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 #12 - 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. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

PBT Favorite Posts #6

Picture Book: What Does the Sky Say?
Author: Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrator: Tim Ladwig
Summary: “What does the sky say on a winter day when snow is falling and a mother is calling her little girl to dinner?” Thus begins this lovely book. The question is answered, “Remember. Go in and be fed and loved, but don’t forget to look out the window.” Other questions follow, asking what the sky says in different weather and seasons. Each time a possible answer is offered that encourages the young girl to embrace the joy and learning that each day can bring. Between the lines is a subtle message that God is the provider of these varied and beautiful sky messages.
Hanna’s Comments: This is what I call a contemplative book which encourages readers (children & adults) to attend to and consider the beauty and life-giving messages of God’s creation. God is not mentioned in this text, but the possibility of God as the creator of the skies and the encourager of the young girl's contemplation is throughout. The questions, tone, and affirming answers celebrate God’s presence and our potential to discern meaning and joy from what we may experience. You’ll find Psalm 19:1-4 (The heavens are telling the glory of God…) in the back of the book.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Eerdmans Books, 2001
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: In the beginning, God created the heavens (Genesis 1:1); when I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers (Psalm 8:3); the heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-4)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book at a church family retreat while you are gathered outside. If possible, have a couple of young girls dramatically represent the ideas in the book. Then encourage your audience to offer their own meanings to each kind of sky.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Looking for a Family

Picture Book: Can I Be Your Dog?
Author & Illustrator: Troy Cummings
Summary: This clever picture book is about Arfy who is desperate for a better home on Butternut Street. He writes a variety of unsealed letters to home owners touting his positive traits and willingness to adapt. 
They are all delivered by Mitzi, a curious letter carrier. First to receive is the yellow house. 
 For this family, Arfy addresses the issue of the cat! 
But in a reply, the family explains that the cat is "allergic" to dogs. 
The Butcher Lady has had some unpleasant dog experience so she's not interested in having Arfy, even though he explains he would keep the floor clean.  
 She does give him some treats though. 
The fire station already has filled their important position of  fire dog. 
Arfy is disappointed. 
The letters and rejections continue.  Arfy is even so desperate he sends a letter to the man at the junkyard, whose reply is quite rude. 
 Arfy's last resort is to the occupants of this house.
With each rejection, Arfy gets more and more despondent 
and returns alone to his unpleasant home. 
A surprise comes his way in the form of a letter of invitation! It asks if Arfy might be willing to be a friend and partner. 
If Arfy is willing, it is suggested that they meet at the big blue mailbox. Arfy's response? 
 When they meet, its love all around! 
 Arfy delivers a last letter.
Hanna’s Comments: This is so much more than an adoption story. Here you have a story full of sincere longing, faith, hope, vulnerability, hospitality, perseverance, and resilience. And it ends with a big burst of love and belonging. Also, the word play is so smart! Your audience will love it! Don't assume this book is just for kiddos. See my application below for an important possibility for adult conversation. At the end of the book, there is a "letter" to the reader listing the benefits of pet adoption or volunteering at an animal facility.
Original Publisher & Date: Random House, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet 
Scripture Connections: Any scripture or Bible story on longing and hope such as the Israelites' wanderings in the wilderness or any scripture about God's love such as "Behold what love God has given us that we should be called the children of God." (1 John 3:1); Whoever receives one child in my name, receives me. (Matthew 18:5); Paul writes about receiving adoption from God (Galatians 4:5 & Ephesians 1:5)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adults in your church and talk about the desperation that might be present in those visiting your church looking for a faith home and family. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Froodle, Tiffle, and Wuppy

Picture Book: Froodle
Author & Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
Summary: This story of authenticity, silliness, and word play begins with a variety of birds singing their usual songs. 
Then Little Brown Bird decides not to peep. She suddenly lets out an usual sound. It gets everyone's attention. 
The other birds are surprised but not too displeased, except for Crow. 
Her friends remind Little Brown Bird of their usual songs.
Disheartened, Little Brown Bird peeps as she is supposed to, but it can't last. A tiffle, biffle, and a little miffle slip out. 
Then Cardinal decides to sing her special silly song - Ickle, zickle, pickle, trickle! 
Dove, who wants to be a peacemaker at first, tries out a new song too - Oobly, snoobly. 
Crow is encouraged by Cardinal to try to be silly too, but Crow rejects such a ridiculous idea and flies off. 
Little Brown Bird wants very much for Crow to enjoy the silliness and wonders. She and some friends approach Crow with caution and many demonstrations.  
 Finally...  
everything changes. 
Even other species join in with new sounds and therefore new possibilities.
Their world was never the same. 
Hanna’s Comments: This book is very fun! You can encourage your audience to emit some silly sounds themselves. There are several connections to scripture. Paul encourages us not to be conformed to the world. Both Psalm 33 and Revelation mention a new song. Isaiah speaks of doing a new thing. Whether discussing a new song, a new thing, or (for adults) True Self versus False Self (see Thomas Merton's writings), emphasize the spiritual practice of authenticity and the courage it takes to transform. Do explore together how monotony and mindless routine can become lifeless and inauthentic. Then consider when it might be a good idea to break the rules. Because of all the nonsense words in this story, you’ll want to do a thorough practice read. The message of this book is similar to the classic The Big Orange Splot. Check out that post [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 33:3); Behold, I am doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19); Do not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:12); One who is in Christ is a new creation (2nd Corinthians 5:17); 
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of teens. Then talk about how God calls us into authentic transformation for the sake of the world.