All the World's a Classroom
Time for the second installment of my favorite children’s books! The main criteria for this series is simply this: I shouldn’t get tired reading these over and over again.
My little man is growing and showing his preferences too, so I’m adding “Z’s review” on some of the books to show his favorites.
As usual, help me find more fantastic children’s books by commenting! I’m particularly interested in books that show diversity.
1. Barnyard Dance! Pajama Time! And Other Sandra Boynton Books
These books are full of rhythms and so much fun. The characters are also super cute, I want to squeeze them if I could.
Z’s review: I ask for Pajama Time! every night and I have a little dance to ask for the Barnyard one.
2. What Do You Do With a Chance
I love What Do You Do With a Chance and look forward to getting the other two. The book is gorgeously illustrated, deeply reflective, and profound for kids and adults.
3. Baby Loves Science Series
These are perfect if you’re building Nerdlandia, like us! These are the three that we own, because they’re basically CHEME001 and CS001, and we are so dorky. They also have one on Aerospace Engineering, Gravity, Structural Engineering, Green Energy. I mean, you can just go crazy and unleash your inner nerd here.
Z’s review: Hey it’s my Choo Choo book! And the babies are cute.
4. Jesus Storybook Bible
This is the best kids’ Bible I’ve come across. The stories are so well-written, freshly delivered, and concise. Very kid and parent-friendly (i.e., not boring). I really, really appreciate the writing of this Bible, not to mention the lovely illustrations–I have never seen Jesus drawn this way and I like it.
Z’s review: I can now say the word ‘Bible” and I love flipping through its pages. (Some I have ripped!)
5. No Matter What
Heartwarming story about the no-matter-whatness of love.
What are your favorite children’s books? Comment with your favorite titles!
Favorite Children’s Books Series
Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get credits if you purchase products through them. Would appreciate it if you do!
This is the third post of the Understanding Poverty series.
Imagine entering a room, a banquet hall. You approach a small group of people to greet, but they scurry away instead. People start to turn their backs on you. Your hesitant smiles meet derisive stares.
The message is clear: You are an outsider. You don’t belong. You’re not wanted here.
How would you feel? Shame. Small. Something rotten. What is wrong with me?
Am I not good enough? Not cool enough, not pretty enough, not handsome enough, not educated enough, not rich enough, not talkative enough, not tall enough, not healthy enough. Or, too cool, too educated, too rich, too talkative, too tall, too fit, too womanly, too manly, too light, or too dark.
Now imagine that in the midst of that uncomfortable room, someone comes in and scans the crowd. She makes eye contact with you and her face beams with joy.
Your savior has come. She heads straight to you. You’re drowning, but she’s lifting you up. Someone is actually happy that you’re here. Someone is here who says, You belong.
Outsiders and Their Saviors
I daresay most of us have experienced being an outsider, some more severely than others. We know that strong sense of shame, of being rejected for who you are.
How much do we long for that someone who embraces us as we are? Or, how much relief envelops us when that person comes.
Outsiders and their saviors is a lens through which I’ve been reading biblical stories lately, Jesus’ stories, in particular. Jesus was not only the Savior of the world—in the take-away-the-sin-of-the-world sense—He was constantly a savior in social situations.
Imagine Zaccheus’ wonder, an outsider, cast out by his tribe for working with the enemy and swindling his own people, when Jesus turned his eyes on him. When was the last time someone saw him for who he was? Jesus not only saw him, He let Zaccheus feed and minister to Him. In this meeting, Zaccheus was affirmed and challenged to transform.
Imagine being a leper whom Jesus touched, who had probably forgotten what it meant to be seen or have human contact. Jesus’ healing was not only physical—it was emotional. You are accepted. I accept you.
Imagine being the woman who touched Jesus’ garment. Or being a child who wanted to come near Jesus. They were outsiders, but they found an ally in Jesus.
In fact, more than an ally. They found someone who would eat with them, someone who would touch them and talk to them, someone who would be with them. They found the kinship of God.
Expanding Our Circle
As a Christian who aspires, however insufficiently, to be in the world as Jesus was, Jesus’ example is challenging. To go where no one else wants to go, to be with people most people avoid, is… well, I don’t want to do it.
