Wednesday, July 28, 2021

God's Nature

     

Picture Book: One Earth

Author: Eileen Spinelli

Illustrator: Rogerio Coelho

Summary: This is a counting book that celebrates the beauty of our Earth. Sure the illustrations are fabulous. That would be expected. But the book is smart too! The 1st half counts 1-10 by focusing on various aspects of nature. For instance, “One wide, sweeping sky. Two honeybees.” The 2nd half counts down from 10 to 1, focusing on Earth-friendly & environmentally conscious tasks. “Four pairs of socks with holes? You can learn to sew.” The last pages emphasize that we have only “one moon, one sun, and one Earth.” Alas, this is so very true.

Hanna’s Comments: Connecting this book to the creation story in Genesis 1 is easy. God declared creation all good in Genesis 1:31. But there are other scriptures, especially in the Psalms, that evoke beautiful earthly and skyward images. Many faith-based communities are now emphasizing human roles as Earthkeepers, stewards of the great gifts God has given us. Nature appreciation, inspiration, and preservation are all parts of rich spiritual journeys. Spiritual discernment and insight are often found in nature. A tiny seed, a glacier, or a swift brook can serve as powerful metaphors for us humans.  

Original Publisher & Date: Worthy Kids, 2020

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Scripture Connections: any scripture which refers to a geographic aspect of Earth such as I lift up my eyes to the hills... (Psalm 121:1) OR As the deer pants for streams of water... (Psalm 42:1) OR or more generally, God has made everything beautiful in its time... (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: I list this book for a lesson in my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum (theme: Land and Skies) based on Psalm 19:1 - The heavens are telling the glory of God...

PBT Applications: This book is a great way to begin discussions about spirituality in nature. For young children, read it and simply ask: "What does this book (or this page) tell you about God?" Before reading to older participants, ask about  favorite natural places. After the reading, encourage reflection through art, spoken word, drama, or writing. How might they help preserve their favorite spaces? End with a simple litany of praise that you say together. 

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 hannaschock@bellsouth.net. Right now, free lessons are emailed if you fill out the monthly feedback form. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Gobs of Great Books from Flyaway Publishers

Get ready for a bunch of PBT books! Flyaway is a collection of books being published now in Louisville, KY. They have many titles full of potential for all ages. This company is dedicated to publishing books that encourage conversations about diversity, inclusion, self-esteem, kindness, compassion, and care for our world. Some of these stories come straight from the Bible, like this one. So beautiful! After these new books are described, find below links to 4 Flyaway Books featured earlier here at PBT! 

Below I feature 10 or so Flyaway books! Go to www.flyawaybooks.com for more information & listings. Go to their excellent resources page for lots of goodies to encourage appropriate conversations. One of the things they insert in many books is supplementary content, including discussion guides, background info., & further resources.

I have already posted about 3 “Flyaways” and will continue to do so. In the future, search “Flyaway” in the upper right corner to access this and other posts featuring Flyaway books. Here's the 1st for today, a big beautiful book!


Picture Book: For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World

Author: Michael W. Waters

Illustrator: Keisha Morris

Summary: Jeremiah is a teen thrilled about his new locs, but soon after he learns of Trevon Martin’s murder. This discovery begins complicated & difficult conversations between Jeremiah and his parents as he learns more about similar deaths from gun violence and his own family is threatened by gun violence in their neighborhood.   

Hanna’s Comments: This book focuses on a family's direct experiences with racism and gun violence in America. As Jeremiah and his parents struggle with events in the news, their points of view are poignant and heartbreaking. Spend time talking about how Jeremiah is struggling not only with his very real fears but his identity and difficulties understanding how such events make sense in modern America. The book includes an excellent discussion guide by the Muhammad Ali Center.

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: mature tweens and teens and up

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about justice connects to this book!

PBT Applications: I can see this book being read to a group of teens in a diverse youth group or a small group of parents who are wanting to breach these subjects with sensitivity and faith. In either case, be prepared to balance the negatives of this difficult issue with hope for a better world and affirmation of beautiful black boys.   

Picture Book: God’s Big Plan

Author: Elizabeth F. Caldwell & Theodore Hiebert

Illustrator: Katie Yamasaki

Summary: This is a clever retelling of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. It celebrates diversity as God’s intention for our world.  There is a note for parents and educators that gives some excellent context to that story. This book also comes in board book form for your youngest children.

Hanna’s Comments: I try not to post about books that are based on Bible stories because those are typically easy to find. This title doesn’t imply that scripture connection, so I wanted you to know about it!

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: preschoolers and up

Scripture Connections: Genesis 11:1-9, I used this book in my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum. See how below.

