Friday, July 26, 2019

PBT God Book #14

Here’s another favorite God Book from PBT’s archives. Most books here are secular, but I include God books because they might be difficult to know about or find. These books are about the general nature of God or our relationship with God. I could have put this book in the PBT Grab & Go series because there is so much intriguing text. Little prep would be necessary for a great lesson; a discussion will naturally follow.
Picture Book: I Wanted to Know All about God
Author: Virginia L. Kroll
Illustrator: Debra Reid Jenkins
Summary: This picture book is designed to encourage children to be attentive to how God’s creation might inform them about God's nature. Various questions and environmental contexts are offered. The sentences have a somewhat repeated pattern: I wanted to know if God… then I …. Here are two examples: 
I wanted to know if God likes music, then I heard a pond on a summer night.
I wanted to know what colors God likes. Then I met several children of other races.
Hanna’s Comments: Two strengths of this book are the diversity of the children and the variety of experiences depicted in the illustrations. A book like this could be interrupted at each double page spread with conversation about whether your audience members have had similar questions or experiences. Help them see how their experiences might give hints to God’s nature. You could end your time together by writing some new pages to the book with the same pattern of words. Talk about what the illustrations might show or have the children create some illustrations if you have time. If you want to share this book with adults but aren't sure how they will respond to having a picture book read to them, simply transfer the text to your notes and read it. BUT do give the author credit at some point during your lesson by showing or explaining that the text came from a book. 
Publisher & Date of Publication: Eerdmans, 1994
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Elijah in the cave encountering God (1 Kings 19); The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23); Jesus’ "I am..." statements (John 6-15)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book before going on a nature walk with children. On the walk, invite them to reflect on how God's creation informs them of God’s nature.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Litttle + Little = Big

Picture Book: Little Elliot Big City
Author & Illustrator: Mike Curato
Summary: The city is big and scary, especially for an unusual little elephant named Elliot.  
But Elliot loves his city, even when his size and the crowds are not a good match, like when he is easily stepped on and pushed aside.
Many tasks are difficult, such as catching a cab. 
 But sometimes Elliot is very clever 
and solves problems on his own.   
Because of his size, Elliot especially enjoys small things, 
particularly cupcakes!
But he is too often overlooked at the bakery counter! NO CUPCAKES! 
Elliot's disappointment leads him to nearly miss an even smaller creature, a mouse, who also is having trouble getting food because of being small. 
Elliot listens to mouse's tale of hunger 
and quickly helps.  
A fast friendship is formed in which each of the little guys helps the other. 
In this way, the good things in life are more accessible and joyful, 
like cupcakes and so much more! 
Hanna’s Comments: This is the first of the Little Elliott series of books. Right now there are 3 others. All encourage deep connections and have illustrations that hearken back to the 1930's. In one story, Elliot finds a family in the big lonely city and in another, Mouse helps Elliot with his fears at an amusement park. The best part of these books is how easily an audience of children will relate. Like Elliot, they struggle with being too small or young or unable or not seen. If you have children in your group who have disabilities, consider their perspectives and levels of sensitivity. You might need to let them know of your plans and even ask them to share their perspective and experiences. And check out Jessica's Box, a beautiful PBT tale about a child in a wheelchair longing for new friends. Not being noticed is a spiritual issue. All humans (and apparently little elephants too!) are worthy of attention and love. God has desires for us to have encouraging friendships in which we build each other up and out for joy and service.  
Original Publisher & Date: Henry Holt, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: A scripture about someone small (i.e. Zacchaeus in Luke 19 or the boy who gave loaves & fishes in John 6);  Made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26); Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil… (Ecclesiastes 4:9); God has plans for our welfare, not evil, to give us a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11); where two or three are gathered... (Matthew 18:20); The Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5); …you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18); Encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11); Behold what manner of love God has given to us that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
Idea(s) for Application: This book is perfect for talking about God's desire for strong, supportive, and encouraging connections within faith families, especially between those who are small or disadvantaged such as those with disabilities or the elderly.    

Friday, July 12, 2019

PBT Redux #27 No Dogs Allowed

I’m on vacation this week so I'm going with a repeat of a post about a book celebrating the joys of getting away. This story about a fun day trip was one of my favorite discoveries during my first year of PBT. That year I posted about a book every day! You can take this comical story in many serious directions or stay with the fun of it. Spiritual practices that it touches on include hospitality, inclusion, accommodation, rule following, feasting, and being present when someone (or some group) is left out.  

