Friday, November 23, 2018

PBT Theme List: Peace

Today is Black Friday in the States, a day of Christmas shopping in excess. I woke up to headlines that there was a shooting last night in a mall walking distance from my home. When did the shootings become so ordinary?! Lord have mercy on us all! Forgive our violence and help us with our fears. 
Perhaps you too are in search of peace as we anticipate Advent and The birth of the Prince of Peace. Here is a nice variety of 6 secular books about peace. Scripture connections and ideas for applications in your ministry are at the end of the post. 

Picture Book: A Little Peace
Author & Photographer: Barbara Kerley
Summary: This is a collection of photographs of people from various parts of the globe who are enjoying “a little peace.” Images of peace range widely from two English men in the snow tipping their hats to one another to a group of whirling Buddhist monks worshiping in Bhutan and then to an American military doctor cuddling a child who had been caught up in a battle. In the back you’ll find a world map and an explanation of each photo including details and location. The book ends with a note by Richard H. Solomon, President of the United States Institute of Peace.   
Publisher & Date of Publication: National Geographic, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present 

Picture Book: The Peace Book
Author & Illustrator: Todd Parr
Hanna’s Comments: For thoughts about peace with elementary or preschool children, consider Todd Parr's fun exploration of what peace looks like. 
He also offers a global and even ecological perspective, often with a bit of humor and some meaningful situations for young children. His books often connect directly to scripture, sometimes with a little twist. Peaceful acts can lead to life-long aspirations for world change. Parr finds peace in simple, fun gestures and big, hard work. His characters are sometimes surprising, often human and animal, but very relatable. Your children will love his whimsy and his heart. As usual, Parr ends this book with a letter to his readers.
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown & Co., 2004
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Picture Book: Peace, Baby!
Author: Linda Ashman
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Summary: Conflict resolution in verse is the appeal of this delightful picture book. Here young children’s situations of conflict in the home or classroom are used to illustrate more peaceful alternatives than verbal or physical aggression. With each offering is the suggestion to try or say, “Peace Baby.” Eventually the arenas of peacemaking broaden to interactions with all sorts: parents, teachers, strangers, and all of creation.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a fun, clever book aimed at reducing conflict among young children by giving them conflict resolution and peacemaking strategies along with a new, fun phrase. Being able to deal with strong feelings is a crucial skill that will benefit everyone in your religious community.   
Publisher & Date of Publication: Chronicle Books, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet 

Picture Book: Let There Be Peace on Earth                                                            and Let It Begin with Me
Authors: Jill Jackson & Sy Miller
Illustrator: David Diaz
Summary: This picture book’s text is a song familiar to many. Written in 1955, it has been recorded by many famous singers. It is a clarion call for world peace as well as interpersonal peace. Besides the song lyrics, you’ll find an audio CD which includes 11 other songs by these writers. The illustrations feature international symbols of peace which are explained in the back of the book. Other features include historical aspects of the song and its writers as well as the musical score.
Hanna’s Comments: If you are bothered by the masculine terminology, particularly “With God as our Father, brothers all are we.” Adapt to “With God, our creator, children all are we.” For “Let me walk with my brother,” change to “Let us walk with each other.” Use sticky notes to replace the words on the pages. Simply explain to your audience that the meaning and use of language changes sometimes and give your reasons for making the changes.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Tricycle Press, 2009
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at Present, On the internet, there are many videos of this song being performed.