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: I connected this book to Psalm 148 (Year C, Easter 5) which encourages all sorts of diversity (mountains & sea monsters even) to praise God.  

PBT Applications: I’ve always found this Bible story to be confusing. This book offers some clarity to any age group. I could see a great conversation coming from an adult Bible study group. Depending on your toddlers, they might be attentive during a reading of the board book. 

Picture Book: The Story of And: The Little Word                 that Changed the World

Author: Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Illustrator: Joani Keller Rothenberg

Lyricist: Carrie Newcomer

Summary: Here a personified word “And” comes to the rescue of some of some opinionated shapes. Thanks to And, the shapes overcome their prejudices and assumptions and team up to create new possibilities. For instance, a circle and a squiggly line are encouraged by And to join and become a balloon! Inside are instructions for downloading an original song written for this book by Carrie Newcomer. If you don't know Carrie's music, which is not ordinarily for children, I highly recommend her thoughtful spiritual songs.

Hanna’s Comments: A fun activity would be to have children play with some shapes by way of various media so they can make some original creations of their own. See if you can recruit a singer to learn the song that can be downloaded for free from Flyaway's resources page. 

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: preschoolers and up

Scripture Connections: There are many Bible stories where people of different backgrounds overcome their prejudices and work together for good. Think Rahab and the Israelites, Ruth & Naomi, Jesus’ disciples, and the early church.

PBT Applications: The heart of this story is God’s desire for us to be hospitable and even inclusive to what/who is new and different. These issues deserve attention in all sorts of sacred and secular contexts.  

Picture Book: Brian the Brave

Author: Paul Stewart

Illustrator: Jane Porter

Summary: Poor Brian! He learns that some sheep will only play with sheep that look like themselves. Sometimes Brian is left out and sad. Sometimes others are not allowed to play. When a wolf comes, Brian’s courage and instruction helps the sheep overcome their divisions and work together to defeat the wolf.  

Hanna’s Comments: I wish this story for young children didn’t have so much application in the adult world!

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: preschoolers through early elementary

Scripture Connections: scriptures about overcoming division such as when Jesus crossed cultural & religious boundaries to heal the bent over woman; other scriptures about courage and God’s presence in adversity such as Joshua 1:9: Be strong & courageous....

PBT Applications: Little kiddos need to be reminded of God’s presence when struggling with fear and new possibilities. Read this book to children about to go to “big school” and remind them God goes with them and God is with every child in their classroom, no matter what that child looks like.

Picture Book: Walking Toward Peace: The True Story of Peace Pilgrim

Author: Kathleen Krull

Illustrator: Annie Bowler

Summary: Peace Pilgrim is an actual person (1908-1981) who gave up her name and all her possessions to make the world better, more peaceful. Being weary of war after WWII, she had a dramatic idea for a more meaningful life. She would walk the United States from coast to coast, as a pilgrim for peace. This book is about her preparation, her first walk in 1958, and her many experiences as an ambassador praying with her whole body for peace. For 28 years she crisscrossed the USA!

Hanna’s Comments: I knew nothing about this American hero! Throughout her many journeys, Peace Pilgrim thought of walking as a prayer. This book has more about her in the back pages and some resources, including references to a biography and a website: www.peacepilgrim.org.

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: Tweens and up

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about peace and refraining from violence or hatred

PBT Applications: Do your children need to learn about the kind of heroes who creatively use mind & body to faithfully demonstrate their convictions? Read this book to them. Check out the resources for ideas to supplement the reading. 

Picture Book: Where is Home, Daddy Bear?

Author & Illustrator: Nicola O’Byrne

Summary: Evie is a young bear moving with her father to a new house. She wonders if that place will be home. Daddy Bear explains that home is more than a place. It’s a feeling, a cuddle, or space to be yourself. Possessions are packed up, and they say goodbye to their former home. Good conversation, games, singing, and comfort food along the car trip helps alleviate Evie’s anxiety. Evie's dad gets a bit lost on the way, but he explains he is never lost when he is with Evie. When they arrive, Evie is less anxious and mostly excited. She declares to Dad: Home is me and you!

Hanna’s Comments: This is such a relevant subject for many children in your churches! Even children who don’t move from childhood homes move to new schools. Help your kiddos apply these ideas broadly. You and your children will likely wonder about Evie’s mom. Her framed image is in the last illustration, but there is no explanation for her absence. See this as an invitation for your children to think of many possibilities. Be sensitive to any children who have no mothers at home. Parental conversations and verbal permission may be necessary before reading to your children.

