In this episode we share books celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Heritage and books that help us in the areas t. Patrick valued most: praying, sharing the Gospel, and Knowing God.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion questions in discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.
This week, we have St. Patrick’s Day, and March is Irish Heritage Month. And so I thought we would share a few fun books about Ireland and Irish folk tales with you. In addition to that, we have a couple other events in this month that I will also share, but we’re going to start with Ireland, and I want to share a few fun books with you. It is kind of difficult to find good St. Patrick’s Day books that don’t deal with just magic and folk tales. And some of the folk tales are really fun, but I know some Christian parents don’t want books that have a whole lot of magic in them. So some of these, you may want to veto for your kids, if you don’t like leprechauns and magic and luck and all of that kind of stuff that is so intertwined with a modern day celebration of St Patrick’s Day. I tried to be picky as usual. Let me share a few that I thought were fun.
The first one I want to share is called St. Patrick’s Day. And this is a modern story about how students at school are celebrating St Patrick’s Day. And so it has to do with the classroom and wearing green. It shows how everyone, whether they’re Irish or not, can celebrate St Patrick’s Day, which is kind of cool. This book is written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell and is really a cute little book. It says, “On St. Patrick’s Day, I wore my green shirt, green pants, and even my green striped socks, Pablo wore green sneakers.” Then it goes on, and they’re in the classroom and doing several different activities and learning about Ireland and learning about St. Patrick. And it’s just a fun, fun book.
And then one of my all time, favorite Irish folk legends or fairy tales is about Fin McCoul.
And the one that I always read and enjoyed was called the bigger giant. The book that I have is The Bigger Giant: An Irish Legend by Betty Fraser and illustrated by Nancy Green. This particular book is out of print. And so it is available, but you have to order it used usually, but this recounts the whole legend, but I love the legend because it’s so brilliant, clever in the way that Fin McCoul’s wife solves their problem. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a giant, his wife is a normal sized lady and this one giant is bigger than everyone else. And he can even pull on his finger and make himself get even bigger. Everyone is afraid of this terrible giant. So Fin McCoul is worrying about what he’s going to do because this bigger giant is coming to attack or whatever. Then his wife says, “I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.” And so then as they hear the giant coming, she says, “Go get in the baby’s bed.” And he’s like, “What? Get in the baby’s bed?” And she’s like, “Trust me, just get in the baby’s bed.” So he gets in the baby’s bed as he puts his shoes on the floor; like six cats jumping his one shoe and nestle down for a nap. And so it shows how big he is. And then he gets in bed and she covers him up like he’s the baby. When the giant comes–the bigger giant–she says, “Oh, I’m sorry. Fin’s not here right now, but let me make you a cake.” So he sits down and she makes three cakes and she puts rocks in all but one. She gives the cake to the giant and he bites into it, hits a rock and breaks this tooth. And, and she’s like, “Well, I don’t know what’s wrong. The baby can eat them.” And she gives the one without the rocks to Fin in the baby bed who just gobbles it down no problem. And he sees the baby is huge. And so she convinces him, of course, that Fin McCoul is a dangerous, stronger, bigger, giant than he is. So he leaves them alone. The cleverness of it is what I like so much. Tomie dePaola has his version of the story called Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill. It’s the same story, the retelling of it. And so I would check that one out because it is in print and is available. And I love Tomie dePaola. I love his illustrations and his retelling of folk legends. And so this would be, I’m sure, a good one to get and enjoy with your kids.
Now, Tomie dePaola also has a really great book called Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. And he retells the legend of Saint Patrick. At the very end of the book, he also tells about several other wild legends about St. Patrick that have been passed down through the ages. And, of course, we know some of those are truly just legends, but it’s fun to read those and to see what people have said about him and how they’ve added to his story. And the part I love about it is it does talk about his sharing the Gospel with the people of Ireland and how he prayed and the real story of his life. But it’s a really nicely done book.