Picture Book: Peace is an Offering
Author: Annette LeBox
Illustrator: Stepanie Graegin 
Summary: These simple rhyming phrases explore the concept of peace via ordinary, loving gestures in a neighborhood, the place where young children would most understand peace. Generous acts like visiting and serving someone in need and enjoying God's gifts of nature with friends all instruct young children to notice how peace is abundant. This book explains in simple terms that gratitude and contemplation are important tools for peace, as is affection and being at table together. This diverse community of children (and sometimes their parents) are shown engaging in thoughtful acts, companionship rituals, hospitality, play, and even strategic avoidance of violence. You’ll find a reference to 9/11/01, but it is subtle and isn’t likely to be disturbing to young children. Hope and joy are interwoven in this text and the images are comforting. 
Hanna’s Comments: These are fear-ridden times. Sometimes the loudest messages of fear come from faith families and are overheard by children. Instead, I believe the place where children first worship and learn about God should be grounded in peace and love. We have many children riddled with anxiety. Their worship communities can address some of their fears and offer God's hope instead. The key to this heartwarming book are messages of abundance and calls to be sensitive to another’s needs while contemplating with gratitude the beauty of our world. Here be reminded that when loving acts occur, peace can be found. Opportunities for such acts are everywhere, especially in your neighborhood, but also with those you love most, like those in your faith family.
Original Publisher & Date: Dial, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Picture Book: Growing Peace: A Story of Farming,                                               Music, and Religious Harmony
Author and Photojournalist: Richard Sobol
Summary: This story begins and ends in Africa in the village of Namanyonyi, near the border of Uganda and Kenya. Namanyonyi is unusual. In this small Ugandan village live Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They live in harmony, but they used to live more separately. Here you see children from each religion enjoying futbol. (The hats identify the boy in the middle as Jewish and the boy on the right as Muslim. Since one villager's witnessing of 9/11, they live more cooperatively and productively. J. J. Keki, a musician and coffee grower, happened to be in New York City on his way to The World Trade Center on 9/11. He emerged from the subway station in time to see one of the planes hit a tower. His life, like so many others, would never be the same. He came home and realized his village offered a perfect opportunity to model interfaith cooperation. Most families have a garden for food but also grow coffee for export. (They prefer to drink tea.) Through contacts made in his village via his children's many friends, Mr. Keki met with village farmers of all 3 religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Together they created a farming cooperative so that they can import their coffee at a better price and highlight their cooperation despite their village's religious diversity.  On the sign below find the word "Kawomera." It means "delicious." The Delicious Peace Growers Coop was born and has transformed this community! A model of interfaith cooperation was been born thanks to one man's determination to counteract religious hatred! J. J. Keki has even written songs celebrating the extraordinary peace and joy that his village now experiences. Besides a detailed account of this story, you'll find the process of growing coffee beans. Children and adults are photographed demonstrating the steps: the harvesting of coffee cherries, the drying of their seeds, the shaking to remove skins, the bagging, and the transporting to a Kenyan sea port. Growing Peace offers a wide but pragmatic perspective on peacemaking, integrated with economic cooperation. 
Hard work is celebrated here as well as the joy of living in the diversity that God ordains through nature and humanity.
Hanna’s Comments: There is so much text in this book that I highly recommend reading it over a couple of sessions or telling (rather than reading) this powerful story while showing the photographs. Find in the back an Author's Note and lots of resources including a glossary which will help with pronunciation. The music behind this story is available [here] and you can purchase the fair trade Delicious Peace Coffee [here]
Check out other PBT books about Africans' responses to September 11, 2001 [here] and [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Lee & Low, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: This story is told in a feature-length video available at [Youtube]

Scripture Connections For All These Books: For unto us a child is born… his name shall be called… Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6); Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6); Those who plan peace have joy (Proverbs 12:20); Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9); Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:14); Give and it will be given to you (Luke 6:38); I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. (John 16:33); peaceably with all. (Romans 12:11); may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13); the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:12); Now may the lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16); Strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14); Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17); peace and pursue it.(1 Peter: 3:11)
Idea(s) for Application For All These Books: For a discussion within your faith family, talk about the confusing concept of “peace.” It will help ground them in rich meaning, even if they exit the conversation without being able to verbalize an exact definition of peace. Also, explore what peace looks like in community, school, home, or your faith family. Read Peace, Baby! in a religious childcare center along with a lesson on God’s desire for us to live peacefully. After reading Let There Be Peace on Earth, consider singing it as well then talk about conflict and reconciliation. Read Growing Peace to a group of older children or adults and consider how scripture encourages cooperative community, even across religious traditions. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Few More PBT Books about Gratitude

In last week’s post, I listed many of the books about gratitude here at PBT. Below are a few more. Just click on the titles to get to those posts. If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this next week, may it be blessed. If not, eat some good food anyway and be grateful!

Thank You God by Gold & Halperin 

For the Beauty of the Earth by Pierpoint & Fleming

The Happy Owls by Piatti 

God Gave Us Thankful Hearts by Bergren & Holm

Friday, November 9, 2018

PBT Webinar & Gratitude Books!

