Monday, August 20, 2018

You are ...

Picture Book: You are (Not) Small
Author: Anna King
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Summary: All sizes of creatures inhabit this fun but profound book. A label begins this story as one orange creature declares to a blue creature, "You are small.” 
The accused denies it and says the accuser is big. 
Orange guy responds, saying no way he's big. There's all these friends in his group "just like me." 
Blue guy has a comparison group too. 
Back and forth they go. Soon whole groups are judged. The conversation heats up... 
 until an interruption... 
 by several creatures. They offer even more conflicting comparisons. 
 Suddenly, all seem to agree and understand, sort of. 
 This story ends comically with another declaration... 
Hanna’s Comments: You might see this silly book as a philosophical debate of words and categories. Take it deeper. Is it a response to our prejudicial, accusatory ways? We do love to put people in boxes. I found myself deciding these creatures were male with no evidence. We are less likely to make unsympathetic judgments of people who are in our group. There is a fascinating  phenomena in social psychology called In-Group-Out-Group Bias. It comes up in church now and then. In a nutshell, research consistently shows we more harshly judge those not in "our group," whatever that group is. I encourage you to learn more. The specifics are fascinating, and it's directly related to implicit bias. Barbara Brown Taylor put it more eloquently, saying we want grace for ourselves and judgement for everyone else. I believe this was in a sermon about Jonah in her book Gospel Medicine. Do you see her wisdom and the connections to this little picture book? Interestingly, color doesn’t come up in King and Weyant's book, but it's there nonetheless. Just like it's ever-present in the culture and history of my American South. Too often we are afraid (and ashamed) to talk about race. Shouldn't church, where we are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, be where we talk about (dare I say confess) our inclinations to judge wrongly? Treat categories of people differently? Make assumptions about those who are different from us? Lord have mercy. May we do better. May we teach our children better.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God? (Micah 6:8); Judge not and you will not be judged… (Luke 6:37); You’re your neighbor (Mark 12:31); Do not judge by appearances (John 7:24) 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of any age before talking about our human inclinations to judge and the scriptures warnings about judgement. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

One Song Picture Book (and more)

Below I feature a song picture book. The words of this book are Raffi’s lyrics. At the end of this post, I give you several links to other song picture books at PBT. Many, like this book, have the song scores in the back. The benefit of such a book is that after you’ve read the book, you have the option of singing it together (with or without recorded or played music).  

Picture Book: One Light, One Sun
Lyrics: Raffi
Illustrator: Eugenie Fernandes
Summary: Three families live side by side as one sun beams down on all of them.     
The beautiful moments of life are celebrated and shared 
as well as the ordinary and mundane. 
One moon and many stars take their turns too.
There's a nice bit of diversity 
and gender role swapping 
as each family member does their part to contribute to the one family, 
 one neighborhood,
 and one world. 
Here are the lyrics, simple but profound and read easily on the pages. 
One light, one sun,
One sun lighting everyone.
One world turning,
One world turning everyone.
One world, one home,
One world home for everyone.
One dream, one song.
One song heard by everyone.
One love, one heart,
One heart warming everyone.
One hope, one joy,
One love filling everyone.
Hanna’s Comments: The lyrics to this song are from the title song of this Raffi album. You'll likely find other songs in this collection that you'll want to teach your children.

So many aspects of our world are meant to be shared. These "real-life" moments connect all of humanity and encourage us to live better together. I can't hear this song without thinking of God as the One who connects us all, present in every ordinary moment! This is the kind of theological grounding children need so they may feel less alone and less anxious. You can explore the benefits and complexities of "oneness" in theological concepts such as The Trinity, The Body of Christ, Ecological Justice, and The Great Commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
Original Publisher & Date: Crown, 1988
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and Up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Where there are 2 or 3 gathered in my name, I am with them (Matthew 18:20); I am with you always (Matthew 28:20); The great commandment as written above is in Mark 12:28-34. The Body of Christ is in 1 Corinthians 12. 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young children and teach them the song. Then sing together! After singing, talk about how God is the One who connects all of humanity.

