A 606 Jólabókaflóðið: O’s wild and dangerous animals books

Squirrels hide nuts for the long winter. Bears pack on fat for hibernation. Here at Sixoh6, we prepare for winter by stocking up on books. To help you find the best books to gift this holiday season, we’re sharing guest posts from some of our favorite parents of babies and toddlers, young children, and teens. We’ve asked our guest bloggers to share books on a theme of their choice. We hope, whether you are young or old and whether you have a lot of books to give this year or just a few, you’ll find something here that delights you and that you’ll enjoy a Jólabókaflóðið (“Yule Book Flood”) this winter.

Today’s guest post comes from O, a first grade boy who loves Wild Kratts, wild animals, and Where the Wild Things Are–and is a big of a wild thing himself. Here are three books he recommends for kids interested in wild, weird, and dangerous animals. He wrote this with his mom. 

actual size

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

“This is a book that shows you how big animal’s body parts really are. A gorilla’s hand is much bigger than a person’s. The goliath frog has is longer than your arm when its legs are stretched out. The page with the crocodile mouth has to unfold because its mouth is so long. The page with the shark teeth on might even scare you.”

Mom’s note: The shark page actually may startle you and might genuinely scare younger children, once they realize that they could be swallowed by a shark in one bite.

Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember by Steve Jenkins

“I learned on Wild Kratts that the platypus has a 6th sense. It can use electricity to find its food with its eyes shut. In this book, I learned that it has a spike on its back foot that can inject you with poison. This book gives you tips to save your life if you are in the wild. Here are some: Don’t smile at monkeys. Don’t stare a spitting cobra in the eye. Don’t pick up a blue ringed octopus. Don’t pet a black bear cub.”

One criticism: “The book uses the word poisonous wrong. Poisonous means that if you eat something, you die. A monarch butterfly is poisonous. If something bites you and puts poison in you, it is venomous. Gila monsters are venomous. We don’t usually eat things that are venomous, but we should never eat things that are poisonous. But some people DO eat pufferfish, and they kill you if the chef messes up.”

Mom’s note: The main text has 3-4 sentences per animal, but the back of the book has more detailed entries on each animal.


Who Would Win? series by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Rob Bolster.

“Did you ever wonder if a tiger could beat a lion in a fight? Is a honey badger tougher than a hyena? Does a lobster have better defenses than a crab? Then this book series is for you! You will learn about rhino v. hippo, alligator v. python, wolverine v. Tasmanian devil, Komodo dragon v. king cobra, and more. Some of these match-ups are only imaginary because, in nature, the animals don’t live near each other, but it is still fun to think about who is stronger, who is faster, who has sharper teeth and sharper claws, who can climb better, and who has better natural defenses.”

Mom’s warning: These books can inspire endless hours of pretend battles between children acting them out.


Want to read more in this series? Check out Erica’s picture books about St. Nicholas and St. Lucia. 

Updates in Hate Scholarship

For those who are interested in the latest scholarship on hate, here is a roundup of what I’ve been reading these last few weeks:

When we commit hate crimes as a group, those crimes are more likely to be violent than if we commit them alone—the key finding from Brendan Lantz and Joonggon Kim’s Lantz, Brendon & Kim, Joonggon. “Hate Crimes Hurt More, but So Do Co-Offenders: Separating the Influence of Co-Offending and Bias on Hate-Motivated Physical Injury.” Criminal Justice and Behavior(2018).

People who are more vulnerable offline—women, immigrants, and those who have previously been victimized online or offline–are more worried about being a victim of hate online, according to Tuukka Savimäki, Markus Kaakinen, Pekka Räsänen, and Atte Oksanenin “Disquieted by Online Hate: Negative Experiences of Finnish Adolescents and Young Adults,”European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research (2018): 1-15.

What drives hate organizing? Threat. What drives hate crimes and other acts of hate? “Opportunistic environments and provide broadened latitude to act,” according to David Cunningham. “Differentiating Hate: Threat and Opportunity as Drivers of Organization vs Action.” Sociological Research Online (2018).

