Monday, January 29, 2018

PBT Redux #19 - Snowflake Bentley

We’ve had more snow than usual here in AL. After our last snow, I regretted not reminding you about this gorgeous book featured in PBT’s first year. I don’t dare wait for more snow here. It’s unlikely to come. Perhaps where you are it’s snowing, and you, like the man featured in this book, will marvel at God’s glory in the wondrous snowflake!
Picture Book: Snowflake Bentley
Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Summary: In 19th century Vermont, Wilson Bentley had a passion for snow. When he was given a microscope, Willie began looking at snowflakes and studying the ice crystals. He became fascinated and wished he could save them somehow to show others. He tried drawing their designs, but they always melted too quickly. Despite the high cost, at 17 Willie’s parents gave him a microscope with a camera. Painstakingly, Willie was able to successfully photograph the best examples of snowflakes and show them to others, sell them, or give them as gifts. 
Willie believed his knowledge was a gift to the world, but some neighbors and peers thought his work was a waste of time. Soon he began to understand the influences on and structure of snowflakes; then he realized that no two snowflakes are alike. Artists, designers, and professors began to be interested in his work. For 50 years, Willie shared his knowledge by giving presentations, and eventually, with financial support from scientists, created a book of his best photographs and acquired knowledge. Sadly, “Snowflake Bentley” died soon after the publication of this book, a book that is still read today. A monument and museum were eventually built in his memory.
Hanna’s Comments: I love the passion and perseverance of this individual! Wilson Bentley is a quiet hero of science who has truly given the world a beautiful gift. As faith communities nurture their children and youth, it behooves these communities to encourage the discovery of individual passions and explore ways in which each young person can benefit their world with ideas, skills, and enthusiasm. Willie’s faith in his vocation and the beauty and importance of his work, even though it was with a small and fleeting object, is inspiring. [Here] you'll find an 8-minute video about Wilson Bentley. You can easily find Bentley’s book on-line. It was reissued in 2000 and may be available in your local library. It would be a nice supplement to a lesson. You'll also find a few details and photos in the back of the book:
Original Publisher & Date: Houghton Mifflin, 1998
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audio
Scripture Connections: the charismatic passions of Elijah, John the Baptist, or Paul 
Idea(s) for Application: In addition to the other ideas that I’ve shared above, this book could be used as an exploration of our sacred individuality or the practice of contemplation.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Baby Believers

Today’s PBT post is a triple treat and a mistake! My plan was to feature 3 books in a new series. I just realized that one of the books is from a different publisher, but I’m still going to include it because it’s very similar. All are board books and therefore designed for very young children, but their content is not limited to the very young. My hope is that these will be published in traditional form so that older folks (even adults) won’t be put off by their form.

The first two books are from the Baby Believer Series. On these books it states:
Baby Believer Primers help you teach your children the central tenets of the Christian faith that they may never know a day apart from the Lord. This series will continue in the fall with Let There Be Light: An Opposites Primer.

The third book looks very similar and pops up on Amazon with the other two, hence my mistake. Once you see the sample pages and details below, you’ll understand why I like these books. They offer a lot of good theology, simple but beautiful illustrations, and great potential for programming.   
Picture Book: First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer
Author: Danielle Hitchen
Illustrator: Jessica Blanchard
Summary: Do you ever wonder how much you or your children understand about the Bible? It’s a good question to consider for ministry or family devotional time. This book offers the basic concepts. It’s a counting book, so have fun pointing and counting, but you might be surprised at what you can learn here too. Here are  my favorite double page spreads: It begins with 1 God… 
the 4 Gospels…  
the 5 Books of the Pentateuch… 
the 6 days of creation… 
the 7 “I am” statements of Jesus… 
the 8 Beatitudes… 
the 9 Fruits of the Spirit. Numbers 1-10 are depicted.  
Hanna’s Comments: With older children and adults, use this book as a resource for a riddle game or quiz. Ask your audience to consider which Biblical concept might go with each number. You might think of a few more. 12 tribes of Israel, 40 - lots of possibilities there! How about 490? The number of times we should forgive according to Jesus (70 x 7). Have fun with these facts and help your family of faith learn some Bible basics. 
Original Publisher & Date: Harvest House, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: Any age given the right format or presentation
Formats other than Book: Not at present