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: Preschool through early elementary

Scripture Connections: There are many scriptures about a longing for home. The Israelites wandered for 40 years, anticipating a land of milk and honey. Ruth & Naomi had to leave and establish a new home. Those sent away during the Babylonian exile longed for their Jerusalem home. 

PBT Applications: Consider connecting Matthew 7, where Jesus contrasts a home build on sand to a home built on rock. Decide together what makes for a home’s rock foundation. 

Picture Book: Crocodile’s Crossing: A Search for Home

Author & Illustrator: Yoeri Slegers 

Summary: Like Evie Bear above, Crocodile needs a new home, but he is an adult driven by hope for a better life. When “the trouble started" home was no longer safe. He goes from place to place, surprised by the differences in houses, food, clothes, and words. He plans to search until a place "feels like home." But the people he meets are not welcoming.  They tell him to go away. Crocodile gets hungry and thirsty, but mostly he is confused and tired. Then, like Gulliver for you literary folks, Crocodile makes friends with a community of mice who share resources and accept his differences. With time he becomes an important member of the community. Eventually, Crocodile’s family arrives so that his new community certainly feels like home!

Hanna’s Comments: This is an immigrant story designed with young children in mind. I love the maps in this book! Some map activities might be fun to supplement your reading. Perhaps some of your children are immigrants or have had immigrant-like experiences. If so, this book would be very meaningful! Build empathy for these stories and affirm resilience in children who adapt to new cultures, places, and homes.

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: Preschool and up

Scripture Connections: Calls for hospitality to strangers and immigrants abound in the scriptures.

PBT Applications: This book offers a story that preschoolers can enjoy and consider with new insights into God’s call for hospitality and community building. But it can also, in a non-threatening way, offer an entry into a meaningful conversation about current immigration issues with older children.

Here are a couple of books about how words can hurt and then heal. Your kids know all about that!

Picture Book: Bruno’s Hat

Author & Illustrator: Canizales 

Summary: Peter and Bruno were best friends but Peter almost damaged their relationship forever when a bully inserted mean words about Bruno’s hat and Peter doesn’t defend Bruno. Peter learns to speak up to the bully and even includes him in their play.

Hanna’s Comments: In a note in the back of this book, it explains that the publishers of all Flyaway Books hope to “help readers see the world from a new perspective” including (with this book in mind) those who witness bullying. There is a downloadable guide to this book here: https://www.flyawaybooks.com/resources 

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: Preschool and early elementary

Scripture Connections: Scriptures about the power of words apply, such as many in Proverbs, some are about hurtful words (11:9) and some are about healing words (16:24).

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of early elementary children who are struggling with including everyone in church play. The practice of hospitality can begin at church!


Picture Book: What in the World is Wrong with Gisbert?

Author: Jochen Weeber

Illustrator: Fariba Gholizadeh

Summary: Gisbert, a giraffe, has confidence until he is teased as he enters kindergarten. He begins to shrink! No one can see him shrinking, but Gisbert can feel it. What his friends and family do notice, as Gisbert shrinks from mistakes and criticisms, is that he seems upset. They ask how to help, but Gisbert says he’s fine. This pattern continues until Gisbert stays home from school a whole week. When he receives a note from friends who are clearly missing him, Gisbert confides in his parents. They counsel him to speak up when his feelings are hurt and talk to him when he is hurting. You can likely guess the result of Gisbert’s fond and affirming reunion with his school friends. He grows and grows!

Hanna’s Comments: This book has more text so is more appropriate for older children than the one above, unless you have some attentive and mature preschoolers. I believe the strength of this text is that its subject is a child of quiet. These are the children most likely overlooked at school and at church. Talk with all your children about how hard it is for some to speak up and ask for help. Talk about how prayer can help in these situations. Encourage sensitivity for those who are often overlooked or shy.

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books

Age Appropriateness: Elementary

Scripture Connections: This character reminds me indirectly of Zacchaeus and the woman who touched Jesus' garment for healing. Another connection is with scriptures like Psalm 139 that affirm that everyone is a precious child of God, born to be loved and loving. Also, consider scriptures about words that hurt and heal (see examples in the above book). 

PBT Applications:  Consider which children in your church program might be shy and unwilling to seek help from you should problems arise. This book might empower them.

Picture Book: God’s Coming to Visit

Author: Franz Huber

Illustrator: Angela Glokler and Rea Grit Zielinski

Summary: There’s a rumor running rampant among the animals: God’s coming to visit. Exciting! But scary too. They suspect lots of prep is needed so they can impress God. What is special enough? They primp and practice amazing tricks until they become impatient. It’s dark and God has not come! A voice in the darkness explains. “God is already here.” Then owl explains God's constant presence and unconditional love. There’s no need to do anything to impress God. What’s to be done? Be still. Feel God’s love. Share your worries. Ask for help. Love God and each another. They do just that. God is with them to stay.