Believing the violence is a legitimate expression of masculinity is a predictor of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, general racism, and sexism. And so, unfortunately, is the centrality of religion in one’s life. That is the key finding of Matthias Lühr, Heinz Streib, and Constantin Kleinin “Inter-Religious Prejudice in Context: Prejudice against Black Persons, Homosexuals and Women, and the Role of Violence Legitimizing Norms of Masculinity,”inXenosophia and Religion, Biographical and Statistical Paths for a Culture of Welcome(Springer 2018).


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Above, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, which identifies hate organizations across the US. 






Rebecca’s Jólabókaflóð Wish List

What are you hoping Santa puts under the tree for you this year? Here are some books on my wish list. It’s long, because I am greedy about books.

Turning Points in Jewish History by Marc Rosenstein. Highly recommended for inclusion in church libraries, especially as it includes discussion questions.

Turning Points in Jewish History

Undomesticated Dissent: Democracy and the Public Virtue of Religious Nonconformity by Curtis W. Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity. I’m especially curious about the last chapter, “Postapocalyptic Dissent.”

Undomesticated Dissent

Resurrecting Wounds: Living in the Afterlife of Trauma by Shelly Rambo, associate professor of theology at Boston.

Resurrecting Wounds

Just Debt: Theology, Ethics, and Neoliberalism by Ilsup Ahn, the Carl I. Lindberg Professor of Philosophy at North Park  University and Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow.

Just Debt

From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage by Darel E. Paul, professor of political science at Williams College.

From Tolerance to Equality

Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Ed by George Yancey.

Compromising Scholarship


Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade by Carly A. Kocurek, which is about why video gaming is so gendered.

Coin-Operated Americans

Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right by Ronald Beiner

Dangerous Minds


Broke and Patriotic: Why Poor Americans Love Their Country by Francesco Duinaa  study based on interviews conducted in bus stations, fast food restaurants, homeless shelters, Laundromats, public libraries, and senior citizen centers, that seeks to understand how poor people understand their country and their place in it.

Cover of Broke and Patriotic by Francesco Duina

Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It by Arthur Lupia

Cover for  Uninformed

Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act by Jesse H. Rhodes

Cover of Ballot Blocked by Jesse H. Rhodes

Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States by Edward B. Foley

Cover for  Ballot Battles

The Prince of this World by Adam Kotsko. Here is the blurb from Stanford University Press’s catalogue: “In this striking reexamination, the devil emerges as a theological symbol who helps justify oppression at the hands of Christian rulers. And he evolves alongside the biblical God, who at first presents himself as the liberator of the oppressed bu ends up a cruel ruler. This is the story, then of how God becomes the devil–a devil who remains with us in our ostensibly secular age.”

Cover of The Prince of This World by Adam Kotsko

The Straight Line: How the Fringe Science of Ex-Gay Therapy Reoriented Sexuality by Tom Waidzunas

The Straight Line



A Political History of the Bible by Paul D. Hanson

A Political History of the Bible in America

Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Still Christian

Just Capitalism: A Christian Ethic of Economic Globalization by Brent Waters
Just Capitalism

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary A. Haugen 


The Other Jesus: Rejecting a Religion of Fear for the God of Love by Greg Garrett

The Other Jesus

No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice by Shannon Craigo-Snell and Christopher J. Coucot

No Innocent Bystanders

Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf

Exclusion & Embrace

I Wonder: Engaging a Child’s Curiosity about the Bible by Elizabeth Caldwell

I Wonder

Never Enough Time: A Practical and Spiritual Guide by Donna Schaper

The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians by Tom Krattenmaker

The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to the Present by Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda

The Founders and the Bible by Carl J. Richard

Herod the Great: Statesman, Visionary, Tyrant by Norman Gelb

Religious Activism in the Global Economy: Promoting, Reforming, or Resisting Neoliberal Globalization? edited by Sabine Dreher and Peter J. Smith

