This weekend the first Virginia Children’s Book Festival was held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. A great time, enjoyed by everyone who came out on a rainy weekend! Major kudos to festival founders, Juanita Giles and Katie Snyder on bringing a phenomenal program to kids and families in rural Virginia.
On Saturday, I joined these smart and funny women: Liz Magill, Meg Medina, and Deb Stone for a panel discussion about empowering girls through children’s literature. We had a blast and could have kept discussing and sharing with our fantastic audience for the rest of the day, for real.
There’s a lot of cautionary talk among writers, teachers, and librarians about labeling books as “books for girls” and “books for boys.” I agree that great stories are great stories in the same way that I think that folks who try to shame adults out of reading young adult or children’s literature are ignorant of the power, humor, and great storytelling in children’s literature. Honestly, I can’t think of a single good reason why anyone should be deprived of the joy of falling for any book that calls to them.
Still. There IS an important role that children’s literature can play in talking with girls about being girls, about being themselves and loving themselves. (Kelly Jensen over at Stacked has nicely articulated the importance of writing for girls. Start here: Why Talking About Girl Reading Matters.)
So anyway, back to our Farmville panel about girls. Meg and I shared some of our favorite titles from the last four years of running our blog, Girls of Summer. This is a project we adore because it binds us in friendship, binds us to our daughters, and to the community we both love, Richmond, Virginia.
One of my favorite all-time books is Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen by Nancy Wood, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. We featured this picture book on Girls of Summer two summers ago and also posted an interview with Candlewick Publisher, Karen Lotz (my heart), who reminisced about working with the late Nancy Wood (who often spoke to ravens and, therefore, she also is my heart though we never met. I’ll hold the topic of talking with Corvids is for another day). Timothy Ering joined us on Girls of Summer, too, to share about how awesome it was to draw Mrs. God. (He was at Longwood this weekend, too!)
During our empowering girls panel, while talking about Mr. and Mrs. God, the discussion turned to how natural it is to seek out images of God to help us better understand the divine and ourselves. I said that, in fact, the Bible gives us many different images of God – masculine, feminine, and beyond. I selected Mr. and Mrs. God for Girls of Summer simply put because God is the ultimate strong girl.
Exploring God as feminine and masculine and more, that God cannot be defined or confined by gender, that our gender identity is but one part of the divine whole – maybe gives us a starting point for loving ourselves for who we are. Whoever we are.
Anyway, on Saturday, I did say that the Bible shows us God as a mother hen. Lots of shocked looks on that one y’all but here you go, a round-up (yes a list!) of a few of my favorite allegorical images of God with references so you can look it up and put a bird on it. The translation I use here is the New International Version.
- Psalm 23:1 (God as a Shepherd) “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.”
- Matthew 23:37 (Jesus as a Mother Hen) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
- Hosea 13:8 (God as a Mama Bear) “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them—a wild animal will tear them apart.”
- Psalm 131:2: (God as a Mother) But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
- Luke 13:20-21 (God compared to a woman making bread) “Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
- Deuteronomy 32:11 (God as an Eagle) “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”
- Job 38:28-30 (God as Mother and Father) “Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew?From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?”
- John 1:1 (God as The Word)”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
- Lastly, some assurance that, in fact, there are horses in heaven and that they look like Albert. Revelation 19:11 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!”
Resources for More Exploring
Women’s Ordination Conference
Over the Moon: Where the Divine Feminine Comes to Party (Thanks, Liz, for this one!)
Judges, Rebels, Disciples (My interview with Kristin Swenson, author of Bible Babel, on women in the Bible at Faith in Richmond)