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2 Great Spiritual Books – 1 for Kids and 1 for Parents

October 15, 2010

I have two more books I’d like to share with you this week, although not as part of a book blog tour – these are just books I found that I liked. And next week it looks like I will be ready to launch on the new platform, and start a new chakra series.

Peculiar Stories by Mora Fields is one of my favorite books this year. It’s also independently published, which I always like to support. (And you can get it from Amazon or directly from O Street Publishing.)

Told in first person by a nine year-old girl, it’s full of ‘peculiar stories’ in which the girl is encouraged to question reality, social conventions, and her own perceptions of the world, by her beatnik-bohemian-mystic Uncle E. The young protagonist is herself quite a free-spirit, with an engaging voice and sense of humor. She has just enough self-consciousness to be credible as a modern-day tween, and the interactions between her and Uncle E are a blast. Here’s one excerpt, which starts when Uncle E offers our narrator eggplant, which she doesn’t like:

[eating eggplant, after noting she doesn’t like it]…Which Uncle E knows, so I was a little upset that he cooked it when he knew I was coming over.
What don’t you like about it? He wanted to know.
Nothing, except it tastes really horrible and terrible, I said.
No it doesn’t, it tastes delicious.
That’s just your opinion, I told him, real huffy.
And I guess it’s just your opinion, too. Just an idea.

They go on to explore the theme of thoughts, opinions, and ideas, by building a ‘thought-machine’ as a science project.

Here’s another sample of the narrator’s voice:

Some days are just a waste of time, if you know what I mean. Days when you wish you could just start over and forget about the unfortunate ***** things that happened (***** is a word I am not supposed to say.) Uncle E says, ‘Yeah, some days are like that,’ and then he almost always says, ‘This too shall pass,’ which is a quote from the Jesus Bible I think, Or maybe it’s something the Buddha said.

These stories definitely fall in the tradition of Zen koans or non-duality, but I hesitate to say that because I don’t want to limit the appeal of the book. I think anyone with a penchant for philosophy and/or epistemology will enjoy this book. And I also think that these are just plain entertaining stories. But it’s true that these stories are a great way to introduce children to the art of looking at their own minds. As I mentioned, in one story, Uncle E helps the narrator and her friends build a ‘thought-machine’, in which they try to discover where thoughts come from, and what gives them their uniqueness. In other stories, Uncle E gets her questioning perspective, while swinging on a swing or watching a train. Other stories are more about compassion and understanding, such as one in which a woman in the town rehabilitates a dog, or another in which Uncle E tells the narrator to bring her nemesis from school over for hot chocolate, and they become friends.

I should note that my own eldest daughter is only 6, so a bit on the young side for this, but she loved listening to it. Older independent readers will probably enjoy it even more, and I look forward to her reading it over and over as she gets older. And she loved the fact that the narrator calls her mother ‘Jasmin’ (you mean I can call you ‘Lisa’ when I’m 9??)

——————————————–

Flipping from child to parent, I also loved Soul to Soul Parenting, by Annie Burnside, which also has a corresponding website.This book offers ideas and insights for integrating spiritual themes into daily family life.

I think the main audience for this book is parents who consider themselves spiritual, but are not necessarily religiously affiliated. However, because the book is organized around general spiritual themes that are valued in many religions, I feel there is also a lot of material here that any parent could draw from, including religiously affiliated ones (and atheist/agnostic parents as well, for that matter.) The key is selecting approaches that work for you and your family, and the author stresses this continually – that a spiritually conscious family doesn’t look one way or talk one way.

The book is organized around two main sections – Vehicles and Themes. The Vehicles are ideas for places, times and ways to integrate spiritual themes into your daily life as a family. Examples are family discussions, family rituals, vision boards, role play, art projects, or, my personal favorite ‘make-her-day moments’. Some are formal and some are more casual. The Themes are values or topics that you can explore with your family, such as connectedness, authenticity, gratitude, cause/effect/free Will, mindfulness and more.

The vehicles and themes provide a framework for you to consider how best to integrate spirituality into your family life. I lean more towards a very unstructured approach – modeling being front and center – and I also have read a lot of ‘mindful parenting’ type books, so I initially wasn’t sure how much new material I would find here. But it gave me a lot of new ideas, and inspired me to become more conscious in the way I am integrating spirituality into our lives, especially as my children grow older.

One of the things I especially appreciated was the book, movie, and music suggestions, corresponding to each Theme for both children and adults. The appendix also lists all the suggestions in list form, and the children’s spiritual book list is probably one of the most comprehensive I have seen. I also appreciated many of the author’s personal sharings about her spiritual path and family.

A note on language: The spiritual language of this book is very much in the vein of Eckhart Tolle (Power of Now, New Earth), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God), and Esther and Jerry Hicks (law of attraction teachings). Although I have read all these authors and appreciate them, in general my own language tends to be more Buddhist in nature, but I didn’t feel that was a problem here. The author is very flexible in her spiritual terms, and stresses the importance of finding a language that works for you, so if you can read past the terms, into the universal themes, I think it has a lot to offer anyone.

——————

As a side note, I recently reviewed Zen Ghosts by Jon Muth at Bellaonline as well – a lovely children’s picture book that explores the theme of ‘what is real?’ on Halloween night.