Here are some links to other PBT song books:
This Little Light of Mine
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
One Love
What a Wonderful World
Let There Be Peace
My Favorite Things
If You're Happy and You Know It
Let it Shine
You Are My Sunshine

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sacred Places x 2

The picture books below are unusual for PBT. Typically, I connect secular books to scriptures or spiritual ideas derived from texts in the Old or New Testaments. The books below are about sacred places in a variety of religious contexts. They are both beautiful and informative and therefore worth exploring for possible applications in ministry settings and classrooms where various religions can be freely discussed.
Picture Book: Sacred Places
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: David Shannon
Summary: Fortunately, this book begins with a simple map of the world for locating each of the 12 religious sites (some ancient, some both ancient and still in use). 
Additionally, you'll find an introductory painting and poem that introduces the idea of a sacred place. A similar poem ends the book. 
What follows is a series of groups of 3: a painting of a sacred site/practice, a poem, and a symbol specific to that religion. Here are some of my favorite paintings: The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, 
Ganga (Ganges River) in India, 
a representative image for all cathedrals, 
and Four Corners in the United States
Hanna’s Comments: If you’re not interested in the poetry aligned with each illustration, that’s fine. Here the images are what’s provocative. Make sure your audience can see the illustrations easily. For a richer learning experience, consider pairing some images with photographs that may be easily accessed on the internet. An appendix gives a nice summary for each sacred place. 
Original Publisher & Date: Harcourt, 1996
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 8 and up, 3rd and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: You’ll find 1 image of The Wailing Wall and 1 image for Christian cathedrals (both above).
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adults in a small group and explore their understanding of what defines a sacred versus a secular place. Be sure to encourage them to share their own experiences with these and other sacred places.

Picture Book: Sacred Places
Author: Philemon Sturges
Illustrator: Giles Laroche
Summary: A Note to the Reader begins this book. It lists 3 questions people throughout history have asked:
Where did I come from?
How should I live my life?
What happens to me when I die?
You'll find cut-paper illustrations of 28 places inspired by the faith of 5 of the world’s most prevalent religions (3 from the Abrahamic tradition, Hinduism, and Buddhism). There's a caption that gives dates and explains specific religious practices for each site. Additionally, there is larger text for reading aloud. The cover image above is of  Shore Temple in India. The image below is of Chartres Cathedral in France. 
My favorites illustrations? Great Mosque (Niger), 
The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel (France), 
Sokkuram Grotto Shrine (Korea),
the Kaaba (Saudi Arabia), 
and Concord Baptist Church (United States).
Hanna’s Comments: These images are busier and less ethereal, but the variety of places is nice. Unfortunately, sacred sites on the continents of South America and Australia are not included. I love the ending that says, “some sacred places aren’t made by people at all.” 
It closes with a map and legend to mark all 28 sites.
Original Publisher & Date: Putnam & Sons, 2000
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: You’ll find several sites inspired by the Old or New Testaments.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to explore the spiritual practice of pilgrimage, the Celtic concept of thin places, and/or the questions, “What makes a place sacred?” and “When have you felt a sense of awe because of a place?" Be sure to allow time for personal storytelling.  

Friday, August 10, 2018

How Big is Your Umbrella?

Below I feature my favorite picture book find so far this year! It is so simple and yet so profound and beautiful. It will definitely be reposted in the PBT Grab & Go category eventually.
Picture Book: The Big Umbrella
Author/Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Author: Juniper Bates 
Summary: A friendly umbrella is the protagonist of this fabulous picture book. It waits by the door. See its upside down face? 
 It hopes to be grabbed... 
and taken into the world.
It's really big...  
and loves to give shelter.  
 It doesn't matter who... or what you are! Really tall? 
Really hairy?  
Really plaid? 
Lots of legs? No matter, all are welcome! 
There's always room for anyone    

and everyone! 
Hanna’s Comments: If only all our umbrellas (and our invitations) had such smiles and capacities to grow! Obvious connections abound to the sacred practice of hospitality and issues of inclusion (so important in today's news headlines!). Under-girding this simple story and these beautiful images are God-ordained, scriptural themes of kindness, empathy, and a willingness to be squeezed into the joy of companionship. There are other PBT books Amy June Bates has illustrated, but this book is particularly special to her because she wrote it with her daughter, Juniper, who was only eleven at the time. The idea came as they were sharing an umbrella. Check out her illustrations in a book about vocation and giftedness called You Can Do It! here. She has 3 books about popular psalms. You'll find Let’s Make a Joyful Noise and I Will Rejoice featured here. Give Thanks to the Lord is a great book to read near an autumn holiday. Find it here. 
Original Publisher & Date: Simon & Schuster, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Treat the stranger as a native (Leviticus 19:34); Love your neighbor (Mark 12:31); Parable of the Banquet Guests (Luke 14:15-24); show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9)
Idea(s) for Application: The sacred practice of hospitality and issues of inclusion are lesson topics important for all ages. Don't let the simplicity of this story keep you from reading it to audiences beyond their early elementary years. Consider questions of who is really welcome at your church and how you show hospitality in light of the difficulty some folks have walking into church communities.