Friday, December 14, 2018

December Holiday Books #5 & #6

I'm writing a picture book-based Sunday school curriculum tied to the The Lectionary for the youngest children in our church. One of my frustrations is the abundance of board books with concepts or text length too advanced for this age. Also, their small size limits the number of people in your audience. Today I feature 2 board books to demonstrate these concerns. The first is a fabulous secular story about gift-giving so I’m featuring it in the December holiday books series. It was first published as a hardback and recently published in board book form. Very young children won’t understand it. The second book featured is a perfect board book for young children about the birth of Jesus. Both books hold great value but for very different audiences. When using board books, choose wisely. Consider storytelling their stories to older audiences, but always give credit to the author.

Picture Book: The Little Gift of Nothing
Author & Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Summary: Mooch (a cat) wants to give Earl (a dog) a gift on a special day, but Earl has everything. After much consideration, he decides to give Earl "the gift of nothing." The reader is left to wonder what this means until the end. Meanwhile, Mooch plays with the irony of the commonly heard word "nothing" (nothing to do, nothing on TV, etc.) in a culture that is too full. He has decided that amidst the chaos and over-abundance of stuff in the world, what Earl most needs is an empty gift-wrapped box. When Earl opens the gift, he's puzzled and says, "There's nothing here." Mooch enthusiastically agrees and exclaims, "Yesh! Nothing but me and you!" And together they snuggle in front of a window and enjoy "nothing and everything."
Hanna’s Comments: This is a marvelous message for the Advent and Christmas seasons when too often gifts are purchased without much thought and people are too busy to spend quality time together. Despite my high praise for the story, I have two other issues with this book. The illustrations are sparse, such is the style carried over from McDonnell’s popular cartoon strip Mutts, featuring these characters. This story is abstract and plays with language. Therefore it's too advanced for young children. Older audiences will decide it's too juvenile if you use the board book format. If that version is all you have, consider telling the story. 
Original Publisher & Date: Little, Brown, & Company, 2005
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Photographed above is a board book. An earlier edition is traditionally bound.
Scripture Connections: Any scripture about the gift of presence, not presents such as the story of Ruth. Also, pair this book with the story of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12).  
Idea(s) for Application: Read (or tell) this book to a group of children, teens, or adults who are busy purchasing gifts for the December holiday season.

Picture Book: Christmas (Little Words Matter)
Author: the staff of B & H Kids
Illustrator: Holli Conger
Summary: Each page of this book has only one, simple word, a key concept in the story of Jesus’ birth. Words include angel, journey, town, stable, shepherds, and kings. 
Hanna’s Comments: In contrast to the book featured above, this board book is exactly right for infants and toddlers. This publisher does a great job of providing basic religious concepts to very young children via a small number of words and age-appropriate illustrations. Check out some of the other books in the Little Words Matter series. I especially like the one about Jesus which hits the highlights of his life. There is also a Bible in this series which would be a perfect gift for a very young child because the number of words are so few.
Original Publisher & Date: B & H Kids, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: infants and toddlers
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about the birth of Jesus, (Matthew 1:18-2:1-12 & Luke 1:26-38, 2: 1-15)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a small group of very young children on Christmas Sunday.