Friday, March 25, 2022

Books about God “Our Maker”


Now and then I find an excellent book and want all in a series! Usually, it’s because I think the theology is exactly what I believe folks need to hear. That's what happened upon discovering the 1st book below. I did a little research and discovered it is in the God Our Maker trilogy. Unfortunately, 1 of the books is rare and expensive (the 3rd book listed here). I asked my librarian friend to see if he could order it. He did! So now all 3 are in our library system for families, churches, and church schools to use all over our county. If you don't have a relationship with a librarian, please begin making one. They know so much and want to help! 

These little books are so good, I feel compelled to tell you about them so that the few copies that are out there get in the hands of those who will use them for their intended purposes: To tell the world of God’s delight and love in the making of  our beautiful, diverse, and changing world. Look in your library for these. If you don’t find them, make a request or purchase them for your local or church library.

All non-cover images here are from this book.

Author of all 3 Books: Gary Bower

Picture Book Title: God Paints the World

Illustrator:  Tracy Cottingham                 

Summary: This book teaches colors, but it does much more than that! It emphasizes with a positive refrain that God, our maker, creates (paints) a colorful world! 

Picture Book Title: God Grows Our World

Illustrator: Elissambura

Summary: Here a changing world is the focus. Thanks to God, our maker, seeds become trees, flowers bud, grass grows, fruit vines flourish, and other crops become luscious, full-grown yumminess! Next it moves to non-plants like caterpillars and kittens. The last point is that human parents plant important seeds that God knows how to grow in us.          

Picture Book Title: God Loves the World

Illustrator: Tracy Cottingham

Summary: I so wish this book was more available! Here Gary Bower explains that every person, everywhere has the same maker. All, no matter shape, size, age, language, or special need are made and loved by God. The last idea is about variety in behavior: Some like finding ways to bless. One receives, another shares. All are dear to God. All need God's loving touch.  

Hanna’s Comments: The messages in these 3 books are foundational to young children. They need to hear that God, the creator of the world, loves them and every person, everywhere. They need to be taught that the beautiful diversity in our non-human world is a message of how very much God loves the beautiful diversity in the human world too! 

Original Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals, 2017 & 2018

Age Appropriateness: Toddler & Up

Formats other than Book: None at  present

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about God's love and/or the beauty of God's creation will connect to the ideas in these books. Certainly, the creation story connects here, but also many other verses from the Old Testament, for instance: God has made all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3: 11). In the New Testament, you'll find verses like these: We are God's handiwork... (Ephesians 2:10)

PBT Applications: Read this little books to a child/grandchild, a small group of children in a church preschool or in a Sunday School nursery. The lesson is in these beautiful pages so simply repeat the statements about God's love and loved creation.


I have many PBT posts about books for young children. The easiest way to access those are to click on the search label at the bottom of your screen (web version is required - so click on this choice first if on your phone). The search label you want to click on is "Young Children" so it will be at the bottom of that list.

One of the most valuable series I've done I  call 12 Theological Statements for Young Children. This PBT series teaches how to insert 1 simple statement into the reading of a secular book. Suddenly, a secular reading experience is transformed into something obviously sacred! I feature many secular books for young children in that series of 12 posts (1 post per statement). Start HERE for the first post in that series or type into the search box in the upper right hand corner this word: theological. I hope you like what you find! If so, tell me in a comment.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Hello from Around the World!

Picture Book: Hello World: 
                        A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities

Author: Jonathan Litton

Illustrator: L ’Atelier Cartographik

Summary: This is a big red book with a set of captivating first 3 sentences: 

Hello starts friendships. 

Hello opens doors. 

Hello brings smiles. 

This author says learning to say hello in other languages enriches friendships, makes experiences more exotic, and even creates broader smiles. Amazingly, learning the 10 hellos on the first double page spread will allow you to greet over half of the world's population! The next double page spreads show the world regionally. 

Each double page spread starts with an introduction which might be just enough for you to read aloud.  In each language region (countries mostly), there are small flaps. On the outside of each flap, you'll find the word for hello. Inside the flap is the pronunciation and a short fact. After reading the introductions, open a few of the small flaps and have fun saying hello together.

There are a few additional regional sections as sidebars. For instance, there is an interesting section about Siberia - locals say your words will freeze there when temperatures are especially low. Also, you'll find comments about the look of writing. The book ends with a spread about saying good-bye.

Hanna’s Comments: I especially love a book that embraces the beautiful diversity of God's creation and the spiritual practice of hospitality! When you run across a fabulous book like this one that is not your typical read-loud, rely on your creativity. Ask some unusual questions. Don't just think of picture books as read-aloud experiences. Are there unusual ways this book can be experienced and explored? Can you be inspired by its content to create fascinating hands-on or whole body experiences? Does the art hint at an activity? 

