Friday, September 28, 2018

PBT Series: For Our Youngest Children #1

At present, I’m writing a lectionary-based Sunday School curriculum for toddlers and preschoolers. I’ve been discovering some fabulous age-appropriate God Books for very young children. Today's book is in a series of books. Other titles are listed below. Thankfully in newer faith books, publishers are better considering developmental differences, important learning skills, and what delights very young children.
Picture Book: God Finds Us
Author: Jennifer Hilton & Kristen McCurry
Illustrator: Natasha Rimmington 
Summary: This is a seek-and-find board book about how God is everywhere, God will always love you, and God will always find you.  It begins with the profound question: Where is God? 
It follows some animal characters as they play, like a lamb named Ava. She is hiding behind a bush. God is with Ava even there. 
When Ava pops out, a positional phrase is used (next to). These are important for early language development. God is still with Ava next to the bush. 
 Jo is behind the tree. God is with him too! 
And Rufus might be behind a rock, but God is with him there and when Rufus is in front. 
Descriptive sensory words are here too. Prickly, brown Hal is in the water, but God is with him, even when he is out of the water.  
Uri is above the buildings with her smooth, orange beek. God is with her!
A summary sentence says that "God is next to, behind, in front of, in, and above us all." 
Hanna’s Comments: These books end with a helpful section for parents and teachers called Helping Your Child Take First Steps in Faith. For this book, Psalm 139:3 is featured there. You'll find details about developmental characteristics of very young children, how to make faith connections, and further ideas such as playing a particular kind of Peek-a-Boo game while emphasizing God's presence. There are many books in this series such as...
God Made Us All
God’s Wonderful World
Pray to God!
Thank You, God
Good Morning, World
We’re Better Together!
I Can Help
God Made Feelings
Clap, Sing, Dance
Everyone Gets Upset
I also really like the many Spark House Bibles for children; two versions are for very young children. Look for the Frolic First Faith name.
Original Publisher & Date: Spark House Family, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 1 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:3); I am with you always (Matthew 28:20); God’s Spirit dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a very young child at your family home or at your religious home and emphasize God’s constant presence.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Enough Already!

Picture Book: I Am Enough
Author: Grace Byers
Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
Summary: This striking book is a celebration of loving who you are and embracing the many and varied aspects of you. A repeated pattern of similes are used: "Like the ___, I'm ___." Here is a smattering of this book's messages and illustrations.  
Like the sun, I'm here to shine. 
Like the voice, I'm here to sing.
Like the bird, I'm here to fly and soar high over everything. 
There's some paradox in the pairing of similes. 
Like the champ, I'm here to fight. 
AND Like the heart, I'm here to love. 
Learning 
and racing are important pursuits 
as well as supporting those who cry because a race doesn't go well. 
Respecting others' differences, opinions, and gifts is an important message here. 
Differences in appearance are worthy of notice and celebration, but each person's worth comes from much more than that. 
In the end, it is enough to "live a life of love, not fear" 
and know that each of us is enough.
Hanna’s Comments: The similes here are mostly abstract and will require concrete examples and exploration for young audiences. You may know the other work of this author. Grace Byers is an actor on Empire. She wrote this book to tool girls against bullying, but it offers all girls (and boys) an opportunity to be reminded of their resilience, while emphasizing kindness. Yes, there are only girls in this book. Don't let that keep you from sharing it with boys. Girls often experience media with no girls present. It's beneficial for boys to have such experiences. It builds empathy and understanding across gender lines. We all want and need more of that.
Original Publisher & Date: Balzer & Bray, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Audio CD
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about inner strength or God's presence in us such as Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 4o:31, Isaiah 41:10, or Philippians 4:13; Made in God's image (Genesis 1:27); Let us run with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1b); Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial (James 1:12); Behold what manner of love God has given us that we should be called the children of God. (1 John 3:1)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to an elementary class and talk specifically about how each child present has been blessed with resilient qualities thanks to being a unique child of God, made in God's image, for the betterment of the world. In other words, all are blessed to be a blessing. 
 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Generous Finding

