Saturday, November 19, 2022

Mr. Panda for the Holidays!


If you like quirky books, this PBT post is for you! From the Mr. Panda series by author/illustrator Steve Antony, I found a book for Thanksgiving, a book for Advent, and a book for celebrating love. That last book could be for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or anytime you are anticipating a loving ritual. Because these humorous books have little text but complicated social situations, they would be great for any age! For older children, move quickly to more complicated life applications before they are turned off by the simple characters. Don't let Mr. Panda's gruff face fool you! He is all about generous servanthood! Be sure to help children read his facial expressions. They are important and not obvious. Older kids might even talk about the complex skill of reading another's emotions as an aspect of empathy (tie this to The Great Commandment). Here's Mr. Panda really happy!

Many versions of these books have parallel Spanish text. There are other books in this series. I don’t recommend those here, but they would be fun additions to any family’s reading time. 

Please Mr. Panda is about the power of the word “please.” 

Good Night, Mr. Panda is about bedtime rituals. 

All these Mr. Panda books are structured similarly. Their illustrations are clever and funny, and they may need to be explained. They are quick reads with simple but subtle messages. Mr. Panda is a generous (though seemingly unenthusiastic) giver who receives inappropriate responses from an early cast of characters. Once Mr. Panda gets the response he expects (in these books from Lemur or Penguin), he responds generously. He is quite a behavior-oriented teacher! These fun books are truly quirky. Your kids will love them! And you might too.

For Thanksgiving:

Picture Book: Thank You, Mr. Panda

Summary: This book begins with Lemur asking Mr. Panda about the large stack of wrapped presents he is carrying. Mr. Panda explains that the gifts are for his friends. Lemur follows. Throughout the pages, Mr. Panda gives a gift to a character who responds with a complaint or other lack of appreciation. Lemur reminds all, "It's the thought that counts." The last gift is for Lemur who enthusiastically says thank you. Mr. Panda says, "You're welcome. Remember, it's the thought that counts." Lemur opens the gift and is surprised!

Hanna’s Comments: This book gives you the opportunity to talk about all God's gifts - those we enjoy and understand as well as those we suffer through or are puzzled by. Talk about how we would have nothing if it were not for God. OR Discuss how less than perfect gifts (bad weather, getting sick, etc.) help us be thankful for God's perfect gifts (good weather, feeling healthy, etc.). For more pragmatic application, talk about gifts from humans that we may not appreciate but should still be grateful for. Ask why that is and build some empathy among your audience!

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2017

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to scriptures involving saying thank you to God or being thankful for all the good that God gives us.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are first learning about the important spiritual practice of saying thank you to God. Talk about why God wants us to say thank you and practice being thankful together. Other life applications would be anticipating Thanksgiving prep and work afterwards. Have them promise to notice and say thanks to the cooks and those who clean before and after.


For Advent:

Picture Book: I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda

Summary: This story begins with Llama asking Mr. Panda what he is making in the mixing bowl he is holding. In his usual gruff but intriguing manner, Mr. Panda says, "Wait and see. It's a surprise." But Llama will not wait! Penguin declares a willingness to wait on every page.  The rest of the cast of characters ask about the treat to come but are not patient. Some exit, saying waiting is too hard. 

Some just simply refuse to wait. Finally Penguin yells, "I'll wait, Mr. Panda!" Penguin's waiting and Mr. Panda's good work leads to a HUGE DOUGHNUT with sprinkles! Penguin ends by saying thank you to Mr. Panda and adds, "It was worth the wait!" 

Hanna’s Comments: The primary themes & scriptures of Advent involve hopeful waiting. There are many examples of waiting in the scriptures, but this time of year we focus on waiting for the promised Messiah. If I was using this book in a lesson, I would have the children repeat Penguin's last words throughout your lessons. Remind your audience of some of the extraordinary events of Decembers in their past. Talk about how those events were like Mr. Panda's doughnut gift. (Extraordinary! Miraculous! Big love! WonderFUL! etc.) Consider having donuts with sprinkles!

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2016

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to scriptures involving waiting or preparing for God’s goodness, such as Advent scriptures or scriptures of longing found in the Wilderness stories in Exodus.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are anticipating (with patience or not) all that their Decembers will bring. Help them anticipate the distractions of the busy season and the benefits of waiting for the beauty and joy of the birth of the Christ Child. 


For Any Holiday Involving Love:

Picture Book: We Love You, Mr. Panda

Summary: Skunk says he needs a hug. Mr. Panda, wearing a Free Hugs tee and holding a heart balloon, responds, "OK, Skunk. Let's have a hug." BUT Skunk was talking to another animal. They hug, and Mr. Panda is left out. Thus begins a short series of animals asking for hugs from other animals, not Mr. Panda, even when he offers a hug. 

