The Marvelous Mustard Seed was written by Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. It was illustrated by Margaux Meganck. The Marvelous Mustard Seed was published by Flyaway Books in 2018.
The Marvelous Mustard Seed is an interesting picture book that has an unusual focus or theme, in my opinion. Though it is never overtly stated, it is clear to me that this story is a retelling of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed.
In The Marvelous Mustard Seed we are introduced to two children who plant a tiny mustard seed. They wait and wait for something to happen.
Then, one day a shoot appears.
Then, a sprout.
Then, a bush.
Then, a surprise. The ordinary bush becomes a huge tree.
I like the way the original parable is hinted at through a contemporary story and characters that children (and grown-ups like me) can relate to.
On my first reading my interpretation of The Marvelous Mustard Seed was colored by my own preconceived thoughts about Jesus’ parable. But the back matter of the picture book helped me to see that my interpretation might not be the only correct one.
On my second and third readings I could see clearly what the authors and artist were trying to get across.
The Marvelous Mustard Seed has several possible themes, I think. Faith. Patience. Anticipation.
I believe this is a great picture book for thoughtful parents to share with their children. It can open up discussions about what the mustard seed represents in this book, and in the Bible parables in the Gospels.
This post by Jean Matthew Hall is part of a ten-part series for parents on the Five Love Languages of Children. It is based primarily on the book The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, M.D. (Northfield Publishing, 1997)
For the Introduction to the series click here. For a brief description of each Language click here. For ways to discover your child’s Love Language click here.
According to the 2016 U.S. Census Report (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-192.html) during the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent and the percentage of children living with only their father increased from 1 to 4 percent.
Single parents CAN effectively fill your children’s love tanks. But it is hard to do.
Essentially, you must remember that you can’t do it alone. (No matter how badly you want to prove that you can.)
Here are a few practical suggestions. Their feasibility depends on your particular situation:
• Don’t wait for people to volunteer to help. ASK for help. True, sometimes you’ll get turned down, but keep asking until you find a few trusted people to help you. People are often afraid to offer to help at risk of offending you.
• Start with grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins. Ask them to take your kids camping or fishing, to the mall or the movies, to toss a football around in the back yard. Make it clear that you’re not just trying to get the kids out of your hair, you’re giving your kids opportunities to experience love from different people who might speak a different Love Language.
• Briefly explain the 5 Love Languages and explain that your child needs extra physical touch, words of affirmation, one-on-one time, small gifts, or acts of service. Explain that you trust grandpa or Aunt Rachel to offer that.
• Step outside your family to trusted neighbors and people at church.
• Get your kids involved in one special activity. I know, your time is already stretched. This is an area where you can ask for help. Ask a parent of another kid on the team to provide transportation for your child. Volunteer to watch one of their little ones (too young for the activity) in exchange.
If your singleness is new (whether by divorce or death) remember that both you and your children are grieving a great loss.
• Grieve together.
• Give extra amounts of your child’s primary love language.
• And give them space and time to process their grief.
• You must process your grief, too. Probably in the late, late hours of night alone, I know. Here is where you can fall into the arms of Jesus and receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Take care of yourself.
• Eat well—this is sooooooo important.
• Get some exercise even if it means pushing a double stroller around the neighborhood. Hey, playing volleyball or kickball with your kids is exercise, too.
• Make some adult time in your life. You can stop laughing now!
Ask a coworker to share lunch with you in the break room. Talk about anything BUT your kids.
Invite another single parent over for the kids to have a play date. While they play the two of you can sip iced tea and chat, or watch an old romcom.
Call old friends just to catch up. Hearing their familiar voices and chatting about old times can fill your love tank.
Cultivate new friends wisely. Try not to talk about the downside of your life. Sometimes people will twist those facts around and hurt you all over again. Be selective. Ask God to send you a couple of trusted people.
Be careful! God did not create us to live alone, but in relationship. But be careful about dating too soon or dating without knowing the other person really well. Be sure to include the Lord in your dates. When you are single and lonely it’s really easy to slip into a physical relationship before you are ready.
I can say this to you from personal experience—the Lord CAN be your husband or wife. He CAN meet your emotional needs. He CAN share your disappointments and loneliness with you. Wait! Don’t make a romantic move until the Lord gives you the go-ahead. Please!