Ever wondered how best to navigate the PBT website? Good news! Practical Resources for Churches (PRC) is featuring this website in their series Our Favorite Websites. It's live this Thursday night (11/15/18, 7-7:30 Eastern). Even if you have a conflict, register via the link below. PRC will send the video of the webinar to you. Tell colleagues who would like PBT. This is an opportunity to get acquainted with the work I do and the fabulous work of PRC. They create about 50 webinars a year to encourage meaningful church ministry! Here's where you can register:

The Thanksgiving holiday is my favorite holiday! Here are the best PBT books about gratitude. Use them to emphasize how gratitude to God & other people are important spiritual practices. Access info. about these books in 2 ways: 

For the 1st group, each title is a link that takes you to the original PBT post.


Click on the words "This Post" for 1 PBT post detailing a group of books. 

Give Thanks to the Lord by Wilson & Bates

Thank You, God by Wigger & Jago 

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Alsdurf & Lovlie

Circle of Thanks by Fower & Catalanotto

Bear Says Thanks by Wilson & Chapman

Gracias Thanks by Mora & Parra

This post lists several books at the end about giving thanks. Here are some of their covers.

Again, click on the words "This Post" found above for more info. on this group of books. May the spiritual practice of gratitude bless you today!

Friday, November 2, 2018

PBT Favorite Posts #6

Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say your faith community is planning around a  sermon series on the concept of The Holy Trinity. You want your whole faith family to explore this concept together organically, but it’s a tough concept for children. It’s a tough concept for adults! Remember, learning about The Trinity is a life-long journey so offering activities that connect with the sermons will enhance their learning journey if you consider their ages and experiences.

Picture Book Theology (PBT) is a big proponent of organic church programming that has folks in various settings talking about the same ideas. PBT encourages you to explore even complex theological concepts via literature that children (and adults) can connect to and relate to meaningfully. Encouraging children to experience the idea of The Holy Trinity in various contexts and within a variety of activities will lead to better understanding and richer meaning. Isn’t that what we all want in religious education?

The book I’m offering today is such a book. At the surface, One Family is a fun book about counting and collective nouns – those words that stand for a group of persons, places, or things. The numbers 1-10 are explored in order, but 1 is emphasized. Here’s a taste of the text pattern:

One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share.
One is two. One pair of shoes. One team of horses. One family.
After the number 10 is explored...
One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.
The Holy Trinity is a collective noun so here a book about numbers and language can be transformed into a profound lesson about The Holy Trinity. 

In your lesson, read the book first, then connect it to the concept of The Holy Trinity. While reading, point out the collective nouns (you might want to call them “group words”) in the text. In later pages, let your children locate those words. After reading, continue with the pattern and play of the text to bring in the concept of The Holy Trinity by saying...
One is three.
Creator, Jesus, Holy Spirit (Use your terminology here.)
One is God.
One is the Holy Trinity. (Repeat.)

To teach these lines, present them visually and use movement in creative ways.  Eventually have them say the phrases with you. Explain that “Trinity” is a group word too. The children will more easily see the link if you make those connections with the text of the book in overt and subtle ways, such as in your voice tone, rhythm, and finger play. Refer back to the page in the book about the number 3. Offer other examples of threesomes that are seen as one (a Neapolitan ice cream cone, 3-leaf clovers, a fleur-de-lis, triangles of all sorts, etc.)

When talking about The Holy Trinity, be sure to get a sense of what the children know already. Build on that knowledge and reassure them. This concept is hard! If this picture book is too juvenile for your tweens and teens, go ahead and check it out because while reading it, you might be creatively inspired to design programs appropriate for those ages.
There are several aspects of this book that I especially love. It emphasizes the power of “one” which in turn emphasizes the power of unity. Such is The Body of Christ and The Trinity! Also, this is a great book for practicing counting with young children. Engage them in some choral counting while you read the book. 

I use phrases like “family of faith” or “religious family” a lot here at PBT. This is an important value for me and this book fits nicely with that idea. If you share this value and use similar phrases, mention this in your lesson. 

One last benefit I’ll mention here is the way this book presents diverse families, diverse in membership, color, and culture. It is crucial that children’s books represent children’s realities so that the connections to self can be more easily made.
Picture Book: One Family
Author: George Shannon
Illustrator: Blanca Gomez
Original Publisher & Date: Frances Foster Books, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet