Saturday, June 25, 2022

Circles Circles Circles

Circles are a favorite motif for me! They hold much in the way of symbolism for life and my spiritual journey. They can be viewed as a directional line. Seasons, relationships, and life issues come and go and then return. And circles can be viewed as expanding or contracting inner spaces & community spaces. In both spaces, the potential for connections are infinite in number and rich meaning.  

Below details of today's book, find links to 3 other books about circles featured here at PBT.

Picture Book: The Circles All Around Us

Author: Brad Montague

Illustrator: Brad & Kristi Montague

Summary: In rhymed verse, a child teaches how to draw a small circle around self to represent our safe small 1-person space. Keeping that circle small and closed would be like "a library with just one book on the shelf." 

Next we are urged to draw a bigger circle, one for family. Then we see other circles for friends, often times even bigger. Concentric circles are shown for each community of connection. Hospitality is encouraged, even when differences in language and custom make it uncomfortable, because...

    there's a difference we can make

    and a love we can all show.

The acknowledgement that being in an expanding circle is not easy is rich material for conversation. Sharing space is hard. It's also hard to leave a circle to become a member of another circle. But there is joy and wonder and a sense that bigger, expanding circles are what life and love are all about!  

Hanna’s Comments: Interestingly, this book is from the creator of the Kid President web series. This author/illustrator is the person you don't usually see in those videos. If I haven’t convinced you of the powerful metaphor of circles, perhaps Father Richard Rohr can. On 4/11/22, in his daily email titled Expanding Circles of Love, he wrote the only way he knows to love God is to love what God loves. This is everything and everyone! God loves God's creation! Such inclusive love results in a "constant expansion beyond ourselves to loving others," which is what you see in this picture book.  

Here's my favorite spiritual idea about circles. Its an ancient metaphor also about loving others as a way of loving God. The world can be viewed not as circle expansion but as circle contraction, if that contraction is also toward God. This process was uniquely demonstrated via a circle diagram or compass by desert father Abba Dorotheos of Gaza in the 500s CE (spelled Dorotheos & Dorotheus). God is the center of the world's circle. An infinite number of straight lines represent each of us (Rohr would emphasize these are persons AND things) who in moving towards God also moves toward others. See Rohr's words above about the best way to love God.

Original Publisher: Dial Books, 2021

Age Appropriateness: 5 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: The 2 Great Commandments: love God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-31 & Luke 10:25-28) and other scriptures about loving connections; Any scripture about community such as those describing the early Christian churches (Acts 2:42-47)

PBT Applications: This picture book and the ideas of Rohr and Dorotheos invite you to play with circles as symbols of community and connection. Do this with art supplies, floor diagrams & games, and discussions after each experience. Use circle stencils, hula-hoops, geometry compasses, protractors, big paper plates or pizza pans, posters cut into circles, etc. 

Other PBT books about circles:

Circle of Thanks

Circle Unbroken

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

Sunday, June 19, 2022

PBT Techniques #11: Object Play

The PBT Techniques series explores unusual ways to use picture books in ministry. If you want to see more of these PBT posts, there are quick links at the end of the post. Also, I mention the work of 2 other authors you should know about: Leanne Hadley and Diane Alber!

Today’s book is excellent, but for a group read aloud it is a bit wordy. Also, the illustration details are many. Some wordplay and geological puns will be beyond the understanding of most elementary-aged children. Instead of reading it aloud, use this book as inspiration for a story you tell with easily found objects.
Whenever a picture book inspires you to tell a story, always say the author's name. When the illustrations are pivotal to the story, as in this book, give the illustrator credit as well. These are not just good ideas; they are ethical practices!

Picture Book: Ricky, the Rock That Couldn’t Roll

Author: Mr. Jay (aka Jason Miletsky)

Illustrator: Erin Wozniak

Summary: This story is about a group of rocks and pebbles who are great friends. They repeatedly race to the top of a hill to enjoy the view and then joyfully roll down, in great communion with the ritual in nature and joy of each other's company

Many of the rocks have clever names, and their play is silly and creative. However, Ricky, who is a bystander of the group, was not able to roll. Watching was all he could do because of his flat bottom. His friends, like the friends in Mark 2 who creatively drop a peer through the roof to Jesus, are determined to help. Unlike the biblical story,  many of the rocks' initial ideas are disastrous!

When it starts to rain, Ricky's friends have an idea. They carry Ricky down to the mud and help him make himself round. Finally, Ricky is able to roll and fully enjoy the play and his loving friends. Now they are a better community because Ricky is able to participate!

Hanna’s Comments: If only all Christian communities were so determined to accommodate and include! This story has much potential for discussion and application to loving practices at church and at a school! For the object play, simply collect a variety of rocks and pebbles. Then tell the story your own way. You will need to simplify the story a lot! You'll likely want to use brown modelling clay or dough for mud. Don't feel like you must provide a prop for the hill. Be imaginative with your movements. The children will get it. If you want a hill, use a pillow or cushion and a green pillow case or thin towel. You might want to gather more flat rocks so that all your children can hold and re-create their own versions of Ricky. 

If you tend to think metaphorically, as I do, you'll realize that this story has a great deal of depth if we consider mud as a metaphor for difficulty, struggle, or even the terrible hardships that may lead to resilience. It can even be a metaphor for sin which could lead to ironic connections to baptism. This simple story would be an excellent children's sermon because it has that potential for depth and application to all ages!

