Awards: Short-listed, CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award, 2008
Winner, Die Besten Sieben, Focus, DeutschlandRadio (The Seven Best Books for Children), 2002
Themes: Prejudice, Racism, Refugee, Migrant, Neighbour, Violence, Fear, Freedom, Difference, Power, Humanity, Compassion, Care, Human Frailty, Exclusion, Embrace, Inclusion, Politics, Intolerance, Xenophobia & Human Rights
The Island is a powerful, dark & haunting parable without redemption which holds a mirror up to our fears and violence towards “the other” and shows no compassion for the way we fail to embrace our neighbour.
As such, it’s probably not a “children’s book” and probably should be read to an older audience.
The parable that deserves to be told and retold until we can finally recognise the image projected of us and cast it away with the violence in our hearts as we allow compassion to fill the void that’s left.
A man arrives on the shore of an island, the ocean had brought him there on his frail raft overnight. The islanders notice one thing very quickly… he’s not like them.
The islanders find all kinds of ways to live out their fear of the stranger, initially taking him to the opposite side of the island and locking him up continuing to exercise the power of racism, fear & violence. Their thinly veiled attempts at “doing something for the stranger” only show their unwillingness to act with compassion in any way.
Throughout the story a voice shines out in the darkness, it’s the voice of the fisherman who consistently calls to the islanders “we must help him.” The fisherman however is still not an innocent in the story, while he calls the people to take him in, to give him a job the fisherman never seems to offer anything but a veiled attempt at compassion, even his call to offer a job came with the line “he would probably work for less pay.”
The islanders continue to spread rumours, encourage fear and treat the stranger badly… they even inspire their children to have nightmares of the stranger!
This is a picture book that deserves to be read, with dark and harsh charcoal illustrations that are hauntingly fabulous, it’s honesty and refreshingly stark storytelling however leaves us with no happy ending, no learned moral, no welcomed stranger and will hopefully leave the reader(s) changed, or at least challenged.
Themes: Refugee, Asylum Seeker, Escape, Nativity, Fear, Hope, Pilgrimage, Oppression, Journey, Despair, Prayer, Family, War, Violence, Vulnerable, Epiphany, Christmas, Persecution, Challenges
Tonight is the night.
The family has to flee.
They’ve been tipped off that the authorities are
after their blood.
This is a beautiful first-time collaboration between Nadia Wheatley (My Place, Luke’s Way of Looking) and Armin Greder (The Island, The City, The Great Bear).
The cover of the book portrays a familiar scene, a man, a woman, a donkey, but there’s a baby in the mother’s arms, this is not the Christmas story…
Flight that evokes the story of the “escape to Egypt” from the story of the Nativity and places it in a modern space, allowing the reader to imagine the story as if it were a refugee story from recent times.
The flight is a well used theme throughout the renaissance, and Armin uses his particular style to deepen the emotion and reality behind the story, inviting the reader to imagine the depth of the darkness and the heat of the sun, the song of the lullaby and the strength of the parent’s prayer.
The horizon never changes throughout the story, through day and night you get the sense that this will be a long and difficult journey, the vastness of this space is overpowering. You feel the loss of the donkey, hear the sound of the tanks as they thunder over the land, and experience the fear of the parents trying to find safety for their child, their family.
Armin has used very little colour in this story, you’re encouraged to enter the hopelessness of the journey, to feel the fear and to experience a deep unease and sadness at the lack of resolution as the story ends.
For, as the story ends and the fourth wall is broken it is the reader who is invited to hear their cry for help, and with it the cry of many others like them.
As they wait for someone, anyone to do something, to hear their story we are left with the invitation to re-tell the story and to become a part of it.
Beautiful and haunting this story left me speechless.
Themes: Christmas, Advent, Animals, Nativity, Gift, Present, Remembering, Community
The narrative of the nativity has been told and retold in a number of ways over the years. Together, Penny and Stephen create a new and beautiful re-telling where the animals of the world maintain the act of remembering, and in doing so create a space for something magical.
In a different slant to many of the Nativity stories out there the animals take on the act of remember the story of a baby born in a stable. The Owl tells the story of the star that shone so brightly, the Nanny Goat speaks of the sleepless night all the animals endured as they awaited something wonderful to happen while the donkey remembers that it was one of his kind that carried the mother of the child to the stable and the cows speak of how they gave the mother and father milk to drink.
The animals are both the actors and the storyteller in this whimsically illustrated book that has quickly made a huge jump up my list of favourite Christmas books. I cannot think of any illustrator that I’d invite to paint the Christmas story other than Stephen Michael King, he continues to bring colour and life to a tale that may seem old, this is the third book I own where he adds his imagination to the tale told from house to house over Christmas.
May there be many more…
Website: Echo The Story
The new resource “Echo The Story” is a formation focussed series designed to help young people enter the stories of the bible in a way that encourages creativity, imagination, storytelling and discussion. It’s another creative, (almost contemplative) process from the people behind WeAreSparkhouse and Michael Novelli, author of the books “Shaped By The Story” and well worth exploring if you’re looking for a different kind of bible study or small group material.
The resource comes with a dvd, leaders guide and participant sketch book;
The sketchbook is an important part of the resource, moving the program from a traditional question/answer curriculum to a more creative and reflective process. If cost is a huge issue I guess one could take a group through the process without the sketch books, but that would require a lot of preparation where the sketchbook has everything on hand. I think it’s a helpful part of the kit, and worth purchasing for the participants, it provides a take home resource that could assist participants to reflect on the stories week after week..