Mr. Panda decides, "Nobody wants my hugs," forgetting that his 2 companions (Lemur and Penguin - heroes of the 2 books above) are available for hugs. Eventually, those 3 characters hug and an avalanche of other animals join in. Mr. Panda responds while squeezed, "I love you, too."

Hanna’s Comments: This book gives you the opportunity to talk about how we treat those closest to us versus how we treat acquaintances and even strangers. Consider how love shows up differently in families, at church, in the classroom, in public spaces like shopping centers & parks. Ask this not so simple question: Does love = kindness? Always? Talk about how some families are affectionate and some are not. Have children focus on 1 John 4:8b: "God is love." Wow! There is so much in those 3 words! Be thankful to God that love abounds in many ways. 

Ask your children for some quick reminders of Bible stories showing different ways of loving. If they don't remember specifics, describe a Bible story scenario and let them finish it. Wrap-up by having them tell you favorite ways to show love and to be loved. Point out the variety among your audience. If your kids are old enough, teach them the 5 Languages of Love made popular by Gary Chapman: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gift Giving, and Acts of Service. You'll find a PBT picture book about that HERE

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2019

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to any scripture about love.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are about to visit a home for elders. Talk about how love might be best shown in this context.

Friday, November 18, 2022

PBT Picture Book Classics

The Brooklyn Public Library is marking their 125th birthday by making public a list of their 125 most borrowed books! I read about this on NPR and was pleased to read that many of the most checked out books are here at PBT. 

Click HERE  for the NPR article.

And click HERE  for the list at The Brooklyn Public Library's website.

Perhaps with today's post you'll enjoy some reminders of picture books you loved in your childhood. Introduce them to a new audience! Dig into their rich spiritual underpinnings! Below I list the picture book classics I have featured here at PBT. If they are on the BPL's list, I'll tell you their rank.  Just click on the titles to get to those posts. If you have a recommendation for a classic picture book (or one you loved as a child) that you think I should feature, suggest it in the comments section.

At THIS POST I write about Mo Willems extraordinary Elephant & Piggie series as well as others of his books. There are many of those books in the BPL's list. Highest ranked are Are You Ready to Play Outside? and My Friend is Sad.

As you might expect, Dr. Seuss books are all over the list. The best way to access posts about his books at PBT is to go to the search box in the upper right corner (change to web version if on a phone) and type in Seuss. You'll find 8 or so.

Ranked #2! The Snowy Day

Ranked #17! The Tiny Seed

Ranked #43! Brown Bear, Brown Bear...

This book is not photographed at PBT. Instead I show another and write generally about Carle's series of 4 books called Brown Bear and Friends.

Ranked #44! The Giving Tree   

        Find a less codependent version   HERE

Ranked #63! Corduroy

Other classics here but not ranked:

The Happy Owls  A great picture book for Thanksgiving!

Good Night, Gorilla

A House for Hermit Crab

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

Alexander and the Terrible...Day

    and HERE  3 new books inspired by Alexander!

The Very Lonely Firefly

The Carrot Seed

The Little Engine That Could

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

The Hare and the Tortoise

Mirandy and Brother Wind

The Runaway Bunny

Amos and Boris


Everybody Needs a Rock

Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs

Now One Foot, Now the Other

Friday, November 4, 2022

Grab N Go Bks & God Bks for Our Youngest

For those of you wanting books about God for toddlers & preschoolers, below 2 PBT links feature 2 trustworthy series! Psychologically and spiritually they are right on target for the youngest in faith communities who are learning first concepts about God’s great love. These board books are not too wordy like many  first written for older children. 

There are many books in these series. Board books are not cheap! I encourage you to talk to your local libraries, your churches, and even your seminaries about purchasing all of these books so you can access them easily.

HERE is post #1!

HERE is post #2!

Remember, you can easily find Grab N Go books and God Books! Go to the web version if you are on a phone. If already on a web version, type those key words in the search box (upper right) OR the search labels (at the bottom).

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Another Nora's Ark!

I started PBT Easter morning of 2014. That first year, I posted a book everyday! Since that year, I've posted less often, but you'll find 900 or so books here connected to scripture with ideas for using them in ministry, church-based schools, family devotions, and even spiritual direction. 

That first year, I featured a book called Nora's Ark. It was a play on the plot of Noah's story in Genesis. That humorous book, based on a true story, featured a hospitable and compassionate elderly woman who opened her home to neighbors during a flood. Find that post HERE .  

Today's book with the same title is about a preschool girl who pretends to be Noah in her unique and playful ways. Young children will enjoy this newer book! Nora knows the Bible story well and is enjoying being a problem solver and a caretaker to her friends, both animal and human.