Hanna’s Comments: Here’s another great PBT God Book, but it’s not published yet. I was able to get my hands on a proof and loved it! Look for it in October!  

Original Publisher: Flyaway Books, will be published in October 2021

Age Appropriateness: Elementary and up

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about the presence of God or a scripture about Owl’s instructions, such as Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

PBT Applications: This book speaks to all of us so it would be appropriate for any age above elementary age. Read it to a group about to study new mediation practices. We humans have a tendency to think a prayer practice must be perfect to be acceptable to God. This book counteracts that human tendency.  

Here are other PBT posts featuring Flyaway Books:

Who is My Neighbor?

When God Gave Us Words

Home by Another Way

The Marvelous Mustard Seed

Saturday, July 10, 2021

PBT Series: For Our Youngest Children #3 Emma Dodd's "Love You" books

Picture Book Series: “Love You”

Author & Illustrator: Emma Dodd

Age Appropriateness: infant to age 5

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered a fabulous picture book series by an author/illustrator. The illustrations are beautiful in their simplicity and charm. The central focus in every book is the rich and profound love between a parent and child. At PBT, I hope you're learning to understand this: Parental love is particularly meaningful to children so it is the best comprehension connection to God’s love for us. Most children learn about loving ways from parents. These books present the daily treasures of such love showing how God’s love for us is embodied, shared, and treasured. 

Before I give applications for ministry, let me emphasize that ALL these books would be wonderful gifts for a newborn or adopted child. The PBT bonus is parents & grandparents can simply read the book and then at the end of the reading say something like:

“God’s love is like that too.”   OR

“God loves you as much as I do.”    OR    

"All our love comes from God."        OR

“God gave us love so we may have this kind of loving!”

The first 2 books I would not recommend for ministry, but they can be presented as explained above. The 1st is for bedtime, so ministry applications don’t work. The 2nd is all about intimate cuddling, not applicable for ministry.


 Counting Our Blessings 

Everything

All of the books below I have recommended in Trinity Treasures, my scripture-based preschool Sunday school curriculum that features picture books & children’s Bibles. If you are interested in learning about Trinity Treasures, contact me at hannaschock@bellsouth.net. For now, free lessons are emailed if you fill out a monthly feedback form. 

What Matters Most

PBT Applications: This book sees love as most important. Talk about how God is love, is the source of all love, and has given us life for loving: loving God and loving the whole world! OR Emphasize God’s love as the same for all of God’s children. There are obvious connections to 1 Corinthians 13. Be sure to apply to other kinds of relationships besides parent/child.  

Love: I Love You All the Time

PBT Applications: This book celebrates loving moments in our interactions with nature and between a parent & child. As the creator of everything and everyone, God is the source of all these loving moments. Love is what we are created to do and be. Connect with scriptures about loving acts between the early church members such as those we see in Tabitha/Dorcas. 

Happy: I Love When You’re Happy

PBT Applications: This book celebrates the joy a parent feels when a child is happy. Note the peace at the end of the book. Peace also comes from God’s love. Any scripture about joy or peace will connect. I think of the children surrounding Jesus when he welcomed them! How happy and contented they must have been!

Together: I Love Spending Time Together!

PBT Applications: This book celebrates the loving moments of a day spent together. Emphasize that God wants us to enjoy being together, being loving to each other, and hospitable and kind to those we don't know. Be specific when talking about behaviors. What does love look like? Jesus’ actions and parables are great connections. His disciples (I often call these his “friends” when with young children) loved spending time together with Jesus! 

Forever

PBT Applications: This book is about empathy, compassion, presence, trust, unconditional love, and resilient love. These are the components of a parent/child relationship that closely relate to God’s love. Jesus’ actions make this clear. His stories of love in action and his passion for the least, lost, and poor offer connections to this book.

The books below have multiple titles! 

Just Like You      OR    When I Grow Up

PBT Applications: This book celebrates change and growing up. Attribute these wonderful changes to God. I’ve connected it to scriptures that call for good works. Such good work is meaningful for young children in their home and classrooms now and later as they anticipate growing, changing, and learning what kind of person to become. Talk about how God’s dreams for us are about growing into learning loving feelings, ways, and words. Help your children apply these ideas to their specific contexts.

                         

No Matter What      OR    Always: I Love You Always

PBT Applications: This celebrates unconditional love, the kind of love God has for us. Every scripture that highlights an imperfect hero, demonstrates a mistake, redeems a hurtful act, or exposes a need for change reminds us all that no one is beyond God’s forever, unconditional love.