Some of you may remember that when we began the Lectionary Links feature on this blog, I spoke about discovering a series about 15 years called Joy and Wonder in All God’s Works. Today, I’m even more excited to tell you that we’ve discovered the author of that series and she is going to be a regular contributor to our blog!
Janet Lloyd just retired after a 35 year career as a librarian at the Harford County (MD) Public Library, so she is uniquely qualified to share her knowledge of children’s and adolescent literature. She is also a very active member of her Episcopal congregation, serving on the vestry and as a church school teacher. Janet’s engagement with worship and children’s books began this way:
A clergy person asked me if I could do a children’s sermon using a children’s book. I agreed and told him to pick a Sunday and send me the lessons. He picked Trinity Sunday! I found a book, did the children’s sermon and felt quite pleased with myself. A few months later, I was talking to more clergy about what I had done and they said it would be great if I could find more books for children’s sermons. I said that if I could find a book for Trinity Sunday, I could find one for any Sunday! That was the beginning of JOY AND WONDER.
We are so excited that Janet will be working with us in our efforts to help church leaders and parents connect stories with the Biblical story as a means of helping people grow in faith. She will be contributing reviews and annotated bibliographies around particular topics so look for her contributions. Welcome, Janet!
Author: Anita Lobel
Illustrator: Anita Lobel
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Audience: K and up
Summary: There was once an old woman who had a potato farm and two hard working sons. One day one son runs away to the army of the east; the other son joins the army of the west. Soon the war takes its toll on both armies. Starving, the brothers tell of a place where they could find food. So the brothers take both armies to their family farm where they are sure there will be food. A battle ensues and soon the farm is in ruins. The sons find their mother who appears to be dead. The battle stops and the soldiers, remembering their own mothers begin to cry. However, all is not lost. Not only is their mother not dead, but she has found a way to bring peace to the warring troops and the troubled land.
Literary Elements at Work in the Story: Influenced by Ms. Lobel’s experiences as a World War II survivor. The illustrations are full of drama and the text, although written with a decided point of view is never didactic or condescending. At first you are taken with the pretty uniforms and adoration from the town just as the sons are. However, Ms. Lobel soon shows the true face of war by showing us tattered and stained uniforms and towns people running from them. Finally when there is peace, we once again see the full range of color and texture missing from the war scenes.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story. This story is unaffected by issues of gender/race/culture/ economics/ability. Although the illustrations give it an Eastern European feel, it is not a story from that culture.
Isaiah: 40 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
In the story the two sons get taken in by the beautiful swords and shiny metals. How often are we get taken in by the superficial. How often do we make life decisions based on looks. When the reality of war hits the two sons and they think their mother has died in the conflict, the sons begin to see how wrong their decisions were. They cry out to their mother in pain and sorrow. And just like the writer in Isaiah 40 their cries are heard. Their strength is renewed, their mother is not dead. However the story does not end there. Their mother will not let them off that easily. She can provide them with food, but they must promise to stop fighting, clean up the mess they have made and go home to their mothers. She forgives them their sins, just as God forgives us of our sins, but just like the mother, God insists we clean up our act. This book is one of the best books on war and peace for people ages 5 and up. It can be used literally with young children and symbolically with older children and adults.
NOTE: This would be a good introduction into a discussion with teens about not being taken in by the superficial aspects of life such as drugs, alcohol, extreme ideas.
Faith Talk Questions:
1. Why did the boys go to war?
2. Was war what they expected?
3. Have you ever followed someone or done something and then seen it was not the right thing to do or the right person to follow?
4. What did you do?
5. At the end of the story, they do not rebuild the wall. Why?
God calls us to peace, not war and conflict. How can we be more like the mother in this story than her sons?