Monday, February 26, 2018

Do you know what Baby wants?

Picture Book: What Baby Wants
Author: Phyllis Root
Illustrator: Jill Bartow
Summary: This hilarious tale involves an extended family who live on a farm. 
There is a new baby in their midst and Mama is exhausted. All her family convince her to take a nap, assuring her that they will take care of Baby. 
She does take a nap after feeding Baby and tucking him into his crib. The love this family has for this new child is evident. As happens too often, as soon as Mama leaves the room... 
Baby begins wailing. Grandma knows just what to do. 
She goes out to the field and picks some beautiful flowers for Baby. 
But Baby doesn't care for all the flowers! Next Grandpa knows just what Baby wants. 
He ventures out to the farmyard and brings in a soft, feathery goose.  You'll see the repetitive wordplay with each ridiculous situation. Unsurprisingly, Baby isn't comforted by the goose and begins wailing again. This time Aunt has an idea. Baby needs a kiss... 
from the long soft tongue of a cow! Baby responds as you might expect. Next it's Uncle's turn. He's convinced that Baby needs something to keep him warm...
like some sheep's wool. Meanwhile, it's getting really crowded in the farmhouse! Big Sister, who is amazingly strong, knows just what Baby wants! He needs a melody to lull him to sleep. 
Why not a tree full of birds!  
But Baby doesn't get a lullaby. All the twittering makes him anxious! 

 
The wailing continues.
This family is befuddled. What does Baby want? 
Big Brother has been very concerned all along. He has an idea. 

He picks up Baby, gives him a kiss, wraps him in his quilt, 
and sings him that lullaby, a soft, little lullaby. That's what Baby wanted!
 
Everyone is relieved. Hushaby, shushabye,  Baby goes to sleep. 
Just in time for Daddy's entrance from work. He asks if Baby is alright and is reassured by the entire group that Baby is being well cared for while Mama is sleeping. 
Exhausted, everyone decides some sleep is a good idea.   
Hanna’s Comments: This book was one of my children's favorites! I'm especially glad that it is the big brother who knows just what Baby wants. Boys need to be encouraged to be nurturing so they will be great brothers, uncles, and/or fathers someday! The ridiculousness of the story brings home a lesson that really is hard for some people. That lesson is the importance of empathy, a skill that sometimes needs to be taught. A faith family is a great place to learn more about empathy. Empathy is the foundation for God's second great commandment (love others as you love yourself) and The Golden Rule (do to others what you would have them do to you). It is also an important skill to have when striving for goodness, kindness, and gentleness, three of the Fruits of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians. 
Original Publisher & Date: Candlewick, 1998
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Love your neighbor as yourself (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:31); kindness, goodness, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this fun book in a lesson about loving neighbor as self, loving family members, or goodness, kindness, and gentleness (3 of the Fruits of the Spirit). 

Friday, February 23, 2018

PBT Question #3 to Ask about any Secular Book

Does the book remind you of scripture?                    (a Story, a Character, or a Verse) 
Answering this question takes some thought. However, as you read a picture book, a connection with a Bible story, character, or verse may jump out at you. That’s fun to discover! When there are no obvious links but I’m still hoping for a biblical connection for a picture book I love, I rely on a Bible concordance or a list on a website.
Check out http://www.openbible.info/topics/. This site allows you to search by a biblical name, a religious theme, or a phrase in a Bible verse. This site also offers a nice list of the most popular Bible stories for children, but don’t use this link only when you are doing children’s programming. Adults will respond to those same stories. http://www.openbible.info/labs/kids-bible-stories/.
Don’t just think of major characters/stories of the Bible. Your audience deserves new material! Consider some of the lesser known stories such as those in the Acts of the Apostles or those referenced in Paul’s letters. Don't forget the parables that Jesus told. 
Also, don't forget the stories of women and girls in the Bible! Rich faith development involves girls learning about female biblical role-models and boys hearing the important roles that women had in our Holy Scriptures. There are many women’s stories in the Bible that offer meaningful lessons and conversations. Sadly, females are often unnamed so finding their story is harder.
Here are 4 women in the Bible that you may not have considered for a lesson: 
Rahab - Joshua 2
The Widow of Zarephath - 1 Kings 17:7-24
The Bent-over Woman - Luke 13:11
Dorcas/Tabitha - Acts 9:36
Another problem occurs when a key figure is labeled negatively. We tend to shy away from those stories, especially when teaching children. But those labels don’t have to be used! For example, you don’t have to call Rahab a prostitute. Focus on how she was a crucial figure who helped the Israelites. The Eunuch in Acts 8 can be called simply “a man from Ethiopia”. His story is so powerful! The woman caught in adultery in John 8 can be described as a “woman who got into trouble.” 
In contrast, don’t shy away from age-appropriate negative attributes. These descriptions make characters more human. They are easier to relate to, more believable, and more relevant. Got an impulsive kid in your group? Find a book that connects to Peter. God’s great mercy is all the more powerful when complicated characters are changed for the better. 
Apart from stories, children and adults can learn a great deal from key phrases in Bible verses. I like to have children repeat a simple phrase throughout a lesson so that it lingers in their minds afterwards. Adults can benefit from this method too. For instance, in a lesson using a picture book about rocks. Talk about how God is like a rock, and have your audience say intermittently this phrase from Psalm 71:3: “Be to me a rock of refuge.” Don’t forget to define “refuge.” Then you’ll have a little vocabulary development. All the better! 
Sometimes you must allow a picture book to soak into you for a while and let The Spirit do the work. Set aside the book, say a little prayer for guidance, and give God some time to help you see the connections. A Bible connection might pop into your mind.
In a few days, I’ll post about PBT question #4. It may be the question that yields the most potential for a picture book. Meanwhile, may your Biblical knowledge grow.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Where is God?