We like to congregate among likes and we exclude. We like relationships that will give us something. Sometimes we even find our sense of belonging by excluding people.
To a kind of social life that only consists of people who affirm us, Jesus’ love toward those shunned by society is simply provoking. While as humans we may concede to some inside-outside relationship, God’s inside circle is expansive beyond our conception. There is no one whom God does not want to rescue.
Perhaps it would do us good to remind ourselves of our outsider-ness. Go back to imagining that banquet hall, to being rejected, and to being rescued.
Gregory Boyle in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion writes about the gang members he works with,
Homies have been “outside” for so long they forget there is an inside… The toxicity gets so internalized that it obliterates the “me.” You couldn’t possibly have interest in knowing things about “me.”
All throughout Scripture and history, the principal suffering of the poor is not that they can’t pay their rent on time or that they are three dollars short of a package of Pampers. As Jesus scholar Marcus Borg points out, the principal suffering of the poor is shame and disgrace. It is a toxic shame—a global sense of failure of the whole self.
Exclusion by money is as old as time. What never gets old is this: Jesus was born and lived as a poor person. The first public words Jesus spoke was, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs are the kingdom of God.”
Homies seem to live in the zip code of the eternally disappointing, and need a change of address. To this end, one hopes (against all human inclination) to model not the “one false move” God but the “no matter whatness” of God. You seek to imitate the kind of God you believe in, where disappointment is, well, Greek to Him. You strive to live the black spiritual that says, “God looks beyond our fault and sees our need.”
To that diminished sense of self, God says, I am happy to be with you.
To Be Known and Loved
Boyle tells a story of Mother Teresa when she once told a group of lepers how loved by God they were and a “gift to the rest of us.” An old leper raised his hand and said, “Could you repeat that again? It did me good. So, would you mind…just saying it again?”
To be accepted for who we are, fully, isn’t that our greatest need?
Tim Keller writes,
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
God goes beyond than tolerating the outcasts—He delights in them. Now if we could be a force of that kind of love in the world…
See related essay: Human Strudel
What happens when literature meets art history meets design? I think, the wearables at Literary Book Gifts! Meet Melissa Chan, the creative mind behind Literary Book Gifts, and the story of how it came about. If you’re one who likes to play up your bookishness and “wear your books,” check out her shop and use the code included below!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your passion and interest, and what occupies your mind each day?
My name is Melissa Chan and I am from Toronto, Ontario. As you can probably tell from the store, I love literature and design! Ever since I took an art history course, the world of fine art has always been fascinating as well, this influences a lot of my style decisions and design choices.
Each day I am thinking of new designs to do, but often I redesigning previous designs, just to get them perfect.
2. How did you start Literary Book Gifts? Where did the idea come from?
Although I started Literary Book Gifts this year, many of the designs had been swirling around my head for a little while before then. Finally I decided to try to put together a t-shirt design which, as it turns out, is not as easy as I thought. It took me a while to get a handle on the graphics editing software. And even after that it took me even longer make a design that looked any good. One of the first designs I made was for Moby Dick and I think I did it about 5 or 6 times before I was reasonably happy with it.
After a lot of deliberation, I picked out some high quality shirts (I always try to go for as much cotton as possible) and threw up a website. It was not a very exciting launch, but that is how Literary Book Gifts was started.
I love the feeling of nostalgia you get from seeing old illustrations and book covers so one day I decided I would make shirts that look like that.
3. From your designs and products, it looks like you love the classics. What makes them awesome to you?
I do love classics! I think greatest stories to this day are the classics. I’ve never encountered more intricate and epic stories than Les Miserables or War and Peace. And I think a lot of other people would agree that there is no comparison to their favorite Jane Austen or Charles Dickens story.
4. Fun reasons to “wear” books!
Wearing books makes for a great conversation starter! My personal favorite reason to wear books is because it is a helpful everyday reminder that our life is a story, just like the ones we read in these books.
Check out Melissa’s designs and shop at Literary Book Gifts! You can use the promo code JOSEPHINEELIA20 for 20% off anything in the store, no minimum, and can be used unlimited times.
**I don’t receive anything from this coverage, just spreading the word on something interesting!