Archive for November, 2019

Morton Church’s children’s book fair is underway online.  Here are some mini reviews of some of the books you will find there:

IMG_1756.jpgMy Little Golden Book About God. This book was very special to me as a child.  I can still hear my mother’s voice reading it.  I still believe that “Beyond the farthest star, God knows the way,” and that God planned “this tiny world your two hands could span.”

Beautiful Moon.  This gorgeous book allows us to eavesdrop on a IMG_1760.pngchild’s prayers.  As a beautiful moon illuminates people in need around his city, this child prays for them: people who are homeless, hungry, or sick, and for many others.  The author has dedicated it “To All Those in Need of Prayer.”  I have shared this book with our congregation during worship.  Prayers don’t have to be fancy to be very beautiful indeed.

IMG_1761At Your Baptism. I keep this little book on hand to give families at a baby’s baptism. It’s a wonderful expression of God’s great love for us before we even know we are in the world. The text at the top of each page comes from a statement of God’s promises from the French Reformed liturgy for baptism. All that Jesus did, he did for you—yes you!—before you knew anything of it. Read this book, remember your baptism, and be thankful!

The author of Psalms for Young Children, Marie-Helene Delval, has captured the spirit ofIMG_1757.jpg the psalms, and rendered them in language that is “prayable” for our younger saints as well as deeply touching for us older saints. She includes the psalms of sorrow and lament as well as the psalms of praise and joy, showing us that we can take everything to God in prayer, even the feelings that dismay us.IMG_1783.jpg

In If Kids Ran the World, Leo and Diane Dillon show children from all over the world working for justice, kindness, and peace, along with caring well for our planet itself. The world they dream of and work for looks a lot like what God is dreaming of and working for. It’s a good one to share at young disciples time during worship to encourage people of all ages to dream God’s dreams—and to join God in realizing them.

Here are two books by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the Children of God Storybook Bible,IMG_1798.jpg he tells fifty-six Bible stories, most in the space of one or two pages, with stunning artwork by artists from around the world and gentle prayers for each one. This book IMG_1797.jpgmakes a wonderful gift. The readings also work well for devotionals and for children’s times during worship. In God’s Dream Archbishop Tutu describes the Beloved Community of God, and invites everyone to help God’s dream come true. The Beloved Community is not perfect, but God has given us gifts to mend and heal. I use this book in worship, too. I would love to give these two books to every child. 

Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas, by Laura Alary. This gentle book invites young people and their adults to reflect on Advent themes, such as saying yes to God, and IMG_1811.pngto undertake Advent spiritual practices like putting ornaments on a Jesse tree and
serving others in need. It draws readers into the experiences of the people waiting in darkness in Isaiah, the ministry of John the Baptist, and Mary’s call to be Jesus’ mother. Savor this book in small bites throughout the season with your elementary and older children.

Jesus came for everyone. That is the message of That Baby in the Manger. It tells the story of what happened when a group of church children realized that the figure in the crèche of IMG_1794.pngbaby Jesus with blonde curls didn’t look like them, and what one of the elders and the pastor did about it. What a good discussion starter for conversations on the incarnation, race, ethnicity, and more! Highly recommended for every family and every church. In abbreviated form it works for reading during worship.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington is a wordless book that invites people of all ages to reflect on what it means to incarnate the love and kindness of God. An old woman weak with hunger foils the robbery of the village church’s IMG_1799.jpgChristmas charity offering and cleans up the mess the robber left behind inside. She reassembles the crèche, putting each figure back in place. On the way home she collapses in the snow, and the nativity figures come to her rescue. They carry her home to her tiny caravan, where she lies unconscious. Mary and the baby stay with her while all the other figures go out to get food and other necessities. Carpenter Joseph even fixes a broken floorboard inside the caravan. This is a book to savor Christmas after Christmas. 

Refuge focuses on a part of the Christmas story that doesn’t
get much attention: the flight into Egypt.  Jesus and his family were refugees dependent IMG_1764.jpgon the kindness of strangers.  The donkey tells the story of the journey simply without mentioning Herod’s rage and violence.  A dream of danger is what prompts the Holy Family to flee.  This book is simple enough to share with little ones, short enough to read in worship, and deep enough to prompt discussion of how Jesus calls us to welcome strangers and care for refugees.

IMG_1762.jpgI’m a big fan of British author Lois Rock who tells the stories of Jesus and speaks of the things of God so eloquently and simply for children.  I’m also a fan of artist Alison Jay.  They have teamed up to to draw people into the nativity story in On That Christmas Night.  The illustrations are set in medieval Europe and resemble an illuminated manuscript in color and light, but the figures are rendered in a way that is unique to the artist’s style.  There is so much to see on every page.  One of the best things about this nativity book is that it includes both annunciation stories, and also the flight into Egypt.

Many books imagine the nativity story from the point of view of the animals that were IMG_1825.jpglikely present.  Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell is a lovely example.  One by one the animals gather and welcome each newcomer with the refrain, “There’s always room for a little one here.” The last to arrive is tired donkey carrying Mary who is in labor.  This book is for even our littlest followers of Jesus. At Morton Church’s Christmas dinner last year, one of our elders read this story to the children, and she used stuffed animals to represent each welcoming animal.  It was a hit.

IMG_1826.jpgChristmas Day in the Morning is a classic by Pearl S. Buck, and it’s a favorite at my house.  Maybe it’s because I grew upon a dairy farm and could easily picture this story taking place back home on our farm.  The thought of Jesus being born in a barn and of people bringing him gifts in the barn prompted a young man of  fifteen to ask, “Why should he not give his father a special gift, too, out there in the barn?” And so a gift that brings tears to my eyes was given early on Christmas morning.  The best gifts of all are not things.  The illustrator includes a note about how his own children responded to this story.

Christmas in the Manger is a board book that makes aIMG_1823.jpg good first Christmas book for an infant or toddler.  The characters of the nativity story are introduced through bright pictures and simple rhymes.  My favorite is the last one: “I am the baby asleep in the hay, and I am the reason for Christmas Day.”

In Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book Song of the Stars, all creation and all creatures from smallest to greatest long for the arrival of our Redeemer, journey to Bethlehem, and gather around the manger in awe and praise.  The truth they see is that “the One who made us has come to live with us!”  It reminds me of creation’s eager longing in Romans 8.  This book is yet another invitation to ponder the eager longing of Advent, and the mystery and wonder of the incarnation.





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