Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!


My wish for you this Christmas and 2022: May you be intrigued, like this wise little one, by the words and images of many picture books! Snuggle in to their depths and beauty. Let them bring you peace, joy, and deep meaning.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Still My Favorite Advent Post

Sorry I have not been able to post more often! ‘Tis the season to be crazy-busy!

Here is a link to my favorite PBT post featuring Advent books: Waiting and Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

If the term “Advent” has little or no meaning for you, you might be surprised to know at this time we are not in the Christmas season according to the liturgical year of most churches. Click the link above for a bit of explanation and info. on 3 secular books for Advent. BUT these books, and others about waiting, can be used year-round!

The theme of Waiting throughout the Bible: Even if you have made your picture book selections for this Advent season, the theme of waiting is important in many biblical stories and key biblical verses. More importantly in children's ministries, waiting is a huge issue for children so there is rich theological soil here. 

Here are 2 of my favorite biblical phrases...

For you alone, O God, my soul waits in silence... (Psalm 62:1)  

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31.)

Here are some Bible stories that come to mind:

  • Waiting to become mothers (Sara, Hannah, and Elizabeth),
  • Waiting for love (Jacob waiting for Rachel, Zacchaeus waiting from the tree for Jesus)
  • Waiting to return home (Israelites wandering in the wilderness and later in Babylonian exile)
  • Waiting for health (Jesus’ miraculous healing stories)
  • Waiting for God’s justice and hope to be realized (many Old Testament prophets, Simeon & Anna, New Testament Christians longing for Jesus’ return)
I hope your Advent waiting is realized with a particularly meaningful Christmas season! 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Still My Favorite Picture Book!

I started PBT Easter morning, 2014. My hope was to offer easy, untapped resources to churches, families, and schoolteachers. I did not predict how much pleasure and rich experience I would receive as I discovered more and more picture books. 


BUT after reading over 1000 picture books, no picture book surpasses for me All the World by Scanlon & Frazee! If you don’t know it, get it in your hands as soon as possible. It is a great book for a holiday gathering, particularly a holiday about being thankful! All the World comes in board book form, but your youngest children can likely attend to the big book. It’s so beautiful you'll want those big illustrations!

Here is a link to my most recent PBT post about All the World. There you'll see many of its beautiful pages:

In the tab above called Other Resources by Hanna, scroll down and checkout the slideshow to my presentation: 5 Secular Picture Books, 25 Ministry Applications. All the World is the 1st book I describe. You’ll find 4 other great books highlighted in that presentation.

Get it! I hope you are glad you did! 

Monday, November 8, 2021

PBT Guest Author: Rebecca Lile

A while back, a friend gave me a picture book. He is a United Methodist pastor who I greatly respect. Then came the bonus: The author was a mutual friend of ours from college, Rebecca Lile! What I found in those beautiful pages is what I believe to be the heart of Jesus’ message: All are welcome because all are loved unconditionally. On the 1st 2 pages: 

God's Diner is open; please come one and all.

All creatures are welcome, the great and the small.

Rebecca is a resident of Waynesville, NC. She was ordained as a diaconal minister in The United Methodist Church where she is a life-long member who witnessed her father serve as a pastor. I was interested in her creative process and the logistics of getting a book published when not a professional writer. She said it took about 2 years, 1 full year for the illustrator’s images to be completed. Rebecca was able to make some suggestions and requests, but mostly, Patrick Brooks worked independently from her.

Before writing, Rebecca was told editors would prefer prose, but that didn’t seem to work for this story, instead her writing came in verse: 

No longer is color or status or size

a way to divide us when seen through God's eyes.

What a welcome and welcoming message! Besides the theme of inclusion, another important theme for Rebecca is creation care. She has several books floating around in her head & journals, but God's Diner is the book she most wanted to write.

When I asked Rebecca about her purposes for writing this book, she explained that she wanted to leave a legacy to her 2 sons, the church, and our world. This book will make the church (and therefore the world) better!