Picture Book: Found
Author & Illustrator: Salina Yoon
Summary: This simple but profound story begins with Bear finding a very special toy bunny. 
Bear believes someone must be very unhappy and worried because the bunny is lost. Besides, it seems sad too.
Bear takes the toy home and determines to help the bunny return.
Bear creates a generous number of fliers 
and spreads them for his neighbors to see. 
Bear also checks out a nearby collection of notices of lost treasures. He's surprised by how many are lost. No bunny is listed among them 
so he keeps searching high... 
and low for possible owners.
Meanwhile, Bear grows quite attached to the bunny who no one is claiming. 
Bear and the bunny have many days of fun together. 
 On one of their fun outings, Moose approaches 
 and recognizes Floppy. 
 Bear has mixed feelings but knows Floppy is not his. 
Floppy is now home in Moose's arms. Bear says goodbye to Floppy.  
Then Moose has a very wise change of heart. 
Moose realizes many days have passed and some things have changed for Moose, Floppy, and Bear. 
Moose asks Bear to promise to take care of Floppy. Bear's response?  
Hanna’s Comments: This is a perfect PBT book for very young children, but if you can find a version that is not a board book, read it to older audiences for the underlying messages are many and rich with meaning. You could talk about tenderness with those who are lost, gentleness, empathy, treasures, ownership, legacy, and generosity which is in every page of this book. There is even a God symbol here as most illustrations include a lone witness in the form of a small yellow bird who is watching Bear be so generous with his time and efforts. Also, point out that Bear is quite the problem solver, so proactive and tireless, and he never names the bunny but refers to it as Floppy as soon as the owner does! Salina Yoon says this book was inspired by lost and found posters in her neighborhood. Be sure to carefully look at the notice board in the illustrations. I especially like Yoon's Penguin series (also in board book form). [Here's] a Christmas book in that series that I've featured in a PBT post about December holiday books. If you want a great picture book about being lost, I highly recommend Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson. Find it at PBT [here]
Original Publisher & Date: Bloomsbury, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio CD
Scripture Connections: Any scripture about generosity, The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40); Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21); the lost parables (Luke 15:1-32)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children and talk about the spiritual practice of generosity as demonstrated by Bear and Moose or talk about what it means to be lost, found, or at home.

Monday, September 17, 2018

PBT God Book #13 - Glory

Picture Book: Glory
Author: Nancy White
Illustrator: Debra Reid Jenkins
Summary: Glory be to God! Creation is celebrated as an enormous variety of creatures praise God in this beautiful book. How does a butterfly, frog, fish, turtle, or rooster praise God? God is praised when God’s creatures do what they are created to do, whether flying, wriggling, making a joyful noise, singing to God in silence.... In the case of the young costumed girl on these pages, praise involves pretending to be another of Earth’s marvelous creatures. Here’s a sample of the verse:
Glory be to God for friendly fur,
For wiggling nose and racing heart,
For twitching ears and throbbing purr,
Tails that stretch and tails that wag,
Tail buttons soft as cotton…
All creatures by their being praise their Creator’s name.
Hanna’s Comments: While reading this book to your audience, pause after each double page spread and encourage them to move their bodies, acting out the motions and voices of favorite animals on the pages. At the book's ending, together verbally praise God for the abundance and beauty we see in animal life. Get creative together and praise through writing a group poem. Talk about how animal characteristics serve their survival and how that is true for humans too. Surely God’s creative love is at work in these creatures and each of your listeners. Ask them for some examples of God's creative love in them - some passions and gifts they treasure or favorite aspects of their glorious bodies. Talk about how God can be praised at church, home, and nature throughout their lives.
Original Publisher & Date: Eerdman’s Books, 2001
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Digital
Scripture Connections: Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness (Psalm 29:2); let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6); for by God all things were created, in heaven and on Earth (Colossians 1:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about God’s creativity, human creativity, or the spiritual practice of praise.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Pancake Generosity & Hospitality

 Picture Book: Mama Panya’s Pancakes:                                                        A Village Tale from Kenya
Author: Mary & Rich Chamberlin
Illustrator: Julia Cairns
Summary: This delightful story of abundance amidst scarcity begins with Mama Panya declaring to Adika that today is market day.  
Adika is "one step ahead of her" ready to go and waiting for her beside the baobab tree. 
Adika asks if Mama is planning to make pancakes. She says she has 2 coins so yes, pancakes tonight! 
Along the way they meet a friend and Adika invites him to come eat pancakes with them. 
Adika also invites 2 of his young friends working in the fields. These 3 guests are the first of many to be invited by Adika, despite Mama's worries. 
Mama fears she does not have enough coin for purchasing enough ingredients for the pancakes, but Adika reassures her saying, "you'll have a little bit and a little bit more. That's enough." 
At market, Adika continues to invite more and more friends. Sometimes the invitation is met with generosity from the seller with a little bit more given.  
Adika understands transactional generosity and keeps reassuring Mama that they will have enough as he invites more friends. 
 As guests arrive, they bring generous contributions to the meal. 
Adika was correct. There is plenty to enjoy at their abundant feast of food, music, and joy!    
Hanna’s Comments: Besides scriptures about generosity and hospitality which are abundant in our scriptures, I see 3 direct connections to Bible stories in this fabulous book (see below). It also connects with Jesus' instruction to not worry. In the back of the book, you'll find several sections of facts about Kenya, including samples of the language with pronunciations, a map, and Mama Panya's pancake recipe. If there is too much text for your audience, simply tell the story while showing the illustrations. Your audience will learn so much about Kenya and perhaps be inspired to be more generous and hospitable.
Original Publisher & Date: Barefoot Books, 2006
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Any scripture about hospitality and table fellowship; Elijah and the Widow (1 Kings 17: 8-16); do not worry (Matthew 6:25-34); loaves and fishes increased (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6: 1-14); the Widow's Mite (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of elementary children and connect with one of the scriptures listed above about the amazing abundance found in being generous and hospitable.