Three Great New Books from Beaming Books!
I appreciate books that can be read and interpreted by parents and grandparents in a flexible manner. A particular family’s legacy of faith can be passed on, with artful assistance from authors and illustrators. I am struck by three examples from Beaming Books, a Minneapolis-based publisher. Each of these three books conveys a spirit-lifting message in an open-minded manner.
Flipflopi: How a Boat Made from Flip-Flops Is Helping to Save the Ocean
Linda Ravin Lodding, Dipesh Pabari
Michael Machira Mwangi (Illustrator)
Flipflopi: How a Boat Made from Flipflops is Helping to Save the Ocean, by Linda Ravin Lodding and Dipesh Parbari, with illustrations by Michael Machira Mwangi shows a boy coming up with a constructive idea for dealing with ocean trash pollution. Supported by his grandfather, the boy’s idea expands and brings the community together. The creative idea is ecologically useful, involves innovative technology and design, inspires a community to act, and points to a way forward for saving the natural world. The artwork is outstanding in composition and color, making what could be an ugly reality (trash on the beach) a visual display of reclamation and cooperation.
How many ways could this book lead to faith and value discussions? The role of humanity in stewardship over creation, the social fabric of cooperation that can make amazing and good things happen, and the respect for the gifts of people of all ages are themes I might raise with my grandchildren. The creativity humans can apply to difficult problems is also a hopeful topic. The God-honoring purpose of respecting the earth and all that dwells in it is a theme I would discuss. Any or none of these could be pursued by the adult reading to the child. A variety of perspectives could be taken.
Wherever You Are
Sian James (Illustrator)
Wherever You Are by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sian James is based on a grandchild’s question, which is never a bad place to start! The answers are appropriate for a wide range of faiths that posit an omnipresent God. We see that God is evident everywhere; God is in All, and All is God. A parent or other adult who wants to emphasize their faith perspective on God can go anywhere from the story.
The children are joyful with two exceptions, with one sad child being comforted and another insecure about saying goodbye to a parent at the start of school. Compassion is portrayed effectively. The illustrations are full of delight, joy, friendship, nature, freedom, and diversity of abilities, race, gender, and age. Realistic scenes from life show both mothers and fathers parenting and one elderly person caring. Vignettes are varied enough in settings to give an adult reader lots to talk about with the child being read to.
One Small Thing
Marsha Diane Arnold
Laura Watkins (Illustrator)
Finally, One Small Thing, by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Laura Watkins, is the very best story to support compassion that I have seen. Many books coming out now teach compassion and mindfulness, but this delightful story shows the starting point for compassion that many of us share (sorrow for the other) and carries on its teaching through the responses of the animal residents of Brightly Wood.
Each woodland animal, lovingly illustrated with individually developed characters and well-drawn emotional expressions, shows a familiar pattern after finding out about a disaster. First, they participate in information sharing and express joy that it wasn’t worse. Then, they ask the big questions about ‘What now?’ Next, they go their own way to process what happened and comfort themselves as they must. One character took her basic question further than the others – she started to do something helpful! Another character struck out alone to do something helpful – at some risk to himself. One by one, the others realized that they could do some small thing to be helpful. The lovely ending of each animal addressing the part of the problem that they alone could solve is a testament to individual compassion and community action.
Members of any faith community, or no faith community, could enjoy reading this to a child, with the freedom to embellish on empathy and helping, the spiritual value of loving one’s neighbor, or a variety of ethical perspectives.
This brings me back to the best thing about all these lovely books; none of these books are forcing one theological reading on the child, but rather they raise moral, ethical, value-laden issues in a way that the parent or grandparent or whomever the reader might be can add their personal interpretation. Open-minded stories that can be interpreted from many diverse perspectives will allow us to teach deeply held and widely shared beliefs to the next generation. Our children will shape communities of the future and we owe it to them to invite them along on a moral, ethical, and faith journey.
Karen Altergott Roberts
Karen Altergott Roberts has been a faculty member at several midwestern universities, a pastor in Indiana, and a writer. She writes on social issues, teaches public speaking, and paints as a spiritual discipline.
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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