Transforming our faith communities 1 person at a time, is what Rebecca has in mind in God’s Diner. Many people come into churches, questioning whether they will be truly welcome, perhaps even questioning if they truly deserve to be there. She hopes church people (all ages!) see themselves in both the hosts' & seekers' roles. Discovering compassion for self & others and how these roles are integrated will bring transformation to the church. I asked Rebecca...

What are a few of your favorite picture books?                        (2 embedded links for PBT books already here)

The hardest question for book lovers! I'll list just a very few:

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

    The prequel to this great book is also at PBT, posted the                 previous day! 

The Empty Pot by Demi

    A fabulous book about honesty & giftedness!

Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B Williams

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Rylant & Howard

How have you used picture books in ministry?

I use children's books in ministry in both children & adult education (in Sunday School, children's sermons, preschool storytime, summer camps/community centers, & retirement homes). I simply read the book and create questions & activities to complement. 

For example, if I'm looking at our call to be good stewards of Mother Earth, I might use The Little Hummingbird by Yahgulanaas. I'll create questions around what each one of us might do to be a part of the solution.

What various ways do you envision God’s Diner being used in ministry?

I would absolutely love to see God's Diner in the hands of every one of God's children, because I truly believe no child should ever have to wonder if God loves them. But since that may be a bit of a stretch, I would love to see it read in every church/faith community to both children and adults alike. I believe that the message of God's Diner is one of hope and kindness, compassion and inclusion and is at the very heart of what it means to live out of our faith.  

I've read it in churches on World Communion Day which is a wonderful use of the book as well.

What is feeding your soul these days?

Being around other women who are also always learning and coming to the table to enjoy rich conversation and connection

Creation Care is a passion for Rebecca so she hopes to write a book about that, but her next book may be a sequel to God's Diner. Perhaps its setting will be a food truck! 

Keep up with Rebecca's work here:

Picture Book: God’s Diner

Author: Rebecca Lile

Illustrator: Patrick Brooks

Summary: All sorts of animals come into God's Diner. Many are not so sure they will be welcomed, but all are, even the skeptical. Animal characters differ in dress, income, color, language, & temperament. Symbols among the animals offer more content for conversation. Encourage your audience to look for them and consider their meanings. 

Hanna’s Comments: Rebecca said that the important image of an open table (emphasized in some church’s communion rituals) was a strong inspiration for her writing in God’s DinerTake special note of the character Pug, who comes into the diner growling and scowling. His very skeptical "Grouch Face" might be a face your audience recognizes in or outside of your churches! Have them consider some reasons why Pug might be so different from the other characters who are laughing and smiling. Why is he is certain he won't be served? Pug is greeted this way:

I see through your meanness and somewhere deep down

I know there is goodness, instead of a frown. 

In response, Pug's face changes, he is hugged by many and invited to pull up a chair. The last words in the story declare the heart of the gospel! 

If you are hungry, remember God's place.

The food is outstanding, there's always a space.

Original Publisher: Warren Publishing, 2018 

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Matthew 25: 35 was her scripture inspiration. It’s found on the last page.

I was hungry and you gave me food.

I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 

Additionally, any scripture about hospitality such as the stories of Jesus welcoming strangers (Zacchaeus), children, and challenging women (the Syrophoenician woman & the woman at the well). AND any scripture about being beloved children of God such as 1 John 3:1.

PBT Applications:  You’ll find many resources designed for further exploration of the ideas in God’s Diner here at the shop on her website, including complete downloadable lessons, games, and coloring pages. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

2 Very Holiday Prayer Books


Here are 2 great books for very young children for the upcoming holidays! I have some issues with board books these days. Board books are produced for little hands that are hard on thin pages, but too often modern board books have too much text and too many abstract concepts for such young children. In contrast, these 2 books are, as Goldilocks would say: "Just right!" 

