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. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Grab & Go #15 – Our Tree Named Steve

Here's another fabulous picture book that needs no prep for an adult or children's lesson. Just read it to your audience and see the connections to scripture and spirituality emerge. Have you wondered why some of these posts have only the cover photo? They are re-posts from PBT's first year when I posted about a picture book everyday. Like those other 364 books, this book is full of inspiring illustrations. These are especially funny!
Picture Book: Our Tree Named Steve
Author: Alan Zweibel 
Illustrator: David Catrow 
Summary: A father writes his children a letter in which he celebrates all the gifts that have been given to them by Steve, the large, unusual tree near their home. Steve (how the youngest child said "tree") has become an important part of their family history: playmate, shelter, place of important milestones. Dad explains that the tree was knocked down by a storm but has been transformed into a tree house in another tree in their yard and will continue to nurture & protect them. 
Hanna’s Comments: This comical tale has such rich symbolic undercurrents and is full of potential for ties to scripture and spiritual transformation. You'll easily elicit conversations about important elements of family life such as play, ritual, protection, & sacrifice. Tie these to all that is holy at church and in nature. Allusions to Jesus' sacrifice are here as well as Steve as a symbol of God who is ever-present, ever-nurturing, and ever-loving.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Puffin, 2005
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: God’s presence with us, giving us rest (Exodus 33:14), God’s plans for our welfare & future (Jeremiah 29:11), Jesus’ sacrifice (John 3:16), I am with you always (Matthew 28:20); Zacchaeus in the tree (Luke 19:1-10); Like the father here, Paul wrote letters to convey the meaning of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection
Idea(s) for Application: Consider reading this book at an Arbor Day Celebration, a faith family festival, a family reunion, or in a church Sunday school class during Lent. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

PBT Redux #24 - Is This Panama?

Picture Book: Is This Panama? A Migration Story
Author: Jan Thornhill
Illustrator: Soyeon Kim
Summary: Sammy, a young warbler, has heard wonderful descriptions of Panama from other warblers. He is excited about his first migration from near the Arctic Circle all the way to Panama, but then he discovers the other warblers have migrated without him. Being so young, Sammy doesn’t know the route, but he is determined so he sets off with a willingness to ask for directions from other creatures along the way. Although Sammy enjoys these interactions, the other creatures steer him wrongly. After taking a much longer route and feeling discouraged, Sammy finally makes it to Panama.
Hanna’s Comments: I love it when authors put maps in their books! This book has a great map in the back that shows you Sammy’s route, the route warblers regularly take, and the location of the creatures he meets along the way. You may want to refer to the map as you read. You’ll also find a list of facts about each creature and a section on how animals migrate. Adults joke about women being more willing to ask for directions than men, but truthfully asking for help is not a bad thing, especially if you do so of someone who is invested in you. If you view this book as a metaphor for personal journeys, spiritual or otherwise, this book offers opportunities to talk about being steadfast, interdependent, and vulnerable, while also gleaning wisdom from mentors in your faith community. Consider connecting this book to stories in the Bible with characters who are lost or misguided; thankfully, there are plenty of those very human characters. 
Publisher & Date of Publication:  Owl Kids Books, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Fear not, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10); look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4); do not neglect to do good and to share what you have (Hebrews 13:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Our church sends a mission team to Panama each summer. This book was recently used in a children’s program about the mission team’s expected journey and purposes. Whenever a team from your faith community goes to another part of the world, consider using picture books about the location to teach your children about what your faith community is doing elsewhere and why.