Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Sign Painter's Dream - A Modern Tale of Giving

Before I was the children's ministry director at our church, I worked in the children's room at our public library. I discovered some great books there. I often developed programs around the books to engage the children in the story. I wrote this post several years ago for a homeschool blog, and thought I would share it here.

The Story
The Sign Painter's Dream, by Roger Roth, is a little known gem in the world of children's books. The story is heartwarming and the illustrations capture the characters well. In my opinion, the picture of the sign is worth the price of the book. You might have to pay a great price to purchase it these days too, because it is out of print. We first discovered it at our local library. There are used copies available though at a fairly reasonable price. I found my copy at a library's used book sale.

Here's the story line: Clarence is a crabby, old sign painter who loves history, especially Revolutionary War history. One day a woman walks into this shop and asks him to make a sign...for free.

"FREE?" he boomed. "Why should I do it for free? Do I look like Santa Claus?"

The apple lady seemed surprised. "But I give away my beautiful apples for free, don't I?..."

That night Clarence has a dream and General George Washington himself enters the shop. He orders a sign saying, "SEND SHOES TO VALLEY FORGE!" And of course, he wants it for free. He sets Clarence straight using some of the same words the old apple lady had used. Clarence wakes up and has a change of heart.

Working through the night, Clarence arrives on the woman's property the next morning and erects the new sign - for FREE of course. And here it is:

It is the classic change of heart story, like Ebenezer Scrooge. People stopped calling him crabby and he got lots of new orders. And once in awhile he even makes a sign for fun - and for free.

The lessons to be learned from the story:

  • It is more blessed to give than receive. (God blessed Clarence's business after he made the sign for free. More importantly, Clarence is blessed by being changed as a result of his giving.)
  • God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Clarence became a cheerful giver. Was the apple lady a cheerful giver? Do you think her attitude helped to change Clarence?
  • How do you think making the sign for free helped to change Clarence? How did that act of kindness help to become less crabby?
  • Doing nice things for others can help us to become nicer people. Ephesians 4:32

Why not have a colonial picnic in celebration of this book? You can do your own research and find other colonial foods, but here is a suggested menu for a colonial picnic:
Journey Cakes (also called johnny cakes)
Maple syrup (for the journey cakes)
Baked Beans (a favorite in Boston, along with brown bread)
Apple Cider
Apple Pie (or apple tansy if you are real daring)

Make the journey cakes (also called johnny cakes) at home. You will have to eat them cold unless you can devise a way to keep them warm. Same with the beans.

Pack it all up and head for the park. You might even live within driving distance of a park with colonial ties. Google it to check.

So we have our colonial food (sort of), our book, and now we need some games from that time period.
  1. Graces was another popular game. You can make your own set using dowels and embroidery hoops. If you can sharpen one end of the dowels, you will be able to fling the hoops better. Tie some ribbons onto the hoops. To throw the hoop, with one rod in each hand, place the hoop over both rods, then let the hoop slide slightly down the rod and cross them in an X shape. The hoop should be on the lower triangle of the X shape. Then pull the rods apart quickly. The hoop should slide up and shoot away from the player in the direction he aimed for. The other player tries to catch the hoop using one or both rods. First player to catch hoop ten times is the winner. Hoops are generally 9 inches and rods 15-24 inches. 
  2. Hop Scotch - which was known as Scotch-Hopping was popular. Take some giant sidewalk chalk in case you can find a place to draw a board.
  3. Jump Rope - this site has a rope and book with colonial day rhymes and games.
  4. Marbles - If you want to really be authentic, you can purchase clay marbles like children would have used in early America.
  5. 9 pin - outdoor bowling. Take 9 bowling pins and a ball and play it on the grass.

Dressed up for my What's Cooking At the Library? program.


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