Picture Book: A Very Thankful Prayer

Author: Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Illustrator: Natalie Moore

Summary: Within an autumnal context and with simple rhymed verse, a young bunny explains how the day starts with a happy and thankful heart. What follows is a list (and the illustrator's delightfully bright images) of many things & people that this young animal is thankful for. These include falling leaves, sunbeams & seeds, loving family members around a small table, and later a menagerie of young animal friends around a table celebrating a Thanksgiving holiday meal. Later you'll see a forest scene around a campfire with marshmallows roasting. Being thankful for the ability to help, share, and give is included as well. The last page declares gratitude that God made fall and thanks for God's love that fills the earth. 

Hanna’s Comments: My wording is a bit awkward above because 2 things weren't clear to me: the gender of the animals (that's not a problem!) and which animal is speaking in these pages. A variety of young animals are shown across the pages. They all seem to be in community together. Substituting plural pronouns might help avoid some confusion, but your children probably won't even notice.  

Original Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2017

Age Appropriateness: toddlers and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about gratitude connects to this book, especially those relating to community. 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In Trinity Treasures, a 3-year preschool curriculum based on this Lectionary, I recommend this book be read to start a lesson for Thanksgiving Sunday based on the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. You may recall, only 1 man returns to him to say thank you. (Luke 17:11-19) 

PBT Applications: As you read each page, invite your children to find other things they see on the pages or in the room that they are thankful for. Be sure to give credit to God for these. This book is about prayer after all! At the book's end, talk about how your children's fall holiday traditions are like & unlike the animal friends' holiday traditions shown here. As your children share an experience, help them outwardly express their gratitude to God. 


Picture Book: A Very Merry Christmas Prayer

Author: Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Illustrator: Natalie Moore

Summary: This book begins:

Here's my Merry Christmas prayer

I'll send to God above, 

For all the gifts He's given, 

From a heart filled with love.

What follows is similar verses celebrating traditional American Advent & Christmas festivities. Each is linked to a more sacred part of the Christmas story. Strings of lights are like the Bethlehem star; the cozy bed of several cute mice are like the manger cradling "our Lord's head." Carols are compared to the angel's song, and family time is reminiscent of the Mary's great love for her baby. 

Hanna’s Comments: There is an emphasis on God's love and gifts here that I like! If the rituals shown in this book don't match up to your community's, then encourage your audience members to find reflections of God's great love and gifts in their own Advent/Christmas rituals. 

Original Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2015

Age Appropriateness: toddlers and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: This book connects to the various scriptures that describe the nativity story and God's many gifts of love, forgiveness, and Jesus especially. 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In Trinity Treasures, a 3-year preschool curriculum based on this Lectionary, I list this book, among many picture book recommendations, in several of the Advent lessons. 

PBT Applications: Read this book during the Advent or Christmas season to your preschoolers. Encourage them to talk about the relationships (not things) that mean the most to them during these seasons.  

If you are interested in learning more about my Trinity Treasures, a scripture based preschool Sunday school curriculum that features picture books & children’s Bibles, contact me at Right now free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Legacy of Jerry Pinkney

Today I pay tribute to book illustrator Jerry Pinkney who died yesterday, leaving a legacy of over 100 books. Not all were picture books, but much of his great talent was seen in the pages of beautiful picture books. He was the recipient of many awards & medals, including the Caldecott medals & The Children's Literacy Legacy Award

I first discovered Jerry Pinkney years ago in Mirandy and Brother Wind. His author partner was Patricia McKissack. Here's a link to a read-aloud and a musical based on this joyful and humorous book that beautifully captures tweens of an earlier time:

Both beautiful and joyful, this picture book classic would be a great book for connecting the concept of wind to The Holy Spirit, a common idea in our scriptures. Mirandy wants to catch the wind to do her bidding at a cake walk. We humans all have an inclination to have God do our bidding. Additionally, there is such joy when the children dance with the wind! This book could be an intriguing book to read on Pentecost Sunday.

