Friday, January 5, 2018

PBT Redux #18 A Perfect Book for Epiphany

January 6 begins the Epiphany Season when the church considers The Magi’s journey. These were gentiles, thought by Jews to be outsiders, and yet Matthew, a Jew, tells this story. The Magi followed the bright star and worshiped the babe despite their alienation. They were drawn to do so by hope grounded in their life’s work and their personal imagination.

Today's repost is a beautiful, classic picture book that offers a similar journey by a child. She is human, an outsider to the forest. Like The Magi, she has a companion and together they embark on a dark journey for that which (and who) is beautiful and mysterious. 

The spiritual aspects of Owl Moon are likely obvious, but there are also many applications to today’s political and social contexts. We know of many aliens in many situations. And we are aliens ourselves sometimes. 

Read the story of The Magi to a group of children or adults. Then read this story and ask them simply to find connections between the 2 stories. You will be amazed by the conversation! One reason why this picture book works so well is its first person point of view. Listeners will step inside the story and be the child. In the discussion, be sure to ask about personal hopes going forward and what (who?) they hope to find in 2018.  
 
Picture Book: Owl Moon
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: John Schoenherr
Summary: The narrator, a girl it seems, embarks on a family rite of passage. She and her Pa go owling. She tells us she knows just what to do and has been waiting for this time with her Pa for a long time. Owling involves a silent walk into the woods the night of an “owl moon.” The sounds, sights, and mystery of the forest are explored and felt by the reader as Pa imitates the great horned owl’s call and they anticipate a sighting. An owl does call back. Pa shines his light upon the creature before it flies away. Pa and narrator walk home in silence when silence is no longer necessary but seems the right response to something so beautiful and rare.     
Hanna’s Comments: This beautiful picture book celebrates the quiet love of a father and child as well as the possibilities of darkness and God’s nature. It also offers an example of what patience and a little bravery in a new environment might offer those willing to explore, even while holding the hand of one who is more mature. The narrator explains:
When you go owling, you don’t need words or warm or anything but hope.
This quiet adventure can be a metaphor for many spiritual and theological explorations. I can’t help but recommend to you of one of my favorite spiritual writers, Barbara Brown Taylor, and her recent book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Philomel, 1987
Age and Grade Appropriateness:  3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audio
Scripture Connections: Be still & know (Psalm 46:10), Treasures of Darkness (Isaiah 45:3), The journey of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12); The many times Jesus prays apart from the disciples
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book and ask about connections to the journey of The Magi. This book would also be a great start to an adult small group’s study of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.