Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Not Just for Goodnights

I tend to disregard books about bedtime since I imagine most of the PBT applications happening at church, far away from homes and beds. But bedtime is about security and love, both very godly concepts! This fun picture book classic offers such an appealing story! It will connect to many important (perhaps surprising) biblical stories and ideas. 

At the end of this post, I give you links to other PBT classic picture books! There are many! 

Picture Book: Good Night, Gorilla

Author & Illustrator: Peggy Rathmann

Summary: A male zookeeper begins his loving nightly ritual by saying good night to a series of animals. At the first interaction, his cage keys are lifted from his pocket by a smiling gorilla. The gorilla opens its own and others' cages as the the sleepy zookeeper moves toward the exit and his nearby home. At his front door, you can see a long line of animal friends that he has not noticed! 

All pile into his bedroom where the zookeeper's wife is sleeping and the zookeeper is oblivious. Even the gorilla is ready for sleep so it snuggles in next to her. Dark double-page spreads follow with speech bubbles of goodnights and then only her wide eyes. 

She quietly leads them back to their home cages. Nearly home again, she says good night to the zoo, but alas, gorilla and mouse are just behind her. Gorilla looks at the reader, finger to mouth, and shushes. The sleepy humans bid each other good night again, while gorilla and mouse find their places under the covers between the humans. 

Hanna’s Comments:  There are few words here so point to and explain aspects of the story as it unfolds in the illustrations. Be sure to mention the little mouse who is an important character and on every page! It drags a banana which isn't eaten until the end. Focus on the behavior of all the characters. They are so happy, likely because they are loved so well! The evidence is the toys in their cages and the humans' loving interactions with the animals.

Original Publisher: Putnam’s, 1994

Age Appropriateness: Infant and up

Amazingly, this book is sometimes called a “baby book.” Not so! Sure, babies can enjoy it if you point to animals and tell the story, but there is much love and joy in this book so preschoolers and elementary ages will enjoy it also! It does come in board book form, BUT those are hard to read to a group!

Formats other than Book: Tablet & Audio

Scripture Connections: This story can be easily connected to scripture in these ways (more follow in the next section): God in early Genesis and beyond, who is a caretaker of each species, Noah’s ark animals who must trust Noah’s entire family for their caretaking, Disciples who followed Jesus because they felt a loving connection (not only “the 12”), The Great Commandment to love others/neighbors, rituals (With the zookeeper's excellent example, teach the importance of godly rituals at church and elsewhere.)

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In my Trinity Treasures preschool curriculum, I list this book in 2 lessons: Year A, Pentecost 10 – All are Welcome (at church, which is like a loving home) AND Year C, Easter 3 – Paul and Ananias (God sends Paul to Ananias’ loving home where Ananias becomes a sort of caretaker for a time.)

PBT Applications: Read this book at a church sleep over, emphasizing that church is a sort of home where people may be lured and welcomed with love. With older audiences, talk about what it takes for us to feel comfortable and secure. Give thanks for those who offer such environments for us. Talk about what your church can do to encourage security and comfort for strangers, visitors, and others. Equate this orientation to God's Great Commandment. 

Here are links to some other PBT posts about classic picture books! Many are from my first year in which I posted a book everyday! The last 3 are the beginning of a PBT post series called Picture Book Classics: 

The PBT Series so far:

Let me know if you think of other books I should post about!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Heroic Hummingbird

Picture Book: The Little Hummingbird

Author/ Illustrator: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Summary: Based on an indigenous story, this book begins with a group of forest animals. When “the great fire” starts, animals huddle at the edge of a forest. 

They wonder what they can do, but they are afraid and feel helpless. As the forest burns, Little Hummingbird flies between the stream and the forest, carrying one drop of water per trip and dropping it onto the ferocious blaze. 

The other animals watch in amazement and offer excuses. Eventually, Big Bird asks Little Hummingbird, what she is doing. She responds, “I’m doing everything I can.”   
Hanna’s Comments: This very short book offers a straightforward message and lots to explore! Primarily there is the message of taking responsibility for what is happening in your world by doing the best you can. How do you talk to children and adults about taking responsibility? By helping them identify and emulate the heroes in pop culture and the more elusive heroes in their midst. Then find connections between ALL those heroes and your audience. Next make connections to heroes in Bible stories. Below I list a few standouts in categories I call traditional and nontraditional biblical heroes. Nontraditional biblical heroes, like the Little Hummingbird, are doing small acts, often over a long period of time. Sometimes these nontraditional are noticed and honored, but often they are not. Look at the biblical stories of the unnamed, the less dramatic acts, the people on the margins that Jesus so clearly saw. My favorite Bible hero is the woman who touches Jesus' hem. She is quiet in her courage, but nevertheless her courage is very big. Already shunned, she risks even more by entering the crowd and touching the man of the moment. She was seen and healed by Jesus because of her faith, but the healing would have never happened had she not been courageous!  