Look for the sequel and use it in your plans! Hello World Animals: An Amazing Atlas of Wildlife. 

This sequel opens doors for talking about the important practice of theological ecology and care for Earth's creatures. They are God's beloved creatures too! 

Original Publisher: Caterpillar Books, 2016

Age Appropriateness: Age 5 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Any of the many scriptures about God's encouragement for us to practice hospitality such as: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers... (Hebrews 13:12), and  the story of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-13.

PBT Applications: This big book could be used for emphasizing how the global church started at Pentecost as described in Acts and how language was a key factor in that story. Can't you hear all the hellos that day!? OR Talk about the power of a hello in various settings, especially where you experience the love of your faith family. Don't you want visitors to experience that too? Ask: How do we show hello with our eyes? our hands? our faces? our whole bodies?

At present, if you go to the search labels below (web version) and hit "Hospitality," you'll be taken to 59 PBT posts. Here are some links to shortcut you to other PBT books about saying "hello" or the spiritual practice of hospitality. For little hands, you might consider this similar but much simpler board book: 

3 More PBT Books about Saying Hello: Say Hello 

another Say Hello! and Hello, Hello

God's Hospitality: God's Diner

Church Hospitality: 3 books

For Very Young Children: Several Books

The Pure Fun of Hospitality: And Away We Go!

African Examples: Mama Panya's Pancakes

In a Cloud of Dust

Resisting Boundaries: No Dog's Allowed

Strictly No Elephants

2 Simple & to the Point: The Big Umbrella

Yo! Yes?

A Classic: A House for Hermit Crab

A Bible Story Re-imagined: Nora's Ark

About Civil Rights History: Ruth and the Green Book

Want books about refuges? Hit that label among the search labels. At present there are 6 PBT posts about that important issue. Many are about hospitality.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Alexander's Bad Day Buddies

Wise authors are looking back at classic children's literature and realizing their value. Below I have for you 3 recently published books with plots and themes very similar to Judith Viorst's 1972 classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Don't know Alexander? Here's my PBT post about this classic! 

The healthy messages of these books are particularly important during this global pandemic! Acknowledging our feelings (confusion, anger, grief, sadness...) at home, school, and in religious settings will lead to better mental health for everyone. Here's a PBT post about that. It addresses the social-emotional needs of very young children via a theological statement that can be inserted into a secular book about feelings, BUT many books I feature there work for older children as well.

Also, I want you to know about 2 other books here if you only want to talk about sadness. Perhaps your congregation is grieving a loss or significant change. Click on titles to read posts about these very different PBT books: 

The Blue Day Book for Kids

When Sadness is at Your Door

Now back to Alexander's literary influence... 
Below find some information about how the 3 new books photographed above are different from Viorst's classic. In general, there is less text in all 3 books so they are quicker reads. From the covers, you'll see the diversity they offer. At the bottom, I give a few ideas about how these books tie to scripture and might be used in ministry.

Picture Book: Keep Your Head UP

Author: Aliya King Neil

Illustrator: Charly Palmer

Summary: This beautiful book is quite similar to Alexander, but it has the wisdom of some modern psychology. D. is a little older, a tween or young teen. D. reminds himself that "Any day can be good if you try." And he does try, but the frustrations of home and school pile on him. When D. has a "meltdown," he is sent to the principal's office, where he is greeted by Miss King, who has been helping him. Her role is unclear, likely a school counselor or school psychologist. D.'s family is also helpful. They set reasonable limits, talk openly about his feelings, and encourage him to "Keep his head up." When he doesn't want to, D. knows he can at least try.

Hanna’s Comments: In addition to the very real details and modern school setting, loving home, and non-white characters, what I like most about this book is the way D. is perceptive about his feelings and specific about their effects. He says he feels scrunchy and describes his face changes (scrunchy eyebrows). He even describes a meltdown! (see image above) There is some great information for discussion here! Do tell your audience that we can't always be expected to keep trying to feel better. Sometime we have to accept our feelings while maintaining control of our behavior. Offering ideas of "loving our neighbors" is important to add here.

Original Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2021

Age Appropriateness: 5 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet


Picture Book: Benji, the Bad Day, and Me

Author: Sally J. Pla

Illustrator: Ken Min

Summary: Here the most significant and welcome difference from Viorst's classic is that the main character is an older brother to a child on the autism spectrum. This difference offers opportunities to talk about the importance of empathy, prioritizing people's needs, and concepts of fairness & justice. Although the older brother's  day has gone terribly, his mother is very focused on her younger child's significant needs. It is the younger brother who finally offers comfort to the main character. Then mom, who no doubt needs comfort too,  joins in, and the story ends beautifully.

