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Hanna's Comments: In a simple but powerful story of toys waiting on a window sill, Kevin Henkes offers a book that will no doubt become a classic. Don’t be fooled by the child-like and even saccharine look of this book. There is so much depth here. Children will respond immediately, and adults will find their place on the window sill if you encourage them to consider questions such as...
How do the toys’ desires translate into human desires?
What are you waiting for?
How do you respond when a new person crowds the window sill?
Who/what is the source of your hope?
Original Publisher & Date: Greenwillow, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope (Psalm 130:5-6); The Lord will give you a sign. A young girl shall conceive and bear a son… (Isaiah 7:14); For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… (Isaiah 9:6); From you, O Bethlehem, shall come forth one…whose coming forth is from of old (Micah 5:2); Your king is coming to you (Zechariah 9:9)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or adults and encourage them to share what they are waiting for from God. 

The next 2 books have very similar plots. They both involve two animal characters waiting for something. In each case, one animal is in the know and the other animal is clueless and very impatient. Remind you of anyone? Both books end with the characters looking up to the sky.

Picture Book: Waiting Is Not Easy!
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems
Hanna's Comments: Once again Willems offers a hilarious Elephant and Piggie dynamic. The emotional faces Willems can conjure with just a few drawn lines is incredible. Kids will crack up and adults will laugh as well. Everyone will relate.
Original Publisher & Date: Hyperion, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7); Still the vision awaits its appointed time… If it seems slow, wait for it… (Habakkuk 2:3); Be patient… (James 5:7); whatever is true...lovely, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family and talk about the need for patience (a fruit of The Spirit) during Advent and at other times.
Picture Book: What Are You Waiting For?
Author: Scott Menchin
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Hanna's Comments: This fun tale similarly offers a mysterious build to a beautiful climax and reminder to attend to our natural world. These 2 books about patient versus impatient waiting encapsulate the season for many parents and children. Let them encourage a spiritual dynamic to December’s conversations and plans by encouraging your audience at church, school, or home to imagine a world with no waiting or no beauty.
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Be still before the Lord and wait for God (Psalm 37:7); God has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11); O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you (Isaiah 33:2);  I will wait for the God of my salvation (Micah 7:7)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or adults in your faith family and encourage conversation about how others help us wait and see beauty from God at Advent and throughout the year.

Last, I offer a book that I struggled with. I found the illustrations hard to decipher, but the story is delightful. You might want to "storytell" this book about a community of animals in the woods who believe snow is coming but have no idea what snow is and what to expect.  

Picture Book: Waiting for Winter
Author & Illustrator: Sebastian Meschenmoser
Hanna's Comments: The animals hear that snow is coming so they delay hibernation and try to stay awake to see the mysterious stuff. They have been told it is white, wet, cold, and soft which leads to mistaken assumptions that an abandoned toothbrush, a can, and a sock are snow. Finally, snow comes and they understand and delight in it. Here you have a great connection to the concept of messiah and how Jesus surprised so many with his birth, his manner, his messages, and his ministry.
Original Publisher & Date: Kane Miller, 2009
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14); O my strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. (Psalm 59:9)
Idea(s) for Application: Tell this story to a group of children or teens and connect it to who Jesus was expected to be versus who he became.