Notice that the Little Hummingbird is a female. This is a great chance for your females to hear a female hero story in this book and in scripture. Don't use the word "heroine." It implies a weaker, softer sort of hero. The word hero is big enough for all genders!


There are 2 enlightening Afterwards in this book. The first is by the author who explores the amazing abilities of hummingbirds. He says they often represent beauty, agility, and hope in traditional stories throughout the Western hemisphere. The 2nd Afterward is by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, who taught southern Africa and later the world, that planting one tree at a time until you’ve planted millions can make a huge difference in land damaged by chronic abuse! I have 2 books about her posted at PBT. Click HERE   

and HERE TOO! There are many picture books about this great hero!

Original Publisher: Greystone Books, 2010

Age Appropriateness: 5 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about heroes in the traditional sense (David in the Goliath story - 1 Samuel 17) and nontraditional heroes who made a difference with small gestures (the woman who touched Jesus' hem - Luke 8:43-48 & the boy who shared his food - John: 6:5-14) and heroes with long term commitment (Ruth's entire story & Priscilla and Aquilla - in Romans 16:3 Paul calls them his co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus who “risked their necks”).   

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of tweens or teens who you hope will become passionate about a social justice issue. Make connections to other heroes as described above. You may choose to tell this story as a parable. Then have each choose an animal and offer a plausible excuse or whine of resignation. Make connections to people who give excuses and don’t act. Tell stories of local heroes and heroes in your church family. Allow this story to motivate them to make specific plans to act responsibly and "do all they can" regarding the issue. Compel but also inspire! 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Contemplate Wild Peace

Picture Book:
Wild Peace

Author: Irene Latham

Illustrator: Il Sung Na

Summary: This extraordinary book is about the peace found when imagining a nature journey, leading to observing nature in all its Godly Glory and experiencing the peace such nature provides! It is the story of a young girl who is playing in a chaotic room with her 3 siblings. She is painting a nature picture. 

Then her desire for some peace has her peering into her art and imagining where it might take her. Actually, a butterfly invites her on this expansive journey where the idea of peace simply means being who (what) God intends in a world pulsing with beauty and diversity. She is on every gorgeous page. When her figure is small, cue your audience to find her. 

The girl's explorations are to various environs where she notices animal behaviors, but there is much beauty and mystery in the plants and skies too. The last page is so profound. It shows the girl with her 3 siblings in a bed they share. Two are asleep. The youngest, a toddler, is dancing on the bed as light rays embrace each child. These are the last wise words:

Peace welcomes all that is wild and

kisses the forehead of each and every child.

Hanna’s Comments: There are many picture books about humans interacting with nature. When they are beautiful and simple, like this book, then a group can easily extrapolate deep spiritual possibilities. These kinds of books are more prevalent as our culture realizes we have deprived too many children (and adults) of these rich healing experiences, and we are all far too anxious, over-stimulated, and busy. 
This girl's journey offers peaceful quiet and leads to marvelous curiosity about God's world. Talk in particular about the animal behavior that intrigues her. What might they be teaching her about God?  Spend some time helping your audience expand their definition of prayer to include anytime they are in nature and feeling thankful, curious, or awed by God's world. 

My favorite PBT book about the peace that God's natural world can give is another secular book. Sophie is a young child who climbs a tree for comfort after she has a tantrum. She sits in the tree and seems to heal. Then she returns home. There are 2 other books in the Sophie series by Molly Bang. All are great books about managing intense feelings. 

Original Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2021

Age Appropriateness: 4 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Any scripture about peace, such as Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. (John 14:27) OR scriptures about quiet, such as Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) 

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of older children. Have them create a drama in which they are all in a chaotic room. Then one by one, they leave the chaos and do something quieter, more peaceful in the natural world. Have each tell how they have imagined themselves to be somewhere else in nature. Ask what is there that is comforting and shows God's love. End the lesson by guiding all through an imaginative prayer journey that refers to spaces already mentioned as comforting and healing. Together be grateful for such places, the skills to imagine them, and the opportunities to experience them.