Tag Archives: Trust

The Truth of the Story Makes it Worthwhile

Choosing books for Christmas is always a delightful experience. There are many from which to choose, so when selecting a book I ask myself how many things I might share with the children when we read this book. There needs to be more than the fun, excitement, and joys of the season. This helps me eliminate some and treasure others.

A Christmas TapestryThe Christmas Tapestry
by Patricia Polacco

One of my favorites is Patricia Polacco’s Christmas Tapestry. This story begins with the question that many children and adults both ask, “Why did God…?” Jonathan Weeks, a pastor’s kid, finds himself in Detroit, Michigan, where his father has taken the call to a new church, and asks his dad this age-old question. Who has not asked that question at some point? Yet, before the story ends, Jonathan and his family see how the Lord has woven a tapestry that is beautifully crafted to touch the lives of Jonathan, his family, and others in significant ways.

Lesson #1
God has a plan and we need to trust and walk obediently

When a blizzard hits Detroit, Jonathan and his father discover the church’s sanctuary has been damaged by snow and ice, the car won’t start, and waiting for a bus is bitterly uncomfortable when it is cold and snowing. This combination prompts a trip to town where they find a beautiful tapestry to hang over the damaged wall in the church, and meet an old woman who offers them hot tea. Father and son are shocked to learn that Rachel, the woman, created the tapestry as her chuppah many years earlier as a young bride in Germany. However, the real surprise comes a day later when the plasterer—who arrives to repair the wall— recognizes the tapestry as the one his bride made before they were separated and taken to Nazi concentration camps. Their reunion, so many years later, is the celebration that is well beyond a Christmas joy.

Lesson #2
The horror of the Holocaust

These lessons can be enhanced with additional children’s books. A wonderful story of the wedding chuppah is an integral part of Patricia Polacco’s The Keeping Quilt. The appliques on this quilt are family pieces, and the quilt has been used as the wedding chuppah for generations. Polacco includes this artifact in Mrs. Katz and Tush when Mrs. Katz describes her wedding chuppah. The chuppah has wonderful significance in each of these stories, and is a symbol of the banner of God’s love. Jewish history and customs enter into this story, as well as others. A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet by Richard Michelson is a wonderful introductory piece for children to learn of these many special traditions.

The Keeping QuiltThe Keeping Quilt
by Patricia Polacco

Mrs Katz and TushMrs. Katz and Tush
by Patricia Polacco

A is for AbrahamA is for Abraham
by Richard Michelson

The events of the Holocaust are important for children of the 21st century to understand. Some people survived the Holocaust by escaping or by being released at the conclusion of the war. Others did not survive and are remembered today with regrets. There are excellent books that describe this tragic time in history. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry offers an account of a brave girl in Denmark who faces danger to rescue another. Similarly, The Butterfly by Polacco describes the events in France at the same time period, and Shulamith Levey Oppenheim reports these events in Holland in The Lily Cupboard. There were those who were able to leave Europe without being imprisoned there, but faced difficulties elsewhere, as in Rebekkah’s Journey: A World War II Refugee Story by Ann E. Burg. Bold attempts to protect the Jews are told in The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy and Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki. Choose from among these books to help readers of Christmas Tapestry understand the depth of fear and persecution that the Zukors—the old woman and her long-lost husband—faced, and thus the height of their joy when reunited.

Number the StarsNumber the Stars
by Lois Lowry
The Butterfly
by Patricia Polacco
The Lily CupboardThe Lily Cupboard
by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim

 Rebekkah's JourneyRebekkah’s Journey
by Ann E. Burg

The Yellow StarThe Yellow Star
by Carmen Agra Deedy
 Passage to FreedomPassage to Freedom
by Ken Mochizuki

Following the war, there were stories of others like the Zukors who survived. For older readers, share Hiding to Survive: Stories of Jewish Children Rescued from the Holocaust by Maxine B. Rosenberg (out of print) or Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren. These tell personal accounts of life changing events. For a similar story appropriate for younger readers, share Don’t Forget by Patricia Lakin (out of print) or Six Million Paper Clips: The Making Of A Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder to help readers grasp the number of lives touched by this event.

Surviving HitlerSurviving Hitler
by Andrea Warren
Six Million Paper ClipsSix Million Paper Clips
by Peter W. Schroeder

The Zukors immigrated to Detroit from Germany when they were released. Why Detroit? Explore the life of an immigrant with Russel Freedman’s Immigrant Kids. Although the time period of most accounts is earlier, the theme is beneficial to understanding the move to a new culture. The welcome to the USA is beautifully described in Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser. The account of this young Jewish author and her sonnet that became the words of welcome is a great addition when examining immigration.

Immigrant KidsImmigrant Kids
by Russell Freedman
Emma's Poem: The Voices of the Status of LibertyEmma’s Poem
by Linda Glaser

Polacco often will tell her audiences that it is the truth of the story that makes it worthwhile. The Christmas Tapestry, described as a “true story,” includes truths that are so important for our children. It can be read over and over, allowing the reader or listener to be struck with the sovereignty of God who orchestrates tiny details as well as  immense events, and all for His glory. Read and rejoice with Jonathan and the Zukors who see God’s hand weaving a plan to bring joy to us and glory to Him.