The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Questionedited by Luca Mavelli and Erin Wilson

Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court: The Essential Cases and Documents by Vincent Phillip Munoz

Religion, Politics, and Polarization: How Religiopolitical Conflict is Changing Congress and American Democracy by William V. D’Antonio, Steven A. Tuch, and Josiah R. Baker

Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence by Charles Selengut

A Journey to Waco: Autobiography of a  Branch Davidian by Clive Doyle, with Catherine Wessinger and Matthew D. Wittmer

Quivering Families: The Quiverfull Movement and Evangelical Theology of the Family by Emily Hunter McGowin

A House United: How the Church Can Save the World by Allen Hilton

A House United

Religion and the Politics in the United States by Kenneth D. Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown

Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby by Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden

American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present by Philip Gorski

American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability by Robert Wuthnow

Terrorism in America, edited by Robin Marie Valeri and Kevin Borgeson

Terrorism in America: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

A Primer on Gun Violence

Everyone has seen this, yes? It’s Mad Magazines reinterpretation of Edward Gorey’s  Ghashleycrumb Tinies, from the December 2018 issue.

My friend Andrew shared it with me, and I want to make sure that I share it with you, because it gets the the fear that students, parents, and teachers feel every day–and our frustration with legislators who act helpless when it’s children, not members of Congress, who are the ones dying in school shootings.


The Everydayness of Gun Violence

I’ve been processing my recent time at the American Academy of Religion meeting over the last few days. I keep notes along with my schedule, and I looked at them in the context of the news. A striking pattern emerged.

On the day I attended a session on patriarchy and violence, Dr. Tamara O’Neal and two others were gunned down by a man furious at O’Neal’s telling him that she didn’t want to marry him.

Above, one of the 1.500 women killed by their partners each year in the US. Two million men in the US abuse their partners. One-third of homicides of women are committed by their partners. The US has a greater number of honor killings that does Pakistan. Domestic abuse doesn’t just hurt women–it endangers whole communities.

On the day I attended a session on Christianity and guns, two shooters in downtown Denver–just a short distance from where I was at my conference--killed one person and injured four others.

That session on guns included half a dozen professors who had some personal connection to mass gun violence, including a professor from Pepperdine who recently lost a student in the Thousand Oaks shooting. “How are your students doing?” I asked. “It’s hard to say,” she confessed. “The day after the shooting, we faced these wildfires, so we haven’t had time to mourn.

I was struck by the relentlessness of violence in our world.

And then, the morning of my own panel, on the relationship between religion and extremist violence, I awoke to news that more than 50 scholars of Islam, gathered to share their work, were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Violence like this has come to seem typical, but it’s not, and it normalizing it is dangerous, for both practical reasons (We can’t give up fighting it!) and health ones (We carry this pain even if we think we don’t.)


When the Gospel is Bad News

I had naively assumed that, when the story about the death of American missionary John Allen Chau broke, Christians would use it as an opportunity, especially as Chau’s death was so close to Thanksgiving so close to Thanksgiving, to reflect on our history of killing of native people in our attempts to Christianize them. Instead, I’ve been surprised by the number of people–including people whose thinking I admire–who have defended Chau’s effort to proselytize inhabitants of North Sentinel Island, a protected group off the coast of India.

I’m thinking about this with a lot of love for missionaries–and a lot of skepticism. I personally support missionaries (though non-Mennonite readers probably should know that “missionaries” among my kinda Mennonite means someone doing some kind of social good–education, agriculture, medicine, peace-making.). I also think that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, which means that people should be free to learn about and choose from themselves religions unfamiliar to them. I also think that when they do not consent to this, there is no religious right that the evangelist holds to preach to them. I think that humans are migratory animals and that the right to free movement across the globe is also a fundamental human right. At the same time, I think that when the presence of some bodies threatens the very existence of others, it’s reasonable to protect the vulnerable at the expense of the strong.