Picture Book: Where are You Hiding, God?
Author & Illustrator: Elizabeth Zartl
Summary: The young child in this new book is determined to find God so she plays a game of Hide & Seek with God. She explores her bedroom. Is God hiding in her socks? She checks out her bathroom. Is God hanging out with her little rubber duck? God isn't found in the tub either. She wanders to the garden and is disappointed that God isn't among the flowers. She starts to get frustrated, "Why can't I find you, God?" Then a small leaf floats down and touches her.  
She recognizes God in the leaf... and in the wind! Now she declares with confidence that God is in the flowers after all. God is in the dragonflies too!
And at bath time, she makes an even more profound discovery. God is in even the smallest drop of water. When she returns to her room, she realizes her earlier mistake. God has been there all along, in her dresser and more importantly, in her image when she looks in the mirror because God is always inside her.
Hanna’s Comments: This beautiful book won a 2017 Spirituality and Practice Award. I received an advance copy, hence the missing mirror in the last photo. Published copies will have a foil mirror. Read this book with older children if you are trying to help them understand that God's presence is everywhere. If you have younger children who love to play Hide & See (What child doesn't!), this is a great book for them. Read the book, and then play an exploration game or ask them to go find God in an unusual place and report back to the group. While playing, be sure to emphasize the central message of the book: God is in every moment, every place, and inside us. Don't forget to talk with your kids about the emotions that this character is feeling and how those translate to our own lives when we feel God's presence. There is joy and comfort and especially companionship.
Original Publisher & Date: Westminster John Knox, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: My presence will go with you…(Exodus 33:14); Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7); You will seek and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13); Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family and explore the possibilities of God's presence everywhere, including inside us. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

PBT Question #2 to Ask about Any Secular Picture Book

Is there a sacred theme to the book? (such as Fruits of the Spirit, Light, Bread, Ritual, Creation, Courage, Righteousness, Ancestors, the Least…)
This is the easiest of the PBT questions to consider when approaching a picture book. 
Often the major and minor themes of picture books are concepts of social-emotional learning that we want children to know so books on these concepts are common. Fortunately for those who want to use picture books in ministry, those same concepts are also considered aspects of an abundant spiritual or religious life. 
If your using the "web version" format (you may have to select this on your phone), you will see a large list of purple search labels below. On this website, I consider topics that directly connect with scriptures found in the Old Testament (Hebrew) Scriptures and New Testament Scriptures.
 You'll find fiction and non-fiction books.
I've included classics from your childhood. 
And I especially enjoy telling you about the best new books and award-winning books.
Just click on a purple word below and be taken to all the picture books I’ve connected to that concept.
To demonstrate the abundance of themes that can be found in the PBT search list, here are 10 biblical themes and links to 10 featured PBT books that connect (1 each for the first 10 letters of the alphabet):
Adoption -  MissMaple’s Seeds
Brokenness - Koko’s Kitten 
Change - Fortunately     
Discovery - TheListening Walk
Enemies - EnemyPie   
Friendship - Bear and Bird   
Generosity -  If You Plant a Seed
Image of God - The Colors of Us
Justice - The Day the Crayons Quit

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Monday, February 12, 2018

PBT Redux #20 Love Monster and the Last Chocolate

This year Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday are on the same day. For some people, Ash Wednesday begins a Lenten journey of struggle and denying your desires. My Lenten journey will involve better Sabbath practices. I'll bask in the love of God that is always available. Today’s PBT Redux is a reminder of God's love that is better than chocolate, ever present, and more abundant than we realize. You might want to have some chocolate handy when you read this one.
Picture Book: Love Monster and the Last Chocolate
Author & Illustrator: Rachel Bright 
Summary: This book is in a series of 4 books. In all, you’ll find Love Monster living in a world of cute, fluffy characters and exploring their relationships. In the introductory book, Love Monster searches for love among the fluffy creatures, thinking no one will love a slightly hairy, googly-eyed monster. He's so wrong and so lovable.
In this book, Love Monster knows he is loved by all his cute fluffy animal friends. He is fretting about a box of chocolates, found when he arrives home from a trip. 
Before opening it, he worries about whether he should share the chocolates. There might not be enough to share with all his cute, fluffy friends. 
Someone might eat his favorite, Double Chocolate Strawberry Swirl.  
Perhaps he will have only the coffee one left after sharing. He hates the coffee one!
After deciding not to share and then feeling very guilty,
 he runs to his friends 
and confesses his selfishness. 
They insist that he look in the box. 
There he finds one chocolate, his favorite, and a love note saying how much they missed their favorite monster. 
The story ends with this wise statement: “Sometimes it’s when you stop to think of others that you start to find out just how much they think of you.”
Hanna’s Comments: How could I not love this book?! It’s about 2 of my favorite experiences in this great life God gives us: chocolate and friends! Your children will get a kick out of Love Monster’s fretting. Help them realize how he struggles with generosity but is still willing. Claim and explain the joys of generosity.
Allow your audience to give examples of when they have discovered surprising generosity from others. Tie it all together with some scripture. See my suggestions below.
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015 
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: One gives freely, yet grows all the richer. (Proverbs 11:24-25); Give and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38a); It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35b); Let no one seek their own good but the good of a neighbor (1 Cor. 10:24); Look not only to your own interests but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4); any scripture involving God's abundant love or grace
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book when teaching children about the joys (and struggles) of generosity. OR Teach this book to explore God's abundant love (or grace) freely and surprisingly given, even when our inclinations are selfishness.