Hanna’s Comments: It is the younger brother who is named Benji. This is confusing. Benji is a pivotal but mostly peripheral character. The older brother, who is telling the story, is Samuel. I suggest giving their names when showing the cover before reading. Whenever I find myself occupied with trying to figure out who is who, I am not able to focus on a story. 

Original Publisher: Lee & Low, 2018

Age Appropriateness: 5 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present 

Picture Book: Kevin the Unicorn: It’s Not All Rainbows

Author/Illustrator: Jessica von Innerebner

Summary: Alexander and Kevin's worlds are about as different as they can be! Kevin is expected to be perfect and everyday is expected to be sparkly - "filled with MAGICAL AWESOMENESS!" But Kevin, like Alexander, D. and Samuel, is having a bad day. Although he tries to be joyful, the constant barrage of positive messages in Kevin's world only confuse him. Eventually, he can no longer hide his feelings. His declaration invites others to be more honest about the bad day they are having. Kevin is not alone in his feelings. Such connections are crucial to humans and even unicorns, I suspect!

Hanna’s Comments: I must admit, this cover and title turned me off. But then I read the story! What wisdom there is between the lines of this silly and saccharine book! As an Enneagram 7, it is a story I needed. You have children who need to hear that it is acceptable and inevitable to be imperfect and upset, and to have a bad day. This book is full of funny word play. Read it with drama and silliness. But before reading, invite your audience to notice minor characters and consider how their days are going. Turn pages slowly so they can comprehend detail. 

Given the color palate, I hope you won't assume this is a book for girls only. The main character is named Keven, after all. At present, there is another book about Kevin the Unicorn: Why Can’t We Be Bestie-Corns?

Original Publisher: Dial Books, 2019

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections for these 3 books: Any scripture that involves Lamentation or Complaint to God connects to these books.

OR Bible stories about characters that are suffering, such as Job, can be particularly powerful. Try not to get into why bad things happen. 

OR Get into the details of The Great Commandment. What does it means to love yourself AND love your neighbor when you are having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?

PBT Applications: Read any of these books to dive into what lament looks like. Legitimize it as an important kind of prayer. Talk about how there is a whole book in the Bible named Lamentations and how many of the Psalms include  complaints to God. More importantly, emphasize that God and those who love us most, want to know our real feelings. They can handle our negative feelings and can likely help us understand or move through them better. Sometimes just saying, "I am having a bad day!" is enough to help us feel better!

Friday, March 4, 2022

Another PBT God Book! What does that mean?

A PBT God book is different from most books featured here. In 2014, I created PBT to tell you about secular books in local libraries and elsewhere that could be treasures for ministry. PBT picture books would keep church curriculum costs down, lead to more topical and visual diversity, and get rich relatable material into the hands of all ages in churches, church-based schools, and homes. I hope you and your settings have benefitted from my work!

In 2014, I knew I would also feature some non-secular books, like Old Turtle, that were what I considered exceptional God Books. Its sequels are here and also here. 

Put simply, PBT God Books are picture books about the nature of God, some overtly so, like these 3 from Karma Wilson and some more subtly, like this reframing of The Giving Tree. But I had no idea how many fabulous God books (and frankly, bad God books) were available! I hoped PBT would help you find the best God books. Right now, there are over 100 here at PBT, sometimes more than 1 in a post. Type “God Book” in the search box in the upper right corner or go to the "God Book" search label that's low in the web version’s format.  

I could easily tell you about many more God Books, and I will! Here’s one I especially love:

Picture Book: Picturing God

Author/Illustrator: Ruth Goring

Summary: In simple language and mixed-media images, Ruth Goring offers a rich spiritual experience for any age. She offers 16 metaphors for God straight from the Bible. Jesus and the Spirit are mentioned as well. 

Hanna’s Comments: There is so much excellent content here that you could use this book for a series of lessons and discuss only a few pages at a time. Then you could have some fun making mixed-media art! My favorite double-page spread won't show well here. It shows 2 dark-skinned children in a dark wood walking along a stone path. The text: 

When we don't know where to go, 

God's light shines on our path 

and leads us home. 

Original Publisher: Beaming Books, 2019

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: This wonderful book has a very helpful list in the back of nearly 40 scriptures that correspond to the book's images! 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In my Trinity Treasures lectionary-based curriculum for preschoolers, I recommend this book for lessons on God as a rock & cornerstone, God being like a parent, God's Goodness, and The Trinity: Our Helper.

PBT Applications: This would be an excellent book to read to teens or adults. Before showing the book, give drawing materials. Ask participants to draw how they imagined God when they were children. Then ask for volunteers to show &/or tell about their drawings. I was once in a group with my new husband when we were given this task. I was delighted with his image of God on top of the hood of his family's car! I had not yet heard that story!

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.