At the end of this post, I'll give you a link to another Noah's Ark inspired PBT book. That one has a science fiction slant and has much more text so it's best for tweens and older. Below I'll also mention my strategies when dealing with the Bible story of Noah, which for some children and families may be quite troubling.

Picture Book: Nora’s Ark

Author: Eileen Spinelli

Illustrator: Nora Hilb

Summary: After a prediction of rain, little Nora is inspired by Noah. She builds an ark for herself, her animal toys, a few live animals that happened to be near, her little brother Frankie, and her friends who eventually wander away. Throughout the text it says Nora is being "Just like Noah. Well... not just like Noah." Then you turn the page and discover that little Nora has taken a lot of creative license with the Bible story! The illustrations are great fun so allow ways for your audience to get in close.

Hanna’s Comments: In this beautiful book, I especially love the way Nora is imaginatively exploring this Bible story that she knows quite well and has taken to heart! Isn't that what we are all supposed to do with our sacred scriptures? Think of this book as a preschoolers playful lectio divina! 

Anytime we allow for creative play in children, we are affirming not only healthy joy but also the gifts of creativity and problem solving that God "imaged" in all humans. In Genesis 1:27, where it says that God made us humans in God's own image, I believe it is God's own loving creativity that is God's greatest gift to humans. Allowing time for creative play gives time for children to experiment with story, perspective (building loving empathy!), social-emotional skills, consequences, and even STEM concepts. 

Little Nora builds in ways that are testing her environment and her caretaking inclinations. For this book and the book linked below, you have children engaging in critical thinking with joy and beautiful consequences. 

An easy lesson would be to present the scripture in Genesis. Then read 1 or more of the other books. You might do a whole month of Noah's Ark lessons! Allow the children to find the connections across and between the books and the scripture. Help them see beyond the plot details (especially the troubling ones) to themes like faithfulness, hospitality, generosity, and cleverness. All of these are present in the biblical text and in the picture books. Then allow them to have their own creative responses to this important story. 

Present the story as non-violently as is age-appropriate. If, like me, you view this as a mythic story that is shared by cultures across our globe, present it as such. If your perspective is the story happened as written, be ready to address the questions of violence and suffering that may come from your audience.

Original Publisher: Zonderkidz, 2013

Age Appropriateness: 2 and up

Formats other than Book: Audio book

Scripture Connections: Made in God's image (Genesis 1:27); Noah's Ark (Genesis 6-9) 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: This book has been added to my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum for 2 lessons - a Pentecost lesson in Year A (theme Noah's Ark) and a Lent lesson in Year B (theme: God's Rainbow Promise).

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of preschoolers after you tell them the story of Noah. Then ask them to make an ark for everyone in the room to enjoy! Talk about what makes them feel safe and ask how God helps them feel safe.

Violence in Noah's Story: I manage this troubling story by dividing it into two stories. The first involves God's request, Noah and his family's responses, the gathering of animals, and the launch of the Ark as the rains come. This initial plot has themes about obedience, faithfulness, courage (social & bodily!), cooperation, and family ties. The 2nd part of the story begins when the rain ends. You still have plenty to talk about! The clever dove strategy, the ark's landing, again Noah and his family's responses to their new reality, and the rainbow promise from God are the key components. This last part of the story leans into conversation about hope, endurance, patience, loss, resilience, reliance, and promises. 

HERE is another PBT book inspired by Noah's story! It is a PBT Grab & Go book, meaning you will need to prepare very little to use this book in ministry. It offers much for tweens, teens, and adults to explore! If you want to present it to younger audiences, show the illustrations and tell the story because there is a lot of text. 

Other PBT Grab & Go books can be easily found by typing "Grab & Go" into the search box or clicking on that particular search label at the bottom of the web version.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2022

I Went to the Carle!

You may have no clue what my title here means. A couple of weeks ago, I visited a museum that I had been determined to see: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It was founded in 2002 in Amherst, MA (less than 2 hours from Boston). It was a dream come true for the beloved artist and his wife Barbara.   

The experience was all I had hoped and then some! I found myself a bit overwhelmed. When you walk in, you are met with 4 huge canvases of Carle's tissue paper collages. I especially enjoyed the video of Carle talking about his passion for picture books and picture book art. The museum's guiding vision is to delight, entertain, and surprise, and educate children, families, teachers, artists, librarians, and scholars - everyone interested in the art of picture books! 
Besides seeing The Hungry Caterpillar and many other Carle creations, you'll find exhibits based on scholarly research about the history of picture books and their art.