Others have covered the historical and biological reasons why Chau’s behavior was so troubling–perhaps even deserving of death. (Short version: The people he was trying to convert likely have no immunity to the germs he brings. He could have–and still could, even in death–wipe out the entire group. That’s genocide.)

John Allen ChauAbove, John Allen Chau, from his Instagram page. 

I want to add only one point, from a faith perspective: the Gospel is to be good news, never bad news, and it should never harm those who are called to it. When Christianity kills–in war, in colonization, on the US-Mexico border, in missionary work–it betrays the model of Jesus.

I don’t mean that Christians will never suffer. I mean that they are never, in their mission work, to cause others to suffer for their sake. It’s fine for Chau to have risked his life; it is the anti-gospel for him to risk the lives of others as he did.


But isn’t it better to die hungry than unsaved? That’s the argument of Christians who dismiss missions work that focuses on alleviating suffering in favor of work that focuses on conversion. (This, by the way, is the philosophy of the Green family of Hobby Lobby. They regularly refuse to support work that is merely “good” (feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, houses the homeless, etc.) in favor of work that is “great”–that seeks a born-again experience as the goal.

No, I don’t think so. Jesus always met the physical needs of others. His miracles, from turning water into wine to raising the dead, were about life on this earth. There were times he grows weary of teaching and preaching, but he never refused to heal. There were a lot of would-be Messiahs roaming around his part of the world at the same time. What distinguishes Jesus is his message of radical care for others.

But isn’t it better for a man to lose the whole world than his soul?

Sure, but the Sentinelese aren’t Jesus’ audience in Matthew 16. Here, Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going to face persecution. They balk. Jesus grows impatient with these men who have witnessed his ministry, seen him prioritizing the care of the vulnerable, watched him fuss with authorities who objected to his boundary crossing in pursuit of care for others:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Jesus isn’t speaking to future converts. He’s speaking to men who have traveled alongside him but are still afraid of the suffering he predicts is coming. Jesus is clear: this is a choice that they–already followers of Jesus–will have to make. It’s not one that they are to force upon other people.

Chau, in both his life and in his death, has made the gospel into bad news for one of the groups of the most vulnerable groups of people on earth. The danger that Chau presented to the group included not just his germs but unwanted international attention. Who knows how many would-be martyrs will be inspired by the death of Chau and try to finish what he started, endangering themselves and the North Sentinel Islanders again and again.


American Cruelty Extends to the Immigrant Unborn

How bad is our hatred of children of color? Immigrant babies? Ones born to Muslim parents?

We tear gas them. We separate them from their parents. We lock them in cages.

And, before they are even born, we stress their mothers so badly that these women are at increased risk of pre-term birth.

That’s the findings of Nancy Krieger, Mary Huynh, Wenhui Li, Pamela D. Waterman, and Gretchen Van Wye, who shared their findings in a paper in Journal of Epidemiology and Community HealthTitled “Severe Sociopolitical Stressors and Preterm Births in New York City: 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2017,” their paper reports that pre-term labor increased with Trump’s rise to power. Turns out that women maybe don’t respond well, in terms of our health or our fetuses’, to the election of a man who brags about sexual assault.

More notably, the highest increase were among women born in Mexico and Central America.

Trump-inspired xenophobia is linked to babies being born too early.

Not exactly pro-life, is it?

Above, a woman and her children, still in diapers, flee from tear gas fired upon them by the United States as they attempt to enter the US. These are the images that terrorists use to paint the US as exactly what we are: a nation that will kill children to protect whiteness. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

But don’t think this is just Trump, please. It’s part of a larger, deeper effort to harass immigrants out of America. Nice Republicans, like soon-to-be Senator Mitt Romney, have also advocated for “self-deportation”–a method of removing immigrants by making their lives so miserable that they choose to return to Honduras or Haiti. This is also the preferred method of white nationalists.

Remember: this is not about border security or American jobs. It’s about building a white nation.

“What they really say is, let them die,
and the children too.”


*Overwrought? Not at all. Separating children from capable parents is an act of genocide. Tear gassing babies is an act of chemical warfare.