Picture Book: No Dogs Allowed
Author: Sonia Manzano
Illustrator: Jon J. Muth
Summary: This is a story of a New York City family taking a day trip to Enchanted State Park to enjoy the lake. But it is so much more! Iris first introduces us to her family, a cast of caricatures that will have you giggling. Tons of food are prepared, bulging cases of necessities are packed, and a decision is made to bring El Exigente, the dog. Neighbors come along with their many necessities and vibrant personalities. A long line of cars streams out of the city bulging with folks ready to be enchanted. After some car trouble, all arrive and see a sign at the edge of the parking lot, “NO DOGS ALLOWED.” While they “figure out what to do,” they stake their claim along the edge of the parking lot and pull out the food, games, and sunbathing paraphernalia. The humans take turns entertaining El Exigente who dutifully sits in the parking lot. When there is nothing left to eat and the sun is going down, the throng piles back into their cars and heads home, knowing that even El Exigente had an enchanting time at Enchanted State Park.    
Hanna’s Comments: This is such a delightful book, and there is so much more here than the comedy and turmoil of a day trip. You’ll find a spirit of loving acceptance, even for those who are self-centered or peculiar. At the heart of this family is a joyous hospitality and resilience with a determination that all will have fun no matter the circumstances, even if there are NO DOGS ALLOWED. I kept thinking as I read this book, if only our faith communities were this accepting, hospitable, and resilient. If only everyone could be so lovingly attentive and accommodating. Perhaps you can lead your family of faith into such suppositions with the help of this fun picture book and some scripture that ties it all together.   
Original Publisher & Date: Atheneum Books, 2004
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17); on these two commandments (Love the Lord, Your God… and the Golden Rule) depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:34-40); Jesus goes to the bent over woman (Luke 13:10-17); Jesus addresses Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); a boy shares his loaves and fishes (John 6:5); Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11)
Idea(s) for Application:  Consider using this book to help children understand how Jesus respected the ancient Hebrew Laws, but he sometimes broke them and argued that what God intended for The Law was being ignored by the Pharisees. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Ecological Praise

If like me, you're worried about the future of Earth and you see it as a spiritual issue, then this book about the glories of our Earth is a great tool to begin that conversation with your faith family, particularly your youngest children.

Picture Book: I Love Our Earth
Authors: Bill Martin Jr. & Michael Sampson
Photographer: Dan Lipow
Summary: In this beautiful book, photographs of international children accompany text that declares the gorgeous variety of Earth's environs. 
I love the beaming smiles on these kids' faces, 
the variety of spaces, some your children may not have imagined,  
the diverse faces so that all can find a bit of themselves in the pages,  
and the distinctive textures of Earth. 
The phrase, "I love our Earth," repeats several times
as we see reasons for our gratitude in details  
and wide spaces.  
Surprising aspects of Earth that we don't think to be grateful for are here 
along with more expected images.  
The 4 seasons are mentioned, 
but this is a celebration of year-round Earth!
Hanna’s Comments: Ecology has been a common concern for people of faith throughout the ages. For some religions, such as The Jewish Faith, practices are built on reverence and stewardship. But ecological stewardship is a relatively recent topic for Christians, particularly for those in more conservative churches. 
Check out these links to more PBT books about ecology. There's a book here at PBT called Glory that looks at this issue more theologically (and with very different images). Chris Van Allsburg's classic Just a Dream is such a powerful story! Because environmental concern is growing, you'll find many newly published books (secular and sacred) addressing this topic from various angles. This is a great topic for  engaging teens & young adults who are often more engaged in (and worried about) Earth's future. What a pragmatic faith issue! 
Why this book today? I like the simplicity of the text, especially for toddlers and preschoolers who respond strongly to photographs of other children. They can begin developing an ability to see God in nature. This skill is so important in spiritual formation. If you're looking for adult books about ecological stewardship (I've also heard it called Christian Environmentalism and the spiritual practice referred to as "creation care"), I suggest checking out the books of Matthew Sleeth. Here's his website
Original Publisher & Date: Charlesbridge, 2009
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up 
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Any scripture that praises God's creation of or glory in nature or the beauty of Earth such as Nature Psalms (8, 33, 95, 102...) or  creation verses in Genesis. In an interview with biblical scholar Ellen Davis on On Being, my favorite podcast, Genesis 1:26 is discussed. Dr. Davis explains that the verb in the Hebrew language that has traditionally been translated "to have dominion" actually means "to exercise skilled mastery." She describes this idea as a sort of craft or art in which we are privileged to have responsibility for Earth. [Here's] a link to that interview entitled The Poetry of Creatures. This episode is fascinating and inspiring because along with it you get to hear some of Wendell Berry's beautiful poetry!
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of young children and talk about gratitude and seeing God in nature. Offer a simple gratitude prayer that will begin their understanding of ecological stewardship