I know that your love tank needs to be kept full just like your kids. Let them—your children—be your filler-uppers. And let God Himself top off your tank. He delivers only the highest grade of love available.
We all know that babies are not able to talk. But we often forget that talking is the human way of expressing our needs and wants. So, before a baby or toddler develops that ability to express their needs, desires and reactions in words they express them in other ways.
• Hitting, biting, kicking, snatching
These attempts to communicate with others result in a lot of frustration for the child and everyone around them.
One way to alleviate some of the frustration is to teach yourself and your little one very simple sign language. They can start learning signs between 4 and 6 months of age. You can start using the signs along with words. Baby will catch on and start mimicking you. Keep using the signs. Be consistent and persistent. Baby will get the idea! This really does help with communicating before your child can piece words together in phrases and sentences. That happens between 2 ½ and 3 years of age.
Many years ago, before Baby Sign Language became popular, I was an American Sign Language interpreter. So, when my kids were 2, 3, 4 years old I taught them basic signs that I could use with them in public without making a scene. Signs like:
Stop, pay attention, bathroom, hungry, thirsty, wait, and warning!
Now language experts know which signs are vital for your toddler to communicate with you. Using them helps with some of the temper tantrums etc. that result from frustration about babies and toddlers not being able to express themselves verbally.
By the time they are a year old your kids should have a basic vocabulary for communicating their needs to you.
Click on these following pics to download and print out each chart to help you learn the simple signs.
REMEMBER that baby’s attempts will not be perfect. But you’ll soon figure out what they mean.
Another Picture Book Review of a 2018 picture book by Jean Matthew Hall.
ERASER was written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant. IT was published in 2018 by Two Lions.
I’m sure this must be a very popular book, but it isn’t one of my favorites. It feels like a picture book length graphic novel to me. The sketches of the characters (a variety of school supplies) are cute and the faces are expressive.
The text is written as conversation bubbles above their heads (minus the bubbles). Just not my favorite style. But I’m betting it’s popular with first graders.
Eraser feels unappreciated. Pencil takes all the credit for the work he does and trivializes Eraser’s contribution. So, she runs away.
On her journey she meets wadded-up and trashed papers who remind her of her worth. Nothing would be turned in correctly without her efforts.
So, Eraser pulls herself together and returns to help the other school supplies with the gigantic science project in progress.
In the end Pencil realizes the error of his ways and welcomes Eraser as a partner.
Like I say, not my favorite. Not just because of the art, but also the story. The plot feels incomplete. There isn’t enough conflict to show us what Eraser is really made of.
But I think your kiddos will enjoy this light and silly tale.
Eraser is also available for Kindle.
Are moms really martyrs? Sometimes we might feel like it.
One of the things I remember about my childhood is that Mama cooked southern fried chicken frequently. She bought the hen, cut it up, soaked it in buttermilk, floured it, fried it and stacked it on a platter. We couldn’t wait to dig in. Everyone (six of us) grabbed their favorite piece and bit into that crispy, crunchy skin.
Everyone except Mama. She waited until our plates were filled, then she took what was left— always the wings or the neck. She adamantly declared that the neck was her favorite piece, and that secondly, she loved the wings.
As an adult I realized that Mama probably wasn’t telling the truth about that. I found myself doing the same thing—enjoying the leftover pieces after my husband and kids got theirs.
That’s part of the definition of mothering, I believe. Almost any woman can become pregnant and deliver a baby. That’s just the beginning of motherhood. It’s the easy part!
It concerns me that I see a decline in the philosophy that motherhood IS giving. That motherhood IS sacrifice. It makes me sad.
I want to challenge young mothers today to embrace the idea that bringing children into the world is the beginning of a life a blessings, but also of giving, of sacrificing.
I want to challenge young mothers today to be like Christ who, “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning the shame”* of His purpose in this life.
For the joy of seeing those children become the servants God wants them to become we mothers must give, must serve, must sacrifice.
I can tell you from personal experience that 50 years down the road the joy is worth it!
*Hebrews 12:22 NIV
Another Picture Book Review of a 2018 picture book by Jean Matthew Hall.
Whale in a Fishbowl was written by Troy Howell and illustrated by Richard Jones. It was published by Schwartz & Wade (of Random House) in 2018.
This is a quiet story of loneliness and freedom.
The illustrations are lovely. Everything is a soft, neutral, pale palette except the water. The deep aqua of the water in the gigantic fishbowl shouts “I’m here! See me!” to me.
