A Picture Book to Supplement Course 101?

To continue the picture book theme I started (see my post on Halfway Herbert), today I want to feature The Big Red Tractor and the Little Villageanother book by Francis Chan that was written in 2010 and I just discovered recently.

IMG_0083
Holly, Lydia and I took turns reading this one together. Their smiles speak for themselves. 🙂 

I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say that Farmer Dave discovers a special book that changes everything for the people who live in the little village. It’s reminiscent of the illustration of the cars at the car convention from Course 101, the Christian Foundations course we developed at our Gracepoint Ministries churches.

If you want a preview before purchasing the book for yourself, you can see this animated video version.

Profile of the Lukewarm: Halfway Herbert

In my quest for good Christian books for kids and teens, I recently happened upon children’s books written by Francis Chan. Turns out Halfway Herbert has been around since 2010 (longer than some of the Bibliopolis kiddos have been alive), and a bunch of them have read it already.

Here’s a photo of Chloe (2nd grader) reading the book aloud to some of the 1st graders. They were cracking up at the story of Herbert, who does everything — including brushing his teeth, doing his homework, and telling the truth — halfway. But the girls quickly saw how this halfway disease was not good.

IMG_0078

Throughout all of our Gracepoint Ministries churches, we have been going through Revelation as part of our DT (Devotion Times), and as I listened to the book, I couldn’t help but think of the recent DT on Revelation 3 and Jesus’ message to the lukewarm Laodecians. I was also reminded of the “Profile of the Lukewarm” chapter in Chan’s book Crazy Love. 

I thought the book was a great way to talk about what it looks like to follow God with your whole heart, and if you or your child haven’t read it yet, I recommend it for a family read aloud!

 

Introducing Bibliopolis Santa Barbara!

I never imagined that what started out at Gracepoint Berkeley church a couple of years ago (this seems like eons ago!) would expand to our other Gracepoint Ministries churches as our young reader populations grow. Our latest addition is at our Gracepoint Santa Barbara church, where Joshua, who is a voracious reader, sets a high bar for the other youngsters there.

The aunties and uncles worked so hard to convert Luke’s garage into this amazing reading space. I look forward to visiting soon!

IMG_0127 (1)
Garage Goals!
IMG_0126 (1)
Thumbs up on the beanbag chairs!

You don’t need to have an empty garage in order to have an amazing reading space. It can even be a corner of a room. Looking forward to sharing more photos of reading spaces throughout Gracepoint.

 

Creating Culture: Books & Bins

If you’re from our Gracepoint Berkeley church, you know that in addition to creating a culture of reading, we have been trying to create a culture of systems to reduce clutter in our homes and our lives.

Once your home is organized, and you’ve gotten rid of the gajillion pieces of mismatched tupperware bursting from that cabinet everyone has been scared to open, you will find yourself with more space not just in that cabinet, but in your mind. And you can use that space to read a good book. Or read The Good Book!

The other day I received a heart-warming picture from a mom of one of our Berkeley Bibliopolis patrons. I will protect his identity, so as to avoid the whole, “Awwww, I saw what you did! That’s great!” thing that well-meaning (usually) aunties say. His family had recently experienced the joy of a decluttered and organized home, replete with bins and labels.

On his own, he made the following bin. And he decided to place it near the door, so that he could remember to return his books on Bibliopolis day! That’s what we call Working Smart.  Perhaps we have a budding Systems Engineer in our midst. 🙂

IMG_2185.JPG
I claim responsibility for his misspelling, since I gave our library such a challenging name!

Recommended Read: 31 Days of Power!

Today’s book recommendation comes from Susanna from Gracepoint Berkeley church.  Awhile back she recommended two other books for intercessory prayer that have enriched many parents’ prayers.

Before you read on, just wanted to make sure you don’t get today’s book recommendation mixed up with the recommendation for 31 Days of Praise, by Alice from Gracepoint Minneapolis church. Same author, different book. 🙂

41lnkABu9iL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_I would like to recommend Ruth Myers’ book 31 Days of Power: Learning to Live in Spiritual Victory if you need some help being daily reminded of the spiritual warfare that we are in, and how to articulate “faith-filled” claims and responses, as Pastor Ed preached yesterday.

I came across this book when I was sort of losing perspective during the toughest part of chemo side effects and did a search on other books that Ruth Myers wrote, and this prayer book helped me to gain proper perspective and turn my eyes away from my situation to see God’s cosmic picture.

Last night I prayed over the flaming arrows of Satan’s accusations that I hear so loudly at times. Today’s prayer from this book was “Safe from Accusation.” Wow, I felt personally loved by God as He wanted to nail that point for me as a follow-up to yesterday’s message.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s prayer (Day 7):

“I want to give You abundant thanksgiving and praise that I’m Your chosen one, and therefore the enemy cannot succeed in accusing me before You. He may try to bring a charge against me for my sins, but he will fail, for they’ve all been forgiven — past, present, and future. ‘Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for me, Christ rose for me, Christ reigns in power for me, Christ prays for me.’” […] “You have cleansed me, given garments of righteousness and praise instead of despair. So day by day I can rise up, put on those beautiful garments, and worship You in holy array — in the beauty of holiness.”

Here’s an excerpt from the prayer for Day 8:

“You are my strength every morning, my salvation in times of distress. You’re the stability of my times. So I clothe myself with my beautiful garments of praise. I treasure the safety You’ve provided from my crafty attacks by the enemy — from anything that would not be for my ultimate good or for the advance of the Good News. Even when You allow severe trials in my life, You know my path; and when You have tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

I personally dubbed this book as the “manly” version of 31 Days of Praise, as some brothers might prefer this book more.

Just so you know, copies of the book will be arriving at the bookstore at Gracepoint Berkeley church by next week.  I’m looking forward to powerful times of prayer (see what I did there?) and invite you to enhance your personal prayer life too!