Stones, like picture books, have great potential for ministry! My friend Leanne Hadley, an ordained pastor, has designed a beautiful tool for helping children be open and vulnerable in their verbal sharing, especially in times of stress, grief, and crisis. Check out all her work HERE.    OR 

her short YouTube video demonstrating this tool: Holy Listening Stones  

Additionally, there are several other great picture books about stones by Diane Alber. She explores important social-emotional skills in these. She even has some books about scribbles - another easy possibility for object play.  Check them out as well HERE.

Original Publisher: Lyric & Stone, 2018

Age Appropriateness: 7 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Friends drop a paralyzed man through the roof to be healed by Jesus (Mark 2: 1-12); Jesus uses mud to heal a blind man. (John 9:1-7) 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In my Trinity Treasures curriculum, I have based a preschool Sunday school lesson on this relatable Bible story for Year B, on the 7th Sunday of Epiphany when Mark 2:1-12 is listed.  

PBT Applications: As described above, to better keep children's attention, tell this story using objects. Simplify the story and tie it to Mark 2 by connecting the actions and motivations of the friends in both stories. I once heard a sermon about those friends. The speaker argued they must have been adolescents because of their audacity and determination to push through a boundary! I always think of those biblical characters in that way. After telling the story, you may want to use 5 stones to tell that Bible story. OR Have your children act it out. Unless you're telling the story in a children's sermon, consider ending the lesson with some dancing to "rock & roll!"

Links to other posts about PBT Techniques: 

#4 Using the Whole Story

#5 Using Poetry in Ministry

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 hannaschock@bellsouth.netRight now, free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Wonderfully Made Girls (Boys too!)


Here are 2 books with similar themes. Strong Suggestion: Don’t dismiss these books because there are only females in them. Your boys need to hear and will learn from books featuring only girls. Females have done this throughout literary history! Encourage your boys to use their inner voices to "translate" when necessary. Most experiences in these books will be applicable to all genders! 

There is a teachable moment here regarding the Jesus’ version of The Great Commandment which added strength to the ideas of loving God and neighbor. Tap into your boys' desire to have strong-loving minds and hearts so they will develop empathy for girls & women. That will benefit everyone! 
The 1st book is a particularly beautiful collection of diverse girls declaring female power. These declarations can be extrapolated to boys easily. 
The 2nd book is silly and fun, but it’s rich with meaning. It's a story about choosing to be yourself, rather than pretending. Engage boys by asking how they like to dress and play in costume. There is a lot of potential here for children, teens, and adults, particularly with recent political issues regarding gender. 

Also, check out the PBT books I link to below that are similar in theme or content!

Picture Book: I Am Enough

Author: Grace Byers

Illustrator: Keturah A Bobo

Summary: This book is not a narrative. Instead it is a book of similes that describe what is LIKE us – (these beautiful young girls and all of us!). It begins, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine.” Here’s a favorite: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour and drip and fall until I’m full.” This simile deserves some group interpretation! Only girls are shown. Talk about that. Then note that their situations are not “girly” – whatever that means. 

Hanna’s Comments: These declarations emphasize loving who you are, but they also emphasize being kind and respectful to who other people are! Have your audience note how the girls are interacting. Then talk about what Godly attributes they see or ask what Jesus would think of their words and actions. Explore ideas of The Holy Spirit giving them strength and resilience. There is a lot of movement in these pages so you might read again with group gestures or a  simple dance.


Original Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2018

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet & Audio 

Picture Book: I’m Me!

Author: Sara Sheridan

Illustrator: Margaret Chamberlain

Summary: Little Imogene loves to play dress-up with her Auntie Sara! When she is greeted, it is clear that her auntie is ready to play. She keeps asking Imogen which world they will enter today. The double-page spreads become some of these imagined worlds and play-possibilities. Imogen keeps saying, "No. Today I want to be..." but then her auntie interrupts with another imaginary possibility. Finally, Imogen says that she wants to be... ME! The two playmates go have a grand and wonder - ful time at the park!

Hanna’s Comments: Practice reading this book for full impact. You want the drama of Imogen's words and your page-turning to have good effects. Ask your children about how feelings influence whether they want to pretend or be themselves in the real world. Be sure to remind them that God is always present in their imagined worlds and their real world. You might even want to talk about how God has given us humans particularly skillful imaginations for solving problems (think scientists & explorers) and for having fun (think writers & entertainers). If time allows, talk about how the practice of wonder leads people to think about God, God's world, and how we fit in to its beauty and joy.
Original Publisher: Chicken House, 2011

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

For both books...

Scripture Connections: God created humankind in God's image (Genesis 1:27); I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. (Psalm 139: 14); ...the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10); We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:6); My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart. (Psalm 73:26); And other verses about strength in God and personal gifts from God. 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: Both books are listed in my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum for Year B in a lesson featuring Psalm 139.

PBT Applications: Read 1 or both of these books in an elementary Sunday school class. Talk about how Psalm 139 can be such a comfort when we are feeling unworthy and self-doubt creeps in OR when we are feeling lonely and we forget God is always with us. 

Links to similar PBT books:

Psalms for Young Children

When God Made Light

From Head to Toe God Made Me

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

Have Fun Molly Lou Melon

Emma Dodd books see When I Grow Up  or  Just Like You

When I Hold You

Baby Believer series see Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer

All of Me: A Book of Thanks

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 hannaschock@bellsouth.netRight now, free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.