Carle died in 2020, so it was nice to hear and see him at work in the video. The other special treat for me was the exhibit on a particular artist whose picture books are unknown by most Americans: Nura Woodson Ulreich, a Parisian artist & writer in the 1920s. Here's a sample:

And I was really happy to see the actual collages of one of my favorite collage artists, Melissa Sweet. To see the 3 dimensional work of such innovative picture book art is a huge treat! 
Above is a sample of Sweet's work for the book Some Writer: The Story of E.B. Wright (the author of Charlotte's Web) which is a beautiful book but not a quick picture book read. 

There are exhibits, classes, places to create, read & play, a fabulous store, and a library full of treasures and picture book experts aka librarians. When I was there, the library had an exhibit called Facing Fears with Picture Books. It featured 35 titles. You can access that book list on the website. 
The photo above shows a sample of play furniture. The photo below shows how the Carle was encouraging children and adults to creatively celebrate the 20th birthday of the museum.

I hope you will go if you are in the area, whether or not you have children with you. Certainly, it is designed with children in mind, but the Carle has much to offer adults. It is, after all, an art museum, a history museum, and a celebration of the legacy of a picture book author whose work has and still does delight most American adults.  

For details and visuals, and to see if there is a particular exhibit or featured artist that you want to experience, HERE is the Carle's website. 

There are many PBT books by Eric Carle. To find them, simply type "Carle" in the search box in the upper right corner if in the "web version."

Friday, October 14, 2022

Holding On to Grandparents

With gratitude practices as favored health regimens, Thanksgiving plans upon some (sorry I'm too late for countries who had Thanksgiving already), and legacies of our saints remembered in early November, this book seems perfect to feature. Meaningful rituals, issues of memory, a grateful orientation, profound joy, and loving grandparent legacies (think Lois mentioned in 2nd Timothy 1:2) are obvious scripture connections!

Picture Book: Holding On

Author: Sophia N. Lee

Illustrator: Isabel Roxas

Summary: This book begins: There is always singing in Lola’s house. From the point of view of a granddaughter with her grandmother only in summer, this book celebrates the pure love that skips a generation. 

Within sentences describing grandmother fun are profound statements of deeply meaningful love held with ritual. Lola tells her granddaughter: 
If you want to hold on, you gotta sing your songs.
The granddaughter explains how her grandmother holds on. Tokens from her childhood are treasured. Outgrown clothing is transformed into quilts. Photographs and framed childish drawings are dusted. 
The narrator holds on to all that her grandmother has taught her and “carries it in her heart.” Their loving rituals include singing, listening to music, dancing, cooking special recipes, even playing the lotto. Stories of her grandfather Lolo and the narrator’s infant ways are ritually shared too. 
When Lola no longer remembers some things, the granddaughter sings for her. She explains: 
It is my way of letting her know that’s it's okay if she doesn’t remember sometimes. I’ll remember for her.
Hanna’s Comments: Oh, how I wish I had grandmother memories like these! My sister is such a grandmother to my children. She tells me, “There is no love like grandmother love!” These lessons ground children with love of course, but also identity and meaning. They can be soothing in childhood and offer inner strength in adulthood. Encourage children who don’t have grandmothers in their lives to think about people who are invested in them unconditionally. Hopefully, they will think of people in their church family.

Original Publisher: Antheum, 2022

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about generational rituals or beliefs such as 2nd Timothy 1:5 where Paul affirms the legacy of sincere faith from Timothy’s grandmother Lois. And there is Proverbs 22:6 which instructs us to train a child in ways that will not be lost when they are old.

More generally, this story connects to scriptures about gratitude, joy, and grandparents. Because so many Psalms were initially sung with sincere faith and with great joy, they too connect with this book and could lead to a powerful conversation about music and other worship rituals that are reminders of grandparents’ faith.

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: This book is listed in my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum in Year C (theme: Faith from Family) on a week which lists the 2nd Timothy scripture mentioned above.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of parents of young children. Help them identify the gifts and values their parents are passing or would want to pass on to future generations. Consider asking participants to bring a treasured item from an ancestor that symbolizes a particular legacy of faith from family.  


Read it to a group of young children and ask them to draw or dramatize the ways their grandparents (or others in your church) show love.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Updates to PBT Questions cont.

Like in last week's post, here you'll find links to important PBT posts in which I've added new books! You'll see a sampling of some of those added books in the photos here. Last time, I gave you links to the Introduction to the 5 PBT questions and the first two PBT Questions. Here are links to the last three PBT Questions. You'll find dozens of books with these updates! 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Updates to PBT Questions

For today’s PBT post and my next, I have gone back to 6 of my best posts and added new books! A sampling of some of those books I've added are in the photos here. I’ve given you links to the first 3 posts today. 

Next week look for links to those last 3 questions. This series is at the heart of what I do here at PBT. There are many God Books here at PBT, but all the books in this series are secular. That's the point of the series. These 5 questions help you find the sacred in a secular book. Let me teach you my short cuts for finding the theological potential of secular books.