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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — The Children's Library

This week's feature is a fun one, and one I think many of you will want to weigh in on.

I would be interested in knowing what children's literature the Matriarchs consider to be their "must haves" for the pastoral library. I would specifically like to know what books have been used for the so-called Children's Message. I am not looking for Bible stories only, but also contemporary (or not) literature that uses theological themes at a kid-friendly level.

Pastor with an Empty Bookshelf

I have a confession to make, I got the question out to the matriarchs late and as such we didn't hear from several that I know will have something to add.

So, in no particular order, here is what our matriarchs (Ann & her friends and Chrysanne especially) came up with, and their limited commentary. Some are stories, some are not, some are for children and some are about engaging children.

We'd love to get more suggestions and discussion going on in the comments!

The Old Turtle - Douglas Wood
The Runaway Bunny - Margaret Wise Brown
Horton Hears a Who - Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
Where's Spot? - Eric Hill
Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig
The Nativity - Julie Vivas
Dog Heaven (and Cat Heaven) - Cynthia Rylant (with the comment: "I am not sure about heaven for people or dogs but I have given this book as a gift to adults and kids who lose a dog")
God went to beauty school - Also by Cyntha Rylant
Does God have a big toe? by Marc Gellman -- a children's midrash book
Jamie's Way: Stories for worship and family devotion by Susan Harriss
Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (on dealing with disappointment) and The Tenth Good Thing about Barney (grief), both by Judith Viorst

Some nonfiction:
To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration by Gertrud Mueller Nelson -- "enhances children's spirituality by going through through the church year with ideas for family Christian formation."
Offering the Gospel to Children by Gretchen Pritchard -- "Presents a wonderful perspective on engaging children with scripture."

For the chapter book crowd, we have Terry Pratchett's "The Bromeliad Trilogy": Truckers, Diggers, and Wings. "About literalism." His Discworld series comes recommended for teens, as well.

And readers of all ages seem to appreciate the Narnia Books of CS Lewis. Ann says her favorite is Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

What books would you recommend for a children's library at church? Share in the comments!


  1. I have used both The Quiltmaker's Gift and The Rainbow Fish for children's messages. I also have the Tale of the Three Trees (which is a little on the evangelical side for me) to use to talk about being surprised in how God uses you. I also like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (hospitality) and One Lost Sheep (retelling the story of the 99 and 1--fun illustrations!). And, of course, I too use Does God Have a Big Toe?

    Excellent list here--I'm off to Amazon (via our link, of course!).

  2. I wanted to put in a plug for The Rainbow Fish, which I used in a sermon.

    for older children, I like several of Katherine Paterson's books, including Jacob Have I Loved. I also think Holes is a great book, theologically speaking. And Kate DiCamillo's book, Because of Winn-Dixie.

    I'm sure there are more...

  3. oh yes, and Tomie De Paolo's book, The Clown of God, is good, too...

  4. What A Truly Cool World by Julius Lestor is an excellant book about creation for teens - it gets people talking!

    I also have used Free to Be Me and Free to Be a Family collections of poems and stories...

    The Sneetchs by Dr Suess

  5. oh yes, how could I forget Clown of God?!?!?!?--I use it with my confirmation class to talk about the gifts we offer. We are using a musical version for the drama at family services on Christmas Eve this year. Very excellent. :-)

  6. Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle, I think; and the Earthsea Trilogy, at least the first couple of volumes. Everything and anything by Katherine Paterson...undoubtedly more, I may have to come back later.

  7. question for the RevGals -- would you include the Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)?

  8. sorry, Cr, have not read golden compass.
    I do wish to plug Tim Ladwig's books. He is illustrator for Lord's Prayer, 23rd Psalm, Morning Has Broken and maybe a Christmas book.
    Thomas Kincad has also done illustrations for Away in the Manger. Well done.
    There is one about a grandmother who dies and it goes through process of telling the kids, preparing for funeral, andthe actual service. Nice job dealign with common questions.
    One from seminary cn xian childrens book class...Hug.

  9. and who is the Dutch artist who did the wonderful, wordless, book about Noah's Ark? NOT to be missed.

  10. Our kids ministry used a wonderful picture book called Ben's Trumpet by Rachel Isadora.

    It shows kindness and nonconformity, and it's gorgeous. Simple enough for some preschoolers, interesting discussion material for older elementary.

  11. Is this the one CR?
    I love teh pictures b/c hey look realistic as oppossed to cutesy.

  12. I'll add books by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (In God's Name, God in Between, God's Paintbrush, etc.).