Picture Book: Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer
Author: Danielle Hitchen
Illustrator: Jessica Blanchard
Summary: If you need a lesson with movement, this book is for you! Each double page spread features a movement and a scripture with that movement word. Again, here are some favorite double page spreads: From my favorite Psalm… 
standing in awe of God...  
Your kids will love this one... 
and this one ... 
 a twofer here... 
 and my very favorite. Isn't it beautiful!
Hanna’s Comments: This is my favorite of the 3 books featured today! Your lesson is complete here. Get your kids up and ready to move as you turn the pages. Have them repeat the verses with you as they move. So easy! So meaningful! Add meaning and application by memorizing the featured verses. Then quote those verses as you give directions to your group in future programming. Be sure to define any words they don’t know. Often unusual words are at the heart of the meaning of each verse such as the word “awe” in the standing pages above.
Original Publisher & Date: Harvest House, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: Any age given the right format or presentation
Formats other than Book: Not at present

Picture Book: The Biggest Story ABC
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Illustrator: Don Clark
Summary: This book amazingly offers a chronological history of the Bible in an ABC format. Here are a few pages: A is for Adam - no surprise there. B is for beautiful. 
Sometimes the key word is later in the text and underlined. C is for curse and D is for deliverer. 
Your children will love these illustrations and some of the unusual facts about the Bible. E is for Egypt and F is for flies. 
They'll learn some spelling too. G is for gnat and H is for hail.
Hanna’s Comments: This book is a little too sin and atonement oriented for my liking, but many of you will embrace that orientation and find it very helpful. Also, note God is masculine throughout this book. Like in the other books, some study on your part will offer more potential. Memorize these letter designations and use that knowledge to incidentally quiz your kids now and then. Having children with this breadth of knowledge of the Bible will equip them well for future spiritual growth and enhance your programming overall. My bet is such study will help you as well.
Original Publisher & Date: Crossway, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: Any age given the right format or presentation
Formats other than Book: Not at present

Monday, January 22, 2018


Want a simple picture book that is a metaphor for life? Here you go.
Picture Book: Perfect Square 
Author & Illustrator: Michael Hall
Summary: A square begins as perfection 
and very, in fact perfectly, happy. 
But something changes it. Holes are punched. Pieces are cut. The perfect square is no more. 
It makes the best of the changes and becomes a gurgling fountain. 
 Then tearing happens. What next? 
 A garden. 
Then it is shredded into strips of itself 
which is perfect for a park.
Next comes shattering. 
 Bridge building is better. 
 Being snipped into ribbons is different. 
This leads to an unusual river. 
Next comes crumpling, wrinkling, and more ripping. 
The result looks a lot like a mountain.
The square waits.  
It's perspective is changed. It feels too limited by the corners, the 4 equal sides so... 
it becomes a window, 
a window... 
a fountain that gurgles with joy.
Hanna’s Comments: I love the creativity of this book! Oh to have such talent! If your audience is like me, they might be a little bothered that the words here don't seem quite true. Obviously, the changes are happening to multiple squares. I've represented the author/illustrator's words above, but be sure to ask your audience why Hall might have chosen to keep the story singular while the illustrations show multiple squares being transformed. Each transformations happens on a day of the week so this book can be used with young children to practice saying those words in order. I hope you see the potential here to talk about perfection & imperfection, resurrection, loss and renewal, healing, transformation, vulnerability, and resilience. Hall has another cool book about shapes titled My Heart is Like a ZooEvery animal in the illustrations is comprised of hearts. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a lesson (or craft) near Valentine’s Day or a lesson focused on God’s heart.  [Here’s] an Amazon link. I’ll likely feature more of Michael Hall’s books later on PBT. His work is so simple but profound!
Original Publisher & Date: Greenwillow, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Not at present
Scripture Connections: Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will the God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2); If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17); If we love one another, God abides in us and God’s love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to any age group and talk about how difficult experiences bring forth healing transformation. Then talk about how faith informs and directs such resilience. Christ's resurrection is an obvious connection. OR Let this book be a part of a lesson on perfection versus imperfection and pride versus humility. Check out Brene Brown’s work for inspiration, particularly her very entertaining TED Talks [here] and [here.] I recommend viewing them in this order. The faith aspects of her work are obvious.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Encounters with Whales