And the deep blue of the ocean in the back ground screams for attention behind the bland, hum-drum colors of the city. It’s a marvelous background for the story of Wednesday the Whale trapped in a giant fishbowl in the middle of a city.
Wednesday doesn’t know anything about freedom. She’s always lived in the fishbowl.
But she knows she longs for something more–for that lovely blue thing she see if she jumps into the air above the fishbowl.
And she feels whole and free and happy once she finds her rightful place in the deep blue sea.
I like this book. It speaks to me. I believe it will open up opportunities to talk with children about loneliness, about not knowing your “place” in life, and about freedom.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is probably the most famous woman in the Bible. God certainly called her to a unique ministry. He gave her a unique gift—His own Son to mother.
We know very little about the years she was raising Jesus. So, we can’t gather much “parenting advice” from her. But what can we mothers learn from her?
As a mom your job doesn’t seem very special much of the time. Ordinary days with ordinary tasks roll by year after year. Can you imagine—Mary knew each time she wiped the grime from little Jesus’ face that she was cleaning the face of God. She knew that each time she sent him out to play she was telling God what to do.
You don’t know who that child sleeping in your house really is in God’s plan. You don’t know who she or he will become in life. But you do know that each child running around your house is a child of God, one of His special creations.
And you are helping to transform him or her into God’s chosen vessel.
It only happens when we are like Mary:
• Available for those children
• Obeying God without hesitation
• Using our ordinary gifts in our ordinary lives
• Faithfully loving and teaching those children God’s way.
I’m praying for you, moms, as you undertake the greatest job in the world!
Another Picture Book Review of a 2018 picture book by Jean Matthew Hall.
Life with My Family is a cute and clever nonfiction picture book about the names of various animal families. It was written by Renee Hooker & Karl Jones. It was illustrated by Kathryn Durst. Penguin Random House published it in 2018.
Oh! BTW this little book is also about the joy of family life.
The following is a thoughtful quote from A Woman’s Touch: The Fingerprints You Leave Behind by Amy Nappa. (Howard Publishing 2001). Though this book is addressed to women, Nappa’s advice below is equally applicable to moms, dads and grandparents.
Because of the vast amount of time we’ll spend with our children during their lives, they’re probably the ones who will be the most influenced, changed, and molded by our touch. So touch carefully! Pour honey into their hearts instead of vinegar. Give them your best side instead of your worst. Bring out the company dishes for them. Write them notes to remind them of your love.
Speak gently to them. Remember, the lips that kiss their wounds can also lay open new heartaches. Compliment them on their strengths and encourage them in their weaknesses. Tell them of your love for God and model that love daily. Let them see you reading your Bible and hear you turning to God in prayer…
The best tribute your children can give you is to grow up to be wise and loving men and women who follow Jesus. Be intentional in touching them. Show them the grace and love God has shown you. They’re your legacy to a world that desperately needs His touch. (pps 96-97)
For some parents the issue of gender-confusion or gender-identity is a great concern. Please read here for a sane, Christian article for parents on the issue of gender-identity. Feel free to share this post with other parents who might need this information.
Many thanks to Heidi at “Our Out-of-Sync Life” for this perspective.
Another 2018 Picture Book Review by Jean Matthew Hall.
As soon as I touched The Manic Panic I suspected it would be different from other picture books I’ve been reading. The spine is clothbound—such a delightful texture to a booklover like me. The book doesn’t boast a jacket. The art is printed right on the cover boards. I like it.
The Manic Panic is different in other ways, also.
It’s written and illustrated by creators who live in India. The family in The Manic Panic are definitely a contemporary Indian family. Quite a change from the picture books I usually see.
Another difference is that the story flip-flops the roles of parents and the child main character. It works well with the topic and theme.
The Manic Panic shows us what happens to the main character’s family when their Internet goes on the blink. Of course, in this book, the child is the voice of reason. Mommy and Daddy are the ones in a panic. And Nana, is amused by the whole incident.
I like this book. It’s amusing. The artwork is simple but effectively portrays the characters’ emotions and responses. I like Nana best of all, I think.
Also, the ending has an unexpected twist which I like. I’m not sure this is the best title for this story. But the story is really good.
Check it out, please! I think you school-aged children will find The Manic Panic quite amusing. And they will probably see themselves in the situation, I think.
The ISBN is 978-1-939547-43-9.