I'm a bit perplexed as to why I don't have Mirandy or more of Jerry Pinkney's books here. Likely, it's a matter of too many books so little time. He illustrated many classic tales. Below you'll see a PBT link to 1 of those old stories along with 2 other books of newer stories. A 4th PBT book is illustrated by his son, Brian, a celebrated illustrator as well. Both Jerry & Brian were often in partnership with their wives, who authored many of the books. These 4 artists have made a tremendous impact on the picture book world and the lives of countless children and "children at heart" who love their gorgeous and meaningful books.    

This I tied to Genesis 1 & Psalm 8:3 (When I look at the heavens...).    

I tied this book to scriptures about loving your neighbor.

For this book about the library, I chose these scriptures: John 8:32 (…the truth shall set you free.) & Galatians 5:13 (For you were called to freedom...).

Micah 6:8 (What does God require...) and Romans 12:2 (Do not be conformed to this world...) were easily tied to this tremendous book!

I implore you to explore the legacy of Jerry Pinkney and consider the many ways his books can illustrate faith. Thank you, Mr. Pinkney!

Friday, October 15, 2021

A Favorite PBT Post: Thanksgiving Books

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, October 8, 2021

A Thanksgiving Grab & Go

As Thanksgiving season approaches, I'll be featuring some of my favorite picture books that emphasize gratitude. Here at PBT, a Grab & Go Book is one that has such rich content it requires little prep before using it in a group lesson. Today's  book describes the 20-year Thanksgiving tradition of a family in New York State in which over 200 friends and family are invited to celebrate in the woods.  

Picture Book: Thanksgiving in the Woods
Author: Phyllis Alsdurf
Illustrator: Jenny Lovlie
Summary: From the point of view of a young boy, this story builds with emotion as he prepares for the Thanksgiving tradition his grandparents have established.

His parents are excited too. Everyone gathers their outdoor clothes, some musical instruments, and treasures that make the season's rituals all the more pleasing. They drive a long way and finally meet up with Grandpa. The grandson climbs into the cab, and they're on their way to set-up for the feast and fun. 

They arrive at a clearing where cousins, aunts, and uncles are already busy preparing for the crowd to come. Bales of straw and wooden planks for makeshift tables are unloaded. A bonfire is prepared for lighting. 

The family gathers for a quick breakfast the next morning, anxious to get to the woods. 

Upon arrival, the kids start scrambling for kindling. Everyone needs to help with the preparations. A tractor arrives with a stately pair of grandparents in tow along with some other guests and pots loaded with foods for the feast. Hundreds of folks begin arriving with more food and a spirit of gratitude and anticipation. 

When the time is just right, all gather and sing the song Simple GiftsPlates are piled high. The children have built a special fort for their own smaller Thanksgiving in the woods. 

The festivities end with a huge circle of singing around a warm bonfire. The young narrator joins in with his recorder. Marshmallows are roasted amid the glow of the smoky fire. Yum! The days' experiences linger as the evening comes to a close. Folks pack their gear and head to nearby cars or homes. 

The boy and his immediate family make their way back to his grandparents' house, full of good food and marvelous memories.  From behind he hears a few voices around the fire still.

'Tis the gift to be simple.
'Tis the gift to be free.
'Tis the gift to come down 
where you ought to be. 

It's a perfect ending to a woodsy Thanksgiving tradition.

Hanna’s Comments: This is a secular view of an annual holiday that is grounded in faith for so many. It's a celebration of community, hospitality, and joyful feasting which are all important rituals and sacred practices in most faith communities. The song that is sung is an old Shaker hymn. The score for "Simple Gifts" is included in the back. Consider singing it together as a part of your program. 