 

How to Satisfy Your “Hunger” for Dystopian Novels

I’ve been so busy reading that I’ve once again neglected to post here. But recent conversations about The Hunger Games (hereafter referred to as THG) have prompted me to write this post.

It’s hard to believe almost ten years have passed since the first book in the popular dystopian trilogy was published. It’s safe to say THG sparked the glut of dystopian fiction that flooded especially the young adult literature market. We couldn’t escape, though I’m happy to report the craze has died down in the last couple of years.

Before you read on, I want to make clear that I love me some dystopian literature as much as anyone! There is something very powerful about the genre to cause people to consider the ways in which echoes of these dystopias might be in our current world, and to begin recognizing social structures, and so forth.

The dictionary defines “dystopian” as follows:

relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

The challenge with dystopian fiction for younger readers, however, is to build a world in which these unpleasant or bad consequences of a totalitarian state are explored in an age-appropriate way.

And here is my beef with THG. The target audience is 6th or 7th grade and up, but I disagree it is age-appropriate. Some teachers introduce the books as early as 5th grade, especially for reluctant readers, but I actually do not recommend the series at all (gasp!), for young and old alike. Why?

It is not just violent, but brutal. It is disturbing to read graphic descriptions of teens killing each other in hand-to-hand combat with all manner of weapons. Granted that is Suzanne Collins’ point — to disturb readers and to critique aspects of this bleak and twisted society. I get that she is not condoning this kind of violence. In fact, there is some “deep stuff” about government control through propaganda, about consumerist culture, media saturation, and about human nature.

However, most of the readers of the books do not have the framework to consider these deeper issues. They get engrossed with the plot because it appeals to 1) our sense of rooting for the underdog, 2) our baser attraction to drama and even violence (like how everyone runs towards not away from the fight at school), and 3) you and I know that half of the readers of the books got into the series because of the love triangle.

I don’t know how many students I had who said they hated the third book because it was “boring.” That’s because the focus was decidedly political and it is also the most violent of the three. I’m not naive and know you can’t avoid romantic business in young adult literature, but it goes beyond crushes and the Harry Potter level of stuff, and we’ll leave it at that.

So…what’s a teen to do?

Here are my recommendations. Read some of the books THG is borrowing from and inspired by. Some of the OG dystopians. The cool thing about this genre is that it’s timeless. In fact, some of the ones written long ago end up being even eerier, because you can see the ways in which we are actually like the futures the authors imagined. Yikes!

Four dystopian novels I recommend, from most recent to oldest:

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993). A lot of people don’t realize it is part of a quartet of books, so you can get the series fix. It is a great dystopian novel to start out with, dealing with issues of identity, and causing us to consider how we track people in our schools and society. Don’t watch the movie first…I’ve heard it is disappointing. (Recommended age: 6th grade and up.)

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). One of my absolute favorite dystopian novels, and in my top 10 favorite overall books. It deals with censorship and with the power of knowledge, among other themes. Chances are you’ll be asked to read this at some point in middle or high school, but it is totally accessible and enjoyable of a read on your own. He wrote a bunch of other great short stories that get you thinking as well. (Recommended age: 8th grade and up.)

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954). This is probably THE dystopian novel contemporary dystopian novels borrow from the most. (Being stuck on an island and trying to survive might also remind you of some shows.) It has the violence (though far less graphic than THG), memorable characters, and definitely a great book to discuss human nature and the different ways we tend to organize groups/societies. There are also a lot of biblical allusions, or references, so this makes for a favorite to teach symbolism.  (Recommended age: 8th grade and up.)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). Another popular book read in English as well as History classes in school, Orwell uses what seems like a story about farm animals to critique Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. People love this book because it is super SHORT! It is also relatively easy to understand, and hilarious in a eerie way. It’s definitely memorable. (Recommended age: 8th and up. But read it again in 10th grade, when you take World History!)

If you read these four, you’ll see that you’re not missing out by not reading THG.

What’s your take on THG and its age appropriateness or merit as a dystopian series? I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the books featured in this post.


Oh, and for a Suzanne Collins alternative, I recommend The Underland Chronicles, which has stronger characters, themes, and world-building. And is age-appropriate.

 

 

 

2017 Bibliopolis Summer Reading Challenge!

I am excited to announce the 2017 Bibliopolis Summer Reading Challenge, which starts today, and ends September 1st. And yes, if you’re in the middle of a book right now, you may use it for the challenge.

Sorry to all the adults, this is a chapter book challenge for high school and younger only. I’m guessing the participants will be 2nd-12th graders, but if your K-1st grader wants to tackle it, they are welcome to, especially if you the parent want to read along with them.

How does it work? If you’re at Gracepoint Berkeley church, you can pick up a copy of the bingo board at Bibliopolis. If you’re at one of our church plants, or away for the summer, you can download your own copy of the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge bingo board here.

There are 25 squares (of course you can read MORE!). You can choose what bingo line you want to start reading. You’ll get one raffle ticket per book, and one bonus ticket for every bingo line. So you don’t necessarily have to make bingo lines for this challenge.

Read the rules carefully, though. You can only use a book once on the board! I suggest doing it in pencil, so that you can move books around later if you need to. 🙂

For each book you read, you’ll fill out a book review. Below is a picture of it, but again, you can download your own copy of the Book Review form here.

You’ll want to put this somewhere safe. I would strongly suggest using a folder or binder for your entire challenge, as you’ll need to keep all of your book review forms together as well!

The book review doesn’t take too long, but do notice at the bottom it says that you will be asked to redo your book review if you do a shoddy job.

I hope you have fun doing this challenge, and yes, I will do it too!

What’s the first book you’re going to read?