Penny Clawson, Ed.D.  Although a resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for more than 30 years, Dr.  Clawson’s roots in New York City still can be detected if you listen very carefully. Her unique mixture of metropolitan, suburban, and rural experiences brings a varied perspective on life, Christian education, and the Lord. Penny grew up in New York City, attended college in center city Philadelphia, and then taught in York, Pennsylvania, at the Christian School of York for 15 years before coming to Lancaster in 1983 to begin her ministry at Lancaster Bible College. Penny’s love for the Lord, His word, children’s books, and her students is evident in any venue. 

Spot Light • September 2014

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Lost in BermoodaLost in Bermooda

by Mike Litwin (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014)

Publisher Summary  Bermooda has no “outsiders,” and most prefer to keep it that way. That is, until Chuck ventures into the boneyard alone and discovers a young human boy who has been washed up unconscious on the sandbar! The young boy’s name is Dakota and doesn’t seem as scary as Chuck thought humans should be. Chuck decides to “cowmouflage” Dakota to pass as a bovine in town. Dakota and Chuck become fast friends, but trouble is brewing and Dakota’s true identity is at risk of being discovered.

Make Way for Books  This delightful first written work by illustrator Mike Litwin introduces readers to Bermooda, the island home to talking cows and a host of other colorful characters – a ‘flying’ pig, a plump gray cow whose yellow shirt is as bright as his personality, and an orange manic monkey, to name a few. When adventure-loving Chuck discovers Dakota (a hu’man) washed ashore, he offers help, protection, and a way back to hu’man civilization, almost. Word play and outlandish humor enfolds this budding-friendship tale that helps readers see the destruction of lies and the strength and hope of trust. And, through age-appropriate high-flying drama, Litwin shows how fearing the unknown leads to cowardice, not courage. Perfect for reluctant readers and for reading aloud.
Crown CowibbeanDon’t miss the recently-released sequel, Crown of the Cowibbean (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014), another delightful adventure that unfolds like a Pixar movie, complete with stormy seas, tight spots, and close calls, all on the waves of humorous narrative!


Extra CreditExtra Credit

by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Publisher Summary  It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And consequently, Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. But when Abby’s first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, complications arise. The elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well, but the only qualified English-speaking student is a boy. And in this village, it’s not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So, Sadeed’s sister will dictate and sign the letters for him. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is…unhealthy?

As letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.

Make Way for Books  Anyone who has struggled to conquer something seemingly impossible can relate to Abby’s challenge—in order to avoid being held back in school, she must move from lazy indifference to responsibility. This timeless tale of conquering obstacles and personal growth is just a small part of this story’s appeal. This is the story of two children who must learn who they are and what to believe. Their newly-forged friendship allows them to ask hard questions and to find the courage to influence their own communities. It is a story of the delicate balance between tradition and respect and making room for new people and ideas.

We enjoy many Andrew Clements’ titles. Be sure to check out the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series and the Jake Drake series.

We the Children Jake Drake Know-it-all

We the Children (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Jake Drake Know-it-all (Simon & Schuster, 2007)



Going PlacesGoing Places

by Peter and Paul Reynolds

Publisher Summary  A go-cart contest inspires imagination to take flight in this picture book for creators of all ages, with art from New York Times bestselling illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

It’s time for this year’s Going Places contest! Finally. Time to build a go-cart, race it—and win. Each kid grabs an identical kit, and scrambles to build. Everyone but Maya. She sure doesn’t seem to be in a hurry…and that sure doesn’t look like anybody else’s go-cart! But who said it had to be a go-cart? And who said there’s only one way to cross the finish line?

This sublime celebration of creative spirit and thinking outside the box—both figuratively and literally—is ideal for early learners, recent grads, and everyone in between.

Make Way for Books  Bright, colorful illustrations match the buoyant spirit of this story’s optimistic theme where the limitations of rules and instructions suddenly become a framework for creative opportunity. This endearing story is a unique challenge to inside-the-box thinking and helps readers discover freedom in understanding the intent of an instruction versus mindless adherence for the sake of adherence.

Share this for all ages. This is one of those unique children’s books that inspires adult readers to become childlike for a moment and consider this mindful freedom. Indeed, going places requires it.

BeamLightOn a Beam of Light

by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

Publisher Summary  A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Make Way for Books  “He wanted to discover the hidden mysteries in the world.” How is that done? Author, Jennifer Berne beautifully, almost methodically, unfolds Albert Einstein’s insatiable appetite for learning. He imagined the uncharted, he asked questions-questions-questions, he read, studied, and wondered. He thought and figured. A cohesive text-illustration marriage introduces readers to this unbounded, creative thinker through scrawl-like pictures and fun-loving trivia. Somehow, this brilliant individual becomes as down-to-earth as the rest of us, making us wonder if we too, could imagine the uncharted. A powerful and accessible biography for all ages.