And another fun one is Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato, which is also an Irish folk tale, but this one has a lot of lessons to teach about laziness work ethic. The whole idea of that work can be meaningful, can have fun, even when you’re not thinking of it as work, but just something to prove someone wrong, as Jamie O’Rourke tries to do, but it’s just a cute story. And it can open up a lot of conversations about work ethic.
Another book I want to put in the list is called Very First Words in Irish. It’s by Felicity Brooks. I don’t know about you, but when I read Gaelic words, I do not know how to say them properly. And so I would recommend if you get this book, which I think is a very cute book and really well done, to go to Duolingo and they have Irish as a choice in their language. I don’t know about Babble, but they probably do too, but you can learn some Irish words there and hear them pronounced. Or you can go to Google Translate and type in the Gaelic word and see how it’s pronounced. But if I were using this book, I would have to do that because it is such a different pronunciation. Their phonics is very different from ours in English. So that would be book that would be really great to have, but I think you’d have to supplement some work to know how to pronounce the different words.
And the last one I want to share is one that is a fairy tale. It is a retelling of the Cinderella story. But the interesting thing about it is Cinderella is a guy in the story. It’s called The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski. It’s fun because as Cinderella is so to speak is a guy and how he responds to the situation compared to how Cinderella responded to her situation. There’s still the step-mom and the steps siblings. I think he has three step sisters who are mean to him. It’s a fun story. There is magic in it. There’s dragons, there’s a little violence, it’s a typical fairy tale. So just be aware of that. He does lose his boot, and they have to try on the boot with everyone and see who can fit the boot. And then he winds up marrying the princess, but it is a cute retelling of the story. And I love variations of the different fairytales from different ethnic groups. And it’s just a lot of fun.
When I think of St. Patrick and what he did and what he stood for three things come to my mind besides the clover, number one: sharing our faith, number two: understanding God and his nature, and number three: prayer. And I think if we can take that away from his testimony in his story and his life, that that’s wonderful, and it can challenge us. And so I wanted to share some books that might spark some good conversations, give you some lessons that you could share with your kids as you disciple them in these three areas: sharing their faith, knowing the character of God, and prayer.
A couple of books I want to share are for you because I have some great books that I think really speak to our hearts as parents, as adults who want to share our faith effectively and who want to make a difference in this world. One is called Anyone But Me, and it’s by Ray Comfort. And it’s “10 ways to overcome your fear and be prepared to share the gospel.” I don’t know if you know who Ray Comfort is, but he has a podcast, a video channel on YouTube, where he just goes out and shares his faith. And what I love about it is seeing how he just so easily shares his faith. It’s no big deal. He’s not afraid of rejection. He’s not afraid of what other people are gonna say or do. He just goes out there and shares. And what happens 99% of the time is he gets to have a wonderful conversation with someone, even if they don’t open their lives up to following God, they do, for the first time maybe, have a spiritual conversation with someone about God.
It’s just wonderful. Watching him helps take away some of the fear, but this book is really good. And he talks a lot about why we’re afraid and how to overcome that.
The second book for you that I want to share is called Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations. And this is the three circles method of sharing the gospel by Jimmy Scroggins, Steve Wright, and Bennet Lesley. You can also go to YouTube and find videos of how to present the three circles. It’s not something you memorize as much as it is a way to break the ice, a way to change a conversation into a spiritual gospel conversation. And it also helps us to make sure that we’re sharing the full gospel and not cutting it short with just his crucifixion and the sacrifice Jesus made, but completing the story with the resurrection and the victory over death and sin that he is offering us. It also teaches us how to recognize a red light, a yellow light, or a green light. And I love that analogy because I can think of that when you’re talking to someone, if the door is just closed, they are just not open to the gospel to gracefully handle that red light. And knowing that you need to stop the conversation or only share to a certain point or whatever, when you’re thinking that way, the Holy Spirit can guide you. And then because honestly, we are never going to argue someone into the kingdom of God. We can share logic with them. We can share the truth with them, but it’s the Holy Spirit that is going to draw them. And for any real life change in their heart, it’s the Holy Spirit. It’s God; it’s not us. And so we just have to be faithful and obedient to share the gospel with others. This book is very short, and it’s really nicely done and very encouraging.