Namaste, and on to some new chakra stuff next week…

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2010 4:07 am

    Excellent! Thanks for the unique book reviews. The only philosophical zen book we have for kids is ‘Zen Shorts’, but I would like more. Not only are they great for my kids, they are great for the us reading them :). Will go check out the links. xx

  2. October 17, 2010 4:19 am

    These are great suggestions, Lisa! I just ordered them both! I’m finally returning to the blogosphere now that my back-to-work transition has smoothed out a bit. It’s so comforting to reconnect with your writing again!
    Cheers!
    Alexis

  3. October 19, 2010 5:16 am

    Ruth/Alexis – I think you’d both appreciate either of these books. Thanks for commenting-

  4. October 20, 2010 12:43 pm

    I like the first book. I think it’s something that I’d like my daughter to read when she gets a little bit older. Right now, she’s more into that spongesmog swearpants guy. I’m really bothered by the stuff that’s coming out on television nowadays. It’s good that there are people out there who make books like these which enables ordinary people to access this kind of information. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

  5. October 20, 2010 5:29 pm

    “spongesmog swearpants” – knowing you, I assume that was on purpose, in any case it DID make me laugh. I can’t stand SpongeBob Sqaurepants myself. I know what you mean too – often, even stuff that claims to be a cut above or educational has so many violent undertones. It’s like the action-adventure model used in so many violent adult movies is brought down to the kid level as plot material over and over – bad guy/good guy, chasing, hitting, etc. But there is some good stuff out there, and this book is one of them!

  6. October 21, 2010 7:08 am

    oh that first one sounds great. i want to read it! i’ll add this to my ‘older children’ amazon wishlist. thanks.

  7. October 25, 2010 8:22 pm

    Yay! More book reviews! 🙂

    Yesterday, in our monthly parenting “friendship group” (based in our local insight meditation community), our topic was “sharing our practice with children.” It was a bit of a twist in perspective for us, since our focus is often on a dharma topic and then how that topic is alive in our lives and in our relationships to our children.

    I am much more comfortable with modeling and firmly believe in it (I’m an unschooler after all, too!! :-)… at the same time, I often long for a spiritual community that supports our entire family or for more support from others or simply from the structure of our lives. I was shocked to realize last year that I would actually enjoy having a church-like experience for me and my children. Somewhere where we were known as a family, where they were supported, where I could learn and connect…

    But, back to our meeting, everyone was so grateful and hungry to simply SEE into each other’s lives… what is it like for you? your kids? your family? where do you practice? when? do your kids practice? It reminded me of attending a newborn group — everyone was so hungry because we hadn’t had these things modeled for us directly.

    Books help, and I am so grateful for them. And knowing others in real life REALLY helps. 🙂

  8. October 26, 2010 5:23 am

    Mon – you will love Uncle E. He’s your twin:-)

    Stacy – yes, I totally get what you said about the church thing! I had similar thoughts last year and even contemplated looking into the Unitarian church here for that reason. Because I truly enjoyed that experience growing up too, I don’t personally look back on church as a negative experience at all. But I was kind of surprised to find myself wistful for it for my family. I do think it was more of a reflection of this desire to share on that level, and that is why I liked this book. It helped me think of more ways to do that. So I’m not surprised about what happened in your meditation group – I would have liked to attend!! I do still think modelling is front and center for me, so there is a sense of them choosing what they want to try. But I can see the value of creating more circumstances for discussion and even ritual to occur too…

  9. October 27, 2010 12:55 am

    I always appreciate your reviews, Lisa, esp. now that I am a grandmother of almost 5! Can you believe it? The first one especially sounds very intriguing. I wonder if you have ever reviewed the Muth books (Zen….)

    I also wanted to say that I have been re-running some older posts at my blog of late- so busy with Buddha Chick™ that this seems necessary. So I just put up the one on interspirituality that I ran in 2008 which references your fab article on the Meditation in the World Religions. Thought you might want to know. Maybe some new Chicks will fly over….Hugs!

  10. October 27, 2010 5:23 pm

    Congrats on the ‘almost’! Thanks for the link – maybe that’s what I should do (rerun soe older posts) as I have just not been able to get new stuff up very often this Fall. As for the Jon Muth books, yes! – I recently reviewed Zen Ghosts, great for Halloween. XOXO Lisa

  11. October 28, 2010 10:33 pm

    I have to check out that website! Thanks!

  12. November 7, 2010 9:26 pm

    We’ve been looking for some help to determine how best to develop our child’s spiritual awareness and knowledge, since we are not members of an organized religion. We will definitely buy Soul to Soul Parenting. Thank you very much for introducing us to this book. Very helpful!

  13. June 21, 2011 4:58 am

    Wonderful! Thank you for these recommendations.

    I’ve just come across your blog – being as I am only 14 weeks pregnant. Nevertheless I’ve been on the look out for parenting books which are focused on the spiritual aspects of parenting – parenting as one of the many paths in spiritual evolution.

    I am eager to buy both books although it may be this big kid who reads ‘Peculiar Stories’ for quite a few years before my child is old enough to share it! 🙂

  14. July 13, 2011 9:32 pm

    Congrats on your pregnancy! I am going to start writing here again soon, and probably do a series on the energetics of pregnancy and motherhood, so I hope you return:-)

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