    My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

    Teri--the musical version of The Clown of God sounds intriguing. Is that something you have created or is it available somewhere?

  13. Hi,

    just back from a two day meeting, so not sure if this is too late.

    Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (Australian, so I don't know how easy it will be to access) - remembering who we are, being community
    Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles (and there is also one about Edwina) about being yourself (also Australian)
    Rose meets Mister Wintergarten by Bob Graham - being a neighbour
    Luke’s way of looking by Nadia Wheatley - slightly older children - we all see things differently.
    Dr Seuss - Horton hatches an egg - I used this across Lent, commitment, keeping your word, and of course at the end, the egg hatches, and the result is a surprise.

  14. TAcky the Penguin is wonderful as are all the sequels. I can't remember the author and the book is in my office where I'm not. And I just discovered Agatha's Feather Bed by Carmen Agra Deedy. She has written several but this is the one I would use with kids. And if you ever get a chance to hear her at a storytelling event, pay the price of admission and prepare to be hugely entertained.

  15. Yes to all Katheinre Paterson books. Also 'The One-Eyed Cat" by Paula Fox.

  16. Well, I think The Giving Tree is an absolute must. And last year, when I went on retreat, the retreat center had books with prayers of dogs and prayers of cats. They were cute and funny, and accessible to probably about age 9-10 and up. And they definitely revealed something about our own prayers and needs.

    Seconding Narnia and Earthsea, and definitely plugging Madeleine L'engle's Wrinkle in Time series.

  17. Re: Pullman - great for teens - especially the version read on CD (in your teen section of your library) - explores the difference between belief and institution - how the institution tries to package God and keep the spirit bottled up. Harry Potter - of course.
    re: the Giving Tree - I would never use it as the giver is female and the taker is male -- something I don't want to encourage.

  18. You are Special by Max Lucado

    The Entertainer is particularly fond of this book about being valued by God

  19. I put a list of books that influcned my faith journey up at my blog

  20. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder and Badger's parting gift by Susan Varley would be on my list. Any of the Teddy Horsley books. And important to have something that deals explicitly with sexual abuse. And of course many of the forementioned treasures. I saw Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge acted out in worship in Newcastle last year and it was BRILLIANT.

  21. Last year, on study leave in Indianapolis, I discovered some books by Jamie Lee Curtis: Is there really a human race?; I'm gonna love me; Today I feel silly - and others that seemed pretty good for affirming children.
    My all time fav is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery williams.
    I'll be checking out some of the other suggestions found here.

  22. silent--sorry I was away from the 'puter there! the musical version of the Clown of God is something we found and bought. I'll ask our musician about it when she gets back from vacation and pop over to your blog to let you know what I find out. All I know right now is that it involves someone who can juggle, and one of our youth is a juggler. :-)

  23. Ann, I don't know if you'll ever wander back into this thread, but I was hoping that you could say more about The Giving Tree. As one who loves this book; who thinks it a beautiful story of friendship and self-giving for another, I've never picked up on any underlying patriarchal themes; no themes of female suppression or subservience.

    I see it as a story of sacrifice and being happy in being able to give so someone else can be happy. The giver happens to be female, and the taker male. She's not being coerced at all...she's giving out of love.

    You wrote, "I would never use it as the giver is female and the taker is male -- something I don't want to encourage." Can a female never give to a male out of love, or find joy in giving to a male? What about that do you not want to encourage? Would this story be more acceptable if the roles were reversed, or both male or both female?

  24. It would be more acceptable if the roles were interchangeable -- or the tree were not gendered - as trees are generally non-gendered in stories. The self absorbed boy/man is enabled in his taking by a tree that eventually gives its life to meet his needs ---
    this is my issue with the book - no one else may read it this way - may be partly growing up with women who always had to give up stuff so men could have whatever - career, salary, position, time, etc. Thanks for asking.

  25. Probably WAY TOO LATE for this, but:

    ann - I'm with you on the Giving Tree. Although it's less the patriarchy and more the codependency that gets me down.

    My favorite for church is
    Mama Do You Love Me?

    also, Love Julie Vivas' Nativity.

    How about "Big Mama Makes the World"?

    also, I want to tell you about this great one about prayer, but I dont have it here, so I will add it later.

    CR - you are thinking of Peter Spiers, I think.

  26. Juniper - that's it !! Thanks for helping to see what I mean. And yes to Big Mama makes the world.


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