A third book for you as a teacher or as a parent is Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. And it’s by Jack Klumpenhower. And it’s really focused towards like a children’s ministry. I really liked what he had to say. It would be good for any parent who’s also trying to teach their children.
I have a couple of books to share with you for your children. The first one is 52 Ways to Teach Children to Share the Gospel. This is for ages five to 12. The name of the authors are very hard to pronounce. So I apologize if I have really messed up their names, but I will try. It’s Barbara Hibschman and Sue Raatjes. They have written this book. It’s a reproducible book. So you have worksheets that you can copy for your Sunday school class, your Bible club, your after school discipleship, or just for homeschooling your own kids or your family time of worship.
And these are different ways that we can help our children see opportunities to share the gospel. And it involves puzzles and Bible crafts and other activities that they can do to learn and practice and understand how to share the gospel. My children grew up missionary kids and in a pastor’s home. And yet when they got out on their own and were faced with questions and faced with opportunities to share the gospel, there were times that they were at a blank. You know, what, how do I say this? What do I do? Most of the time they were comfortable sharing their testimony and comfortable sharing the basic gospel message, but to give them kind of a toolbox of creative ways to share, I think, helps them then to be more open to how the Holy Spirit may move and may use them to share the gospel. Sharing the gospel should be just natural. It should be something we can’t help but do as we encounter different people and have conversations with them.
There’s this great little board book, and it’s called The Gospel (Big Theology for Little Hearts). And this is by Devon Provencher and illustrated by Jessica Provencher. This is just a great little book for sharing the gospel for helping your kids to understand the gospel and to understand how they too can share the gospel. This same writer has three books out. One is God (Big Theology for Little Hearts) and Jesus: (Big Theology for Little Hearts). These are called The Theological Primer Series. I have read two of them, the one about God and the one about the gospel. The one about Jesus, I have not read, I read reviews about it. And there was some criticism in just the wording of how they expressed some of the theology, some of the ideas in the book about Jesus, but the other two, I didn’t see any problem with. And like I said, I didn’t really read the one about Jesus, but these are some really cute books. They don’t oversimplify the gospel. It’s not compromising the gospel in any way, but it is sharing it where a child can begin to really, truly grasp it and understand it.
I’ve had a podcast previously about prayer books, about prayer with our kids. Prayer is so important. I was listening to Dr. Charles Stanley preach and he was saying, Jesus talked about two things more than anything else. And the two topics he talked about the most were first of all, prayer and second faith to me that says something really strongly, that prayer should be so important in our lives. And Ole Hallesby who wrote the book called Prayer. If you ever have read that, it’s an amazing book. But in that book, he says, our main occupation as believers should be prayer. That is the main thing that we are supposed to be doing. And through prayer, then we can commune with God. We can hear God’s voice. He can open up his words to our hearts, through the Bible. We can then be obedient to what he has told us to do through his word and through the Holy Spirit. And so prayer is vital. Prayer is like, I feel like the word of God is our food. And prayer is the oxygen that we need to breathe as believers. And so we’ve gotta be in the word of God. We’ve got to be praying. And then as a result of those two things, we can walk by faith. One of the things that really hit me, I was talking to a pastor friend and he said, you know, the Bible, doesn’t say that people aren’t going to believe in God. In the last days it says, will he find anyone of faith living by faith? (see Luke 18:8) And I thought, I’ve never thought of it quite that way. I’ve always thought it would just be hard for people to open their lives and follow Christ in the last days. And I think that is also true. But when he comes back, is he going to find us living by faith or find us just walking through the motions of a type of faith? You know, then Hebrews [It’s actually 2 Timothy 3:5…oops!], it talks about having a form of faith (godliness) without any power. Is that what we’re going to be living? Or are we going to be radical Christians who obey God without question, who follow him, who go places that may not seem logical, but because he has told us very clearly in his word or put it on our hearts that we are to go somewhere and follow him in obedience–Are we willing to step out in faith? Are we teaching our kids to look at life from a human standpoint? Are