If you work with under-5s, you probably know Lois Rock. If you don’t, you have a treat in store.
Probably best known for her toddler-friendly “My Very First Bible,” Rock has also edited and written books of prayers, and authored “My Very First Christmas,” which includes Christmas folklore and legends as well as the Christmas story. She has also written Christening gift books and some secular non-fiction that can be used for pastoral care of families, like helping children adjust to a new baby in the house.
Many of the stories from “My Very First Bible” are also available as individual books – some in big-book format, which is great for large groups.
Her writing is clear and simple without being simplistic. She doesn’t talk down to children. She includes some of the non-story parts of the Bible, such as the Lord’s Prayer, by showing how they came to be told. And, in many cases, she adds vital details that are often left out of retellings for very young children – for example, it’s made clear, in her retelling of the Good Samaritan, that Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have liked the Samaritans. So the crucial element – that the parable isn’t just about “being nice” but about rethinking who your enemies are – is maintained.
An extra note of praise must be given to the illustrator of many of her books, Alex Ayliffe. The illustrations, like the text, are simple without being simplistic, and contain lots of little details that children will notice. The colours are bright, and the shapes attractive even to babies. Sophie Allsopp illustrates some of her others, with wonder and charm.
Jenny Koralek has written three retellings of Old Testament stories for children aged 7 – 11: Queen Esther, The Moses Basket, and The Coat of Many Colours.
She’s also done collections of classic fairy tales, and a retelling of a Christmas legend about the Flight into Egypt.
The books tell the stories in beautiful, clear prose, and give enough background detail on the political situation in which they occurred – not always easy when working with the Moses and Esther stories for children.
Her illustrators (Pauline Baynes for the Joseph and Moses stories, Grizelda Holderness for Esther) do beautiful, intricate work that complements the text perfectly. It’s also worth pointing out that both illustrators use realistic flesh tones for the characters – they look like Middle Easterners, not Northern Europeans.
Highly recommended, especially the Esther story – it’s one of the few Old Testament stories with a brave female heroine, and you don’t see enough versions of it for children.
Mark Pierson’s book is subtitled “reshaping the role of the worship leader.” Based on years of experience in ministry, including founding new churches and supporting artists, he proposes an approach to worship that is democratic, interactive, and based on the principle of “curation” – arranging items and experiences in a meaningful way, to create worship.
Given the way this book has been received, as revolutionary and groundbreaking, I was surprised by how familiar and traditional much of it seemed. I suspect that’s because I’m Anglican, while Pierson’s audience is much more on the Baptist/Methodist side – much of what he suggests draws on ancient liturgical practices that Anglicans have never really discarded. But he does reframe them in a new and thoughtful way, and suggest useful guidelines for incorporating this particular type of worship planning into your community, whatever their style would be.
There is very little that is explicitly about children (and what is there is disappointing – he once suggests a separate “children’s station” during worship, with “colouring in, etc.”, rather than thinking about how a children’s element could be added to all the stations). However, it’s easy to see how his principles could be applied to worship that includes children, given how rich, interactive, and multi-sensory his approach is. He also regularly reminds readers that the theology needs to come first – this is something that’s easy to forget in children’s ministry, as we latch on to a great new idea or activity without necessarily thinking first about what it says or why we’re using it (yup, guilty as charged!).
What Evangelicals might like: The focus on reaching out, being missional, engaging with public spaces, and trying bold new forms of worship.
What Traditionalists might like: The affirmation of the importance of ancient forms of liturgy, with inspirational thoughts on how to adapt them to modern times without losing their soul.