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 #21 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. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

PBT Question #1 to Ask about Any Secular Picture Book

Where is God in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?) This first question has the potential to rock your world when it comes to your image of God.
First, there are books with obvious allusions to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit such as the character of the tree in The Giving Tree, the mother in I Love You Stinky Face, or lightships in Lightship. This last example demonstrates that God can be found in non-human aspects of stories and in non-fiction books.
There are books where God is lurking in less obvious places. Try thinking in terms of what God represents for you, and see if those ideals are anywhere in the book.  
For instance, in Pete’s a Pizza, you have a silly book about a boy’s disappointment in not being able to play baseball. Within this story, Pete’s father lures Pete into a wonderfully playful distraction while Pete’s mother looks on. God’s nature can be found in both parents wise and loving attention. God looks on with compassion as we are disappointed by life’s circumstances (Pete's mom). God lures us into a joyful, loving opportunity (Pete’s dad does this). We call this prevenient grace in the United Methodist Church. God inspires us (Pete’s dad in this case) to lure others into joyful, loving opportunities. God sees us reap the benefits of such opportunities (both parents). Lastly, God rejoices when circumstances change and we are able to have our heart’s desire (Pete’s parents when he is able to play baseball). This silly, delightful book has God all over it!
What I love about this first PBT question is that it can stretch your audience’s image of God in ways that may be very enlightening and/or comforting. In The Friend, you have a beautiful story that parallels Jesus’ tenderness, teaching, patience, and attention in the loving care of Bea for little Belle. You also have a dramatic situation in which Bea saves Belle
and embraces Belle.
These glorious illustrations can expand your vision to a new way of imagining God’s saving grace.
Here are a few of the many more recent books from the PBT archives in which this first PBT question is easily answered: 
The Amida Tree (similar to The Giving Tree)
The other 4 PBT questions offer easier ways to consider a book’s potential for your ministry, teaching, parenting, grandparenting, or bibliotherapy. If question # 1 doesn’t seem right for the book you want to use, check out an upcoming post about PBT question # 2. May your reading bring others closer to God.

Monday, February 5, 2018

PBT Stories: Bear Has a Story to Tell

Yesterday I taught my adult Sunday school class. I brought the book featured below from the PBT archives. I chose it because a hibernation period is in the plot. This is a great metaphor to explore as we approach Lent, the liturgical season in which we remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.
First, I explained that it would be a lesson with no discussion until the end because I wanted the quiet for better reflection. Then I simply asked my friends to hear and see the book while thinking of themselves as Bear. Once my reading was finished, I asked them to get comfortable while I asked various questions for reflection. Many questions flipped the paradigm: Does Bear remind you of a friend who needed to tell a story but you wouldn't listen? How is Bear like God? Where is the Holy Trinity in this story? After about 5 minutes of these questions, something interesting happened.
My friend Elizabeth interrupted and asked for a sheet of paper. I had none. Then she said she needed to see the questions and asked if she could write them on the board. I said of course and invited folks to help us think again of the questions (I did not have them in my notes). The result is photographed at the end of this post. Her interruption made for a better lesson and was a reminder to me that I should always consider different learning styles. My hope for quiet reflection had given me tunnel vision. Thanks to my friend, the lesson was a great success. We could have talked about this great picture book with no hesitation for another half hour.
Picture Book: Bear Has a Story to Tell
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Summary: This book begins, “It was almost winter, and Bear was getting sleepy.” Bear has a story to tell before he hibernates so he approaches each of his animal friends and asks, “Would you like to hear a story?” 
Each animal is unavailable or busy preparing for winter. Bear helps them with their tasks. Then each animal friend scurries away or to sleep before hearing Bear’s story. Bear hibernates. At the onset of spring, Bear greets each of his friends and asks again if they would like to hear a story. 
At last, they are ready, but Bear can’t remember his story. With his friends encouraging the narrative, Bear begins as this book begins: “It was almost winter, and Bear was getting sleepy.”
Hanna’s Comments: At first reading, my interpretation of this book was that Bear forgets his original story because he no longer needs to tell it. Time and helping others has allowed him turn loose of that story; a kind of healing of his need to be heard has taken place. Instead, Bear tells the story of how he patiently set aside his need to be heard and helped his friends prepare for winter. 
Now I see so many other possibilities for theological or spiritual reflection and connection. This is truly a rich story especially if you're nearing Lent, a liturgical season remembering Jesus 40 days in the wilderness. The hibernation of Bear and his friends is an easy connection. This Author/Illustrator duo has another book here at PBT. It is a treasure as well and was featured [here] at PBT on Day 9.
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Book Press, 2012 
Age & Grade Appropriateness:  2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Audible  
Scripture Connections:  scriptures about waiting or time apart; Jesus in the wilderness; Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42); scriptures about the importance of telling your story
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book as part of a lesson on the spiritual practice of listening or how evangelism should be as much about listening as telling. OR Read this book before Lent to encourage folks to take time away to grow spiritually or heal.

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Favorite PBT Series – 5 PBT Questions

I posted about picture books every day for a year in 2014 & 2015. Then I offered my first PBT series. Each explored a question to consider if you want to use a particular secular book in ministry. With each question, I offered 1 new book and linked you to a few previously featured books that fit well with that strategy. This winter, I’ll repeat that series and link to a few newer posts so you’ll have many book examples. 

If you appreciate the work I do, please look right and demonstrate your gratitude with a PayPal donation. Here’s the introductory post in that series:

PBT Questions to Ask about Any Picture Book
Not all picture books have the potential for use in ministry, teaching, or bibliotherapy, but many do. For instance, ABC books are not usually helpful and books that are especially girly will not be well received my many who are turned off by such books.

Below you’ll find a list of questions to help you approach a picture book that you think might have potential. For the next few posts, I’ll expand on each question and offer some examples of picture books I have already featured here at PBT.

1. Where is God in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?)

2. Is there a sacred theme to the book? (such as Fruits of the Spirit, Light, Bread, Ritual, Creation, Righteousness, Ancestors, Justice, the Least…)
3. Does the book remind you of scripture? (a Story? a Character? a Verse?) 

4. Does the book contain or encourage a spiritual practice? (such as Compassion, Generosity, Gratitude, Prayer, Praise, Hospitality, Peacemaking, Reconciliation…)

5. Does this book have the potential to positively affect the behavior or future of those who experience it?