At present, I’m writing a children’s curriculum for my church that connects to The Revised Common Lectionary. This week one of those scriptures is a portion of the story of Jonah. Jonah’s story is one of my favorites in the Bible so I thought I’d feature a couple of beautiful books, one secular and one sacred, that could be used in a lesson about Jonah. Enjoy!
Picture Book: The Boy and the Whale
Author & Illustrator: Mordecai Gerstein
Summary: In this powerful story, a boy and his father discover that a whale is caught in one of their nets.  
The father is concerned about his net which he cannot afford to replace; the boy is focused on the whale. 
They dive into the sea, assuming the whale is dead, 
and the boy remembers being caught in a net as a younger child. 
Then a surprise 
 and a rush for air!
Papa leaves, hoping to beg a relative for another net. Although the boy is forbidden to do so, he drives the boat out to the whale because he remembers how terrified he was to be caught in a net and how he needed his father to rescue him.
As the net is cut, the boy hopes the whale will wiggle to freedom, realizing how dangerous the situation is. 
He talks to the whale and apologizes for the net, explaining that fishing is "how we live." 
Looking again in the whale's enormous eyes, the boy begs the whale not to die. 
 The nets begin slipping away 
so the boy pulls the nets into the boat. 
Suddenly, the whale dives. As the boy stands, hoping to see the whale one last time... 
it springs out the sea, spinning and crashing again and again. The boy wonders if it is a dance of freedom or a dance of gratitude. 
When the boy returns to shore he realizes his father has been watching. After the boy admits to disobeying his father, his father simply says that what he did was foolish but brave. Then they go to repair an uncle's net.
Hanna’s Comments: One of the amazing aspects of Picture Book Theology is how children will be able to connect two very different stories. They've been taught to do this at school and may be more skilled at this than adults. The Jonah story could be presented via a children's Bible reading (it's a whole chapter in the Bible), another picture book like the one below, or by simply telling the story. Encourage them to find similarities and differences between these stories. They'll leave the lesson with a better understanding of Jonah in the Bible, and they'll have another great story in their experience. 
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The Book of Jonah; Courage/God with us (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:13, 2 Timothy 1:7); Breath (Psalm 150:6, John 20:22); Defiance as a sacred practice (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 2:23-28); Justice for the Captive (Luke 4:18, John 8:32, Galatians 5:1,13); 

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adults and ask them to consider how defiance can be a spiritual practice and how Jesus models such action for us in the gospels. 

Picture Book: Jonah’s Whale
Author: Eileen Spinelli
Illustrator: Giuliano Ferri
Summary: This is the traditional story of Jonah told beautifully through the point of view of the whale. It begins simply: "God made Whale. God gave Whale a home in the blue-deep waters of the sea."
It focuses on the job God gave Whale and Whale's faithful response. But first, the whale is lonely so God gives Whale a family. Whale is hungry so God gives Whale "silvery sea-clouds of fish." 
God also gives Whale a "joyful song to sing" 
and the ability to move so that Whale can disrupt fishermen's lunches. 
And God gave Whale beauty.  
One evening a storm comes, and Whale spies a boat that is about to be torn apart by the waves. 
Whale hears a man confessing to his shipmates, saying that he is the reason for the storm. 
When the man jumps into the sea, God tells Whale to save the man so Whale does so in the way only Whale can. 
The man lands inside Whale, who burps and thinks, "Now what?" 
The first day, Whale does only gentle swimming for the sake of the man while the man prays in Whale's belly. Whale waits for God's instruction.
The second day, Whale becomes queezy and worries he might throw up. No instruction comes.   
By the third day, Whale becomes discouraged and knows the man must be discouraged too. Whale begins singing the song God has given him, hoping it will lighten the heart of the man. 
Eventually, "a whisper in the music" comes. God tells Whale to spit the man onto dry land. Whale does just that and then swims out to sea. 
Whale never forgets the man. Whenever he sees other boats in distress, he stays close and waits for requests from God. The man never forgets Whale either. Later, he walks beside the ocean and listens for Whale's comforting song.  
Hanna’s Comments: I hope you can see why I chose this book for my preschool lesson. It is beautiful and poignant. There are many picture books about Jonah ranging from board books for toddlers to this more complex tale. Choose wisely with the age and attention spans of your audience in mind. Also, notice where the story ends. In my opinion, the last part of Jonah's tale, the part where he is sitting outside of Nineveh feeling sorry for himself, is important. However, you'll see it left out of most picture books about Jonah. 
Original Publisher & Date: Erdman’s, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book about Jonah to a group of elementary children and challenge them to consider how they are like Whale and like Jonah.

Yesterday I received a gift from a reader. I was so grateful! It reminded me that it's been a while since I mentioned my PayPal Donate button in the upper right of this website. I do this work for you for free. I love it, but it takes a lot of investment of my time, energy, and money. Please consider showing me your gratitude with a donation so that I am encouraged to keep telling you about great picture books for your family, ministry, or classroom. Thanks! Hanna