129: Judging (More) Books by Their Covers: We Find A Spoonful of Creativity … Helps the Spirituality Go Down

     We had a lot of fun last week with our first-ever “Judging Books by Their Covers”! Many readers told us they enjoyed that creative approach to evaluating books — which also has a very serious side to it as well. With thousands of religious publications vying for our attention, the design, title and summary of new books is absolutely essential in hooking potential readers.
    So, this week, we’ll share two more “Judging” videos with you, produced for ReadTheSpirit by our teen-aged test group for posting on YouTube. (PLUS, to add a smile to your weekend as you ponder these themes, we’re sharing a third video with you today — a little Scandinavian video that’s guaranteed to spark fresh thought about the very nature of this “thing” we call a book.

    Today’s videos are proof of a simple, yet very important principle in new media: Creativity fuels better spiritual reflection!
    Color. Humor. Poetry. These new perspectives on the world can function like the icons in Orthodox churches, opening windows into other realms.
    That certainly was true with two of the most popular books grabbed by teenagers on our team: “Peanut Butter and Jelly Prayers,” by Julie Sevig and “The Color of Light: Poems of Van Gogh’s Late Paintings,” by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.

    (CLICK on either book cover — or on the book titles — to jump to our bookstore, where you can read our more formal review of the books. You also can purchase copies, if you wish.)

    Before we share with you our video reviews of these books by the teens who chose them — let’s share a note from the author of the mealtime prayer book. In a remarkable convergence this week, Sevig just happened to email our offices to ask whether we’d had a chance to check out her new book. In fact, we already had the video (below) in the works, demonstrating just how much we enjoyed it!

    Her note was timely, though, because she helped to resolve a spirited discussion that arose among the young book reviewers. By far, the most popular prayer in her book was, “Fast Food.” And, although the teenagers certainly knew that they consumed a lot of fast food in the course of a typical week — they couldn’t quite decide whether Sevig was poking fun at them in her “Fast Food” prayer.
    “Were you serious about this prayer that thanks God ‘for the cow’ and for fast-food workers in general?” I asked her in an email this week.
    In response, Sevig responded: “Gee, I’ve never been asked if I was serious about thanking God for the cow. I guess it’s a ‘both/and’ sort of deal. The gratefulness is meant to be genuine, if not serious. And the prayers, especially the rhyming ones for specific foods, are intended to be playful.
    “Since we so often associate burgers and fries with fast food, it is good to remember where those things come from. Incidentally, I also included a vegetarian prayer … for those for whom that fast-food prayer just doesn’t work! But I think the fast-food prayer might be the only one out there that asks God to bless the people at the Drive-Thru.”
    And, Lord knows, it’s a tough job. They need all the prayers they can get!

    Curious about this book and this surprisingly little prayer? Well, one of our young reviewers explains this in the following video clip: To watch the Peanut Butter and Jelly video, CLICK on the video screen that appears below. (If you don’t see a screen, go directly to YouTube to view this video on spiritual reading.)

    Julie Sevig sent along a few more thoughts about family prayers at mealtimes — good thoughts to ponder as Western Christians enter a holiday weekend with more than a typical number of family meals.
    First, she said, we should realize that families do continue to eat together — despite dire reports about our fragmenting culture — and mealtime payers may be among the very few options that households have for praying together. Plus, the structures of families are changing, so prayer books should be designed to accommodate a wide range of family configurations and customs. (She’s even got some prayers in languages other than English in her book.)
    She also pointed out in her email that a theme of social justice — right out of scriptural mandates from Isaiah to the teachings of Jesus — should be included in mealtime prayers to remind us to care for the needy in our world.
    “We should thank God for what we have — and we should work so that all others will have enough, too,” she wrote. “I don’t think we can say, do and think that enough!”
    To that, we say: Amen!

    THEN — while we didn’t have a similar convergence with the author of the following book on Vincent Van Gogh, this second volume also proves the value of using creative connections to fuel reflection. Several of the teen reviewers were drawn to this book and one boy finally won the good-natured tussle over the book. As others were talking about their choices, he sat quietly and seemed to devour the book’s images and poetry.

    To watch his video on VanGogh, CLICK on the video
screen that appears below
. (If you don’t see a screen, go directly to YouTube to view this video on spiritual reading.)

    Now, to send you into this weekend with a smile, we could not resist adding one more video! This was sent along to us by author Robert Pasick, who spotted this creative “take” on the very nature of books themselves. He passed it to us. And we’re closing today’s story by passing it to you …

    To watch this Norwegian video about the introduction of “The Book,” CLICK on the video screen
that appears
(If you don’t see a
screen, go directly to YouTube to view this video on spiritual reading.)

    PLEASE, tell us what you think!
    Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of our story today. Or, you can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:

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