Original Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse Family, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: I will give to The Lord the thanks due for The Lord’s righteousness… (Psalm 7:17); Give thanks to The Lord for The Lord is good… (Psalm 107:1); They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42); Let us consider how to stir up one another in love and good works, not neglecting to meet together… (Hebrews 10: 24); Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book as a Thanksgiving treat for your faith family.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Navigating the Best PBT Series


Here are some tips for getting to the best info. regarding the 800 or so books here at PBT. The book above is part of the Grab & Go series. These are books in which there is little need for prep before teaching a lesson. Here's another Grab & Go.

Using the search mechanisms to find these series is key. There are 2:

1.      The search box at the upper right of each post.

Nearby you’ll see my PayPal link. Just a 1-time gift of a few dollars shows me you are appreciative and this work is worth my time and effort.

2.    The search labels at the bottom of a screen page (not each post). BUT If you are on your phone, you likely have to click "view the web version.” These labels are listed alphabetically, but the list can be overwhelming. That's why I’m going to give you some specifics here.

Sometimes either mechanism works; sometimes only one. 

Here are those 3 PBT series that help you navigate some of my best work:

Grab & Go series 

    at the Search Box: type in "Grab."

    at the Search Labels: Look in the Gs for "Grab & Go."

The book above and below are other examples of a Grab & Go. The book below is also a God Book. That's a book that directly explores the nature of God. (more on God Books in a future post)

PBT Questions Want to know an easy way to consider a favorite secular picture book for a sacred lesson? This is your series! 

I use the word "questions" too often for you to use that word in the Search Box so these are accessible only at the Search Labels. Look in the Ps for "PBT Questions." The easiest question is first so scroll down for the first post in this series (Question 1). 

Click here to see that series which teaches my approach to considering secular picture book in 5 questions. For example, question #1: "Is God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit in the book? (symbolically) The book above and below are PBT books with characters reminiscent of 1 or all of The Trinity.

PBT Redux 

    at the Search Box: Type in "Redux."

    at the Search Labels: Look in the Ps for "PBT Redux."

Here's an example of a PBT Redux. These are simply really good books that are worth mentioning again.

Have fun exploring these 3 series! Later I'll post about navigating more PBT series.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Godly Silence for Everyone


Picture Book: Shhh… God is in the Silence:                                                                     A Story for All Ages

Author: Fiona Basile

Illustrator: Alice Mount

Summary: This is a book of shushes and questions. Every page begins "Shhh... God is in the silence. Can you here him?" 

What follows is a series of statements declaring this ideas repeatedly:
God speaks to your heart, saying...
I love you.
You are precious.
There is no one else like you.
I created you.
You are mine.
I am with you always.
Next, it declares that God lives in your heart, and adds to the reassurances above: You are safe so rest little one.
Hanna’s Comments: This beautiful book gets to the heart of what children and families need today: silence and a sense of God's presence. The subtitle declares this is a story (book) for all ages, and surely it is! 

If you prefer to avoid masculine language for God, simply change the text. Sticky notes are helpful for this. 

This book has its own website. Click: here to check it out. You can order the book, while finding activities and instructions on teaching children how to pray. These methods could easily be adapted for adults or teens. I especially liked this: Personal Noise Survey

Original Publisher & Date: Loyola  Press, 2016

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present, but there is a bilingual (Spanish & English) edition of the book.

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about silence, such as Psalm 46:10 (mentioned below) and Elijah's experience of God in the silence (1 Kings 19), connects strongly to this book.

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: I listed this book in my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum for a summer lesson in Year C (theme: Be Still) based on Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.

PBT Applications: This book would be perfect to read to a group of parents of young children. You might want to leave out the "little one" endearment. Then have them brainstorm ways to be in relative silence with their children while modeling mindful experiences of God's presence. For young children, you may want to read only a few pages and show all the images. With each illustration, encourage their responses about God in those images. For teens, you may want to simply read the text since the images are of young children, but the questions are intriguing for any age.

If you are interested in learning about Trinity Treasures, a scripture-based preschool Sunday school curriculum that features picture books & children’s Bibles, contact me at Right now, free lessons are emailed if you fill out the monthly feedback form.