we teaching them to pray and discern and seek the Lord? And he says, if you seek me, you will find me. (Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; acts 17:24-28) And then to follow him in obedience, even when it goes against the crowd. We were always challenged that way when I was a teenager in youth group. We were always challenged to go against the crowd if that’s what we needed to do, if the crowd was going the wrong way, you don’t just go with them. You go the way of God. And are we challenging this generation to do the same thing? As parents who are discipling our kids, this is so vital. And when I think about St Patrick, that’s what I come to. We’ve got to have faith. We’ve got to share the gospel, and help people understand the character and person of God. Yes, we can’t adequately express the Trinity. You know, there’s the legend that St. Patrick used the clover to try to explain the Trinity. And in reality, there is no adequate way to fully explain the Trinity. And I believe there’s no way for our human finite brains to even grasp the concept because I think it is beyond us. I think it is above us. And he says his ways are not our ways. And his thoughts are not our thoughts they’re above us. (Isaiah 55:8) And we can’t always grasp them. I’m going to put a link in the show notes, just because every St Patrick’s Day, I share this on Facebook and other social media, but it is such a great video about discussing the Trinity. And it’s using St. Patrick, and it’s satire. It’s meant to be funny. It’s not meant to be offensive at all. And I think it’s so funny.
And if you go back in my other podcasts, you also can find where I have shared some great books that talk about the character of God and the names of God. And there’s a lot of great books for discussing the names of God through the names of God. He reveals who he is. So that is another way that we can help our kids to understand God and who he is. But these two books, The Gospel and God, (Big Theology for Little Hearts) by Devon Provencher are just excellent.
And this week is also the birthday of Peter H. Reynolds. I’ve talked before about the Creatrilogy, his three books, The Dot, Ish, Sky Color. We’ve talked about all of these at different times on this podcast, but he has a whole group of books, a whole lot of books. His goal is to empower children, to be creative and not be afraid to explore their creativity. In honor, of Peter H. Reynolds’ birthday, I wanted to share a couple of his books that I haven’t shared before. Now. he has a series of I Am books and those get very new agey. I don’t recommend those, but I do recommend his other books. I really like a lot of his books. And then he has one coming out in October that I’m anxious to read. And it’s called Our Table on the description: “This is a tender, lyrical story of multi-generational love, tradition, and family coming together with gratitude and thanks.” And it’s coming out in October. So I have a feeling, it would be a really great Thanksgiving book, but we’ll have to see. So that’s when it’s coming out.
And then he has one that I hadn’t read before called Going Places. And this is kind of a cute book. And actually Paul A. Reynolds wrote this and Peter H. Reynolds was author and illustrator for this one. And it’s just cute. It’s about this school where each year they have a go-kart race at each child gets a packet to build their own go-cart. And then they have the race, the one child who’s the main character in his friend, think outside the box. And so it’s very clever and cute. Again, it’s sparking creativity, imagination, and going beyond the expected, but can have a really positive message for our kids. And so, you know, check out his books.
For our devotion today, this is from Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham, from July 12th, “From Death to Life.” “Even when we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ. By grace, you have been saved. Reading his local newspaper, a man glanced at the obituary column. To his surprise he saw his own name indicating that he had just died. At first, he laughed about it, but soon his phone began to ring. Shocked friends and acquaintances were calling his family to offer their sympathy. The man finally called the newspaper editor and said that even though he had been reported dead in the obituary column, he was very much alive. The embarrassed editor apologized, then in a flash of inspiration, he said, don’t worry, sir, I’ll make it all right tomorrow. I’ll put your name in the births column. This funny incident is also a spiritual lesson. Our names could have appeared in the obituary column one day and in the births column the next. The Bible is marvelously true. You, he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1. Why did God do this amazing thing for us? Because his mercy has great. And he loved us very much. Ephesians 2:4.”
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books inspire you. I hope they bless you. And I hope they open up many meaningful conversations with the children in your life.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!