What Do You Do With an Idea?

What Do You Do With an Idea

Kobi Yamada (author)
Mae Besom (illustrator)
Compendium, 2013

Kobi Yamada’s story follow a little kid who gets an idea. His first reaction is curiosity, “Where did it come from? Why is it here?”  What follows is an exploration of the emotional landscape any kid or adult might travel as an idea grows within.

Yamada explores the “strange and fragile” nature of an idea and the vulnerability a person of any age might feel when contemplating owning something truly original.   As the story progresses, the child character moves from a place of reticence to an embrace of the ability to “change the world” with an idea.

The illustrations move from winsome and subdued charcoal or pencil and slowly grow to winsome and celebratory full watercolor.  The illustrations are engaging but never overwhelming.

Themes: Vulnerability, Transformation, Change, Hope, Power, Ownership, Discovery, Judgment, Disbelief, Confidence

Motifs: Idea, Egg, Crown, Child.

The Other Side

The Other SideTheOtherSide
Woodson, Jacqueline.
New York: Putnam, 2001.

This classic picture book tells the tale of two little girls, one African American, one European American, who live on either side of a long fence. The fence does more than divide their yards; it divides their whole town.  It is the kind of fence that grown-ups build, but doesn’t make sense to kids.  So they are told, “Don’t climb over that fence.  It isn’t safe.” But, no one tells them they can’t sit on that fence.  As they do, a friendship begins.

This book is beautiful, both visually and textually.  The language is spare, straightforward and leaves the reader a sense of having experienced the world through a child’s eyes.  The water color illustrations are gorgeous and compelling.  This book is one worth keeping in your personal library.  You will use it again and again.  It would fit easily with a sermon exploring the present day fences we encounter in our world and the ways in which we might venture to and beyond those fences.

Themes: Friendship, Difference, Racism, Anti-oppression, Segregation, Freedom, Acceptance, Courage,

Motifs: Fence, Friend, Jump Rope, Rain, Summer,

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban FolktaleMartina the Beautiful
Carmen Agra Deedy (author), Michael Austin (illustrator)
Peachtree, 2007

Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha has reached the age when  a cockroach looks for a spouse. Martina’s grandmother gives her some very surprising advice for meeting her suitors – spill coffee on their shoes. Young and old  alike will be terribly curious about happens when she follows her grandmothers advice.

While some might look at you askance for bringing cucarachas into a sanctuary, even cute ones in story form, this Cuban folktale holds some powerful truths worthy of entering a worship space. The story affirms that the most important thing in a relationship is being understanding and kind even when someone spills coffee on our shoes.

Every religious tradition worth its salt calls us to treat other human beings with compassion and kindness – and this story encourages our children (perhaps especially our girls) to expect kind treatment even when they might spill a little coffee. When recent study tells us that 1 in 10 adolescents report experiencing violence in a dating relationship, its time to make sure this lesson is taught in our worship communities.

Fortunately, the lesson is wrapped in a folk tale with a strong narrative structure that lends itself particularly well to telling. There is a nice pattern of repetition that will make learning the tale easier, and distinct characters that the teller can have fun with. If the story is being read rather than told, the illustrations are bright and lively. They tend to be a little over-caricaturized, and my preference is for telling rather than reading, but it is a good picture book to share as well.

Themes: Kindness, Forgiveness, Respect, Mistakes, Difference, Dating, Anti-Violence,

Motifs: Animals, Cockroaches, Rooster, Pig, Mouse, Grandmother, Coffee, Spill, Spanish, Cuba

Why the Chimes Rang

Story in Worship Why the Chimes Rang

“Why the Chimes Rang”
original text by
Raymond MacDonald Alden,
Adapted by Kristin Maier

available in A Good Telling: Bringing Worship to Life with Story;  ebook available

A Good Telling Bringing Worship to Life with Story by Kristin Maier
The angelic chimes in the giant bell tower would ring each Christmas Eve when the best gift to the Holy Child was laid upon the Altar.  The chimes had been silent for years, though, as everyone tried to out give everyone else.

Pedro and his sister Luisa heard of the beautiful Christmas Eve service and are determined to make the trip to see it for themseleves.  When they stumble upon upon  a woman in the snow, Pedro insists that Luisa go on without him to offer their one copper piece to the Holy Child. What will happen when that one modest gift is placed upon the altar?  Will the chimes finally ring once again?

Raymond MacDonald Alden’s classic tale, “Why the Chimes Rang,” has been adapted for the contemporary ear.  It is a lovely variation on the theme of genuine giving and the true spirit of Christmas.  A little sister, Luisa, has been brought in to offer some gender balance, still a rare thing in 2014, even rarer back in 1910 when the original was published.  This story will bring warm memories to your older listeners and will be brand new to your younger ones.

Note:  Raymond MacDonald Alden’s original story, “Why the Chimes Rang,”  is now in the public domain and is widely available online.  The adaptation by Kristin Maier is available through her book, A Good Telling: Bringing Worship to Life with Story, including an immediately available ebook via Google Play or Amazon.

Themes: Generosity, Genuine Giving, Christmas, True Meaning, Helping Others, Sacrifice, Good Samaritan, Charity, Compassion

Motifs: Christmas, Holy Child, Jesus, Chimes, Organ, Music, Money, Penny, Copper, Gift, Wind, King, Altar, Angel, Tower, Heart, Winter, Snow

The Light of Christmas

The Light of ChristmasRichard Paul Evans Light of Christmas
Richard Paul Evans (author),
Daniel Craig (illustrator)
Alladin, 2002

Every Christmas since he could remember, young Alexander walked many miles to the town of Noel, to watch the Keeper of the Flame light the torch of Christmas.  This year, the Keeper of the Flame is going to choose someone new to light the torch, but Alexander’s mother is not well enough to make the trip.  Alexander heads toward Noel on his own. Along the way, he finds an old man in the snow.  Will he stop and help even if it means he will miss the lighting of the torch?

Richard Paul Evans’ fable-like story speaks to the themes of genuine giving, the true meaning of Christmas and being a Good Samaritan. It’s gentle suspense is appropriate for all ages and would be a good compliment to biblical stories on Christmas Eve or during the advent season.

Themes: Generosity, Genuine Giving, Christmas, True Meaning, Helping Others, Sacrifice, Good Samaritan, Charity, Compassion

Motifs: Christmas, Flame, Torch, Gift, Heart, Winter, Snow,