The Leader’s guide breaks down the process for the resource, instructing the leader not only on how to run each session but also some of the theory behind the resource, setting the scene as to how the process works and why it’s been put together in the way that it has. The guide shows pages of the sketch book to instruct the leader of how to approach the sketch book and it’s use, it also includes the scripted stories that form the “Imagine the story” part of each session. Each session’s guide reminds the leader of the resource’s process, the week’s story and what the participants will be seeing in the sketchbook.
The final part of the kit is the dvd. The dvd has a quick promo piece for the program, a brief and useful breakdown of the program for the presenter and the individual videos for each of the sessions. The short video stories are well produced and simple, but, unlike the Holy Moly or Re:Form resources by WeAreSparkhouse they don’t work separate from the actual resource as they have been included in order to refresh/rewind the previous week’s stories and probably make sense only in that setting.
If you’d like to go into the theory of the process a little deeper then the book “Shaped By The Story” by Michael Novelli explores some theory, practice and imagination that has been used in developing the Echo The Story process. Michael explores storytelling, developing stories and how the bible stories connect with people. The book also breaks down what ends up being the skeleton of the Echo the Story resource, you can see how he’s moved from the book to the resource.
The Scope & Sequence
The first volume of Echo The Story is a 12 part series entering into the story of the bible:
Download: Scope & Sequence Volume 1 (pdf)
- The Promise
- Judges & Kings
- God’s Kingdom
- The Church
The second volume of Echo the Story stretches out the story into 36 sessions allowing a longer process, delving into the narrative of scripture in a deeper way.
Download: Scope & Sequence Volume 2 (pdf)
There are 7 steps in each Echo The Story session.
- Rewind the Story – Animated video that reviews the previous stories and places us at the present story.
- Prepare the Story – Reflection activity to focus people’s minds and prepare them for listening. This activity usually consists of drawing the week’s story symbol. The story symbol is an important part of Michael’s process allowing for participants to connect each symbol with a story, an important mnemonic device that connects people’s imaginations with the story and turns them towards the story.
- Imagine the Story – Listen to a scripted telling of a bible story that allows people space to slow down and listen to a carefully scripted narrative, paraphrased from the scripture.
- Capture What You Notice – Record the things that stood out for you in the story (reminds me of Lectio Divina), providing a quieter imaginative reflection on the story shared.
- Remix the Story – Retell the story in your own creative way, write, sketch, paint, rap, song. The sketch book provides specific activities that spark creativity, interact with scripture, allow dor people’s different learning styles and enables the group and individuals to re-enter and imagine the story. Leaders are invited to re-tell the story with a different voice during this time.
- Connect to Your Story – Share personal insights with the group. The sketch book provides prompts participants to share their own thoughts and observations with each other allowing for a creative reflection with the story as the tether connecting the curiosity and wonder.
Overall I think this is a creative resource allowing groups, to use creativity, imagination and wonder as they delve into the narrative of the bible, making connections with their own lives and story. I’ve recently given the resource to a friend who teaches Christian Education at a Christian school as a means to re-design their scripture class and provide a different way to explore story with their students. I think the process allows for a creative guided workshop that could reshape how some groups reflect on scripture together, at the very least it’s a great starting point that could move ministries towards a more reflective and story-focussed process for their community, well worth the purchase and giving it a go in your ministry with young people.
If you have the chance to use this resource in your own ministry I’d love to hear how you went with it, what you felt were positive and negative aspects of the process and how the young people in your community reacted to the change of process.
Echo The Story – Deepen Your Youth Ministry
Echo The Story – Session 3 Story Videohttp://youtu.be/rUnpQA-WDMI
Title: How To Catch a Star
Title: The Way Back Home
Title: Nog and the Land of Noses
Title: Noah Dreary
Themes: why am I here, fullness of life, life well lived, purpose, loved ones, vocation, joy, wonder, life, family, existentialism
Peter has created some beautiful tales in the past, his new story is an existentialist tale of a young boy who, one day, just falls onto a page.
I love this illustrated story, for me it asks once of the deepest questions an artist can have. Not “who am I”, not “why am I here?” But instead what is this story, this art about, what story am I telling and, now that I’ve created this character, this art, this person what do I do with it?
I can see an illustrator sitting there, sketching a character onto a piece of parchment and, after days of playing with him, having him laugh, meet friends, roll down a hill, maybe even drawn him at various ages sitting there pondering “why did I create you?”
After spending so much time with the character one would have am affinity with him and want his story to be an important one, special, worthy of their new found friend.
So, why did the boy fall on the page?
I should stop being so esoteric
Peter has created a beautiful existential tale that speaks to us all, a tale of a boy who falls on a page, has adventures, falls in love, grows old and all the while asking what his purpose is.
Beautifully told, creatively illustrated and with some delightful insights (“see the world through somebody’s eyes” “made someone lunch” and “played an accordion”) the story will have readers young and old wondering about what makes a life worthwhile and what a life well lived looks like.
*Just wanted to say that I wrote the above before bumping into the video of the song by Peter Carnavas and his story behind the boy… maybe I wasn’t being so esoteric afterall…