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.