In Defense of the “Fairy-Tale Ark”

13669293_1199874130042941_722486871423071315_oWhen you’re three years old, a boat is a boat is a boat.

“Big” means a double-scoop ice cream cone and the deep end of the pool.

So why can’t Noah’s ark be both cute and sweet and the seven-story wonder at the Ark Encounter that opened July 7 in Kentucky?

Fairy-Tale Ark

The Ark Encounter is only an hour from my home, and I’m eager to visit. Just to see the size of the ark could be amazing enough, but to walk through the inside too—with multiple levels and lifelike models of animals and the members of Noah’s family—I know I will be awed, humbled, amazed!

I wonder, though: Am I going to find any of my books in the Ark Encounter’s Fairy-Tale Ark display? It’s a bit of a “hall of shame” because the illustrations in the books on display don’t give children a realistic view of the ark.

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Two of my books even have a “bathtub ark,” another term for fairy-tale ark, on the cover.

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Genesis Does Matter

Let me say quickly that I respect and admire Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. I’m thankful for all their work to share the gospel and its roots in the first book of the Bible. I believe the creation accounts in Genesis are true. I believe the earth is thousands of years old (not billions or even millions), and that good science supports that claim.

What we believe about Genesis does matter.

I’m a mom and a grandmother, though, and I’ve worked as an editor and now an author. I’ve learned that for children under seven or so, a big boxy ark with one window and no animals doesn’t make the most interesting art.

And I’d much rather give children something interesting to look at so they can hear the truths of God’s Word.

I’ve also learned that a colorful Noah’s ark on a cover helps sell books. And I’m OK with that. I want my books to find their way to as many children as possible, because I want them to hear God’s Word.

Ages and Stages

Ken Ham doesn’t object to the style of the artwork in fairy-tale ark books. It’s the lack of correct visual details he objects to. And I believe he IS right that fairy-tale or bathtub ark illustrations aren’t appropriate at every age.

Children—and adults—need to know what the ark really looked like. We all need to understand that Noah’s ark really could float and withstand a global flood, that all the animals needed to repopulate the early really could fit inside.

We need to know these things because we need to understand and believe God’s Word is true.

But I don’t mind having sweet illustrations of Noah’s ark in and on my books if it fits the book and the children I’m writing for.

Let Children Grow with Noah’s Story

For young children, the account of Noah’s ark is about God’s care and provision for Noah, his family, and the animals—and for them. It’s about Noah thanking God when the ark lands and the earth is dry and everyone can come out of the boat, and how we thank God for taking care of us too.

When children are a little older, Noah’s story can focus on Noah’s faith and obedience too. And when they are a little older still, the need for the ark will help them begin to understand God’s view of sin. Eventually they can see that the ark prefigures salvation and the gospel.

The illustrations they see as they grow should expand and grow with them. Here’s one that does, from The Story for Children.

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Facts vs. Fairy-Tale

I like things factual, and I admit that when I first saw the sketch for the cover of Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, I felt torn. I knew the illustration would have instant appeal—all those adorable sleepy animals under a starry sky! But I wondered if the ark couldn’t be a bit more realistic?

I decided not to worry, and I’m glad. Children can’t resist picking up the book when they see it. And the mood of the illustration perfectly fits the bedtime theme of the book—Bible stories focused on God’s love, true words to dream on.

Maybe part of the problem of the fairy-tale ark, if there is one, is that most Bible storybooks are written for children under 8 or so. Families often give them up in exchange for full-text Bibles for their kids, with fewer illustrations. So children could be left with their earliest impressions of the ark.

But children give up childish impressions of all kinds as they learn and grow. And with just a little attention to the Word, the true size and shape of the ark can become clear.

All the more reason to be thankful for organizations like Ken Ham’s that create resources to help us know the significance of the book of Genesis and teach it to our children.

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– Diane

At ICRS—Unite 2016!

13522020_814826505317774_7092914828345189580_nMy experiences at last month’s International Christian Retail Show, now named Unite, continued the fun and boost of encouragement that came two days earlier at ALA Annual.

Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Center hosted the show this year—a first. Having the event so close to my home was a first too.

13528805_813954242071667_8743404920925509292_nOn Sunday night, I kicked off the show at a dinner hosted Books & Such Literary Management. It was fun and relaxing to spend time with her and others from the agency.
13590351_1157630317632604_6681214474075569591_nIMG_6898I’m always grateful for Janet’s invaluable advice and career direction!

The next two days were for meetings …

walking the exhibit floor to see what’s new …

doing a few media interviews …

running into old friends …

and book signings—I love placing my books in someone’s hands!

13517680_10153882704389472_3223598634346222333_oI AM signing 113532851_814826515317773_2216614222002557888_nOh—and there was this: my first-ever local publicity (thanks, Buoyancy Public Relations!)

Without agents, publishers, distributors, retailers, media, and industry professionals who put on shows like Unite, I couldn’t do what I do—I couldn’t make His wonders known to the next generation with books based on His word.

I’m grateful, encouraged, and energized.

I’ve got more books to write, more young readers to reach!

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I AM signing with Ginny McCabe   IMG_20160627_142641589_HDR   13567324_814826475317777_261811802356179326_n

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– Diane

At ALA Annual!

I had five wonderful people-and-book days back to back June 23-28.

First I flew to Orlando for my first-ever American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition. At the HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson booth I signed I AM and Say & Pray Bible.

IMG_20160625_095547542I always love putting my books into someone’s hands. Extra special were the smiles and thank-yous from librarians so pleased to find Christian children’s books at the ALA!

And I discovered you can sign books wearing a dress and flip-flops when the cute shoes you planned to wear gave you blisters the night before.

My writing friend Glenys Nellist was there too, at the HarperCollins/Zonderkidz booth. She signed her newest books on Friday night, and stopped by to say hello on Saturday morning before flying home.

13533354_1225214270824072_5391078625361375038_n13494766_1225214424157390_1351434590935090386_nI walked the floor on Saturday afternoon and agreed to have my picture (??) drawn. What do you think?!

IMG_20160706_201547The Lord has people everywhere. This young woman, a sister in Christ, is a librarian at the Anaheim (California) Public Library, where I got my very first library card when I was 6!

IMG_20160624_182245806_HDRMaking God’s wonders known to the next generation–that’s what it’s all about!

IMG_20160625_095327599IMG_20160625_095726004Clz7BUOUkAAuZLi.jpg largeNext post: At Unite 2016 ICRS in Cincinnati!

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– Diane

Our Children Need God’s Word Now More Than Ever

1384070_760658250734600_2422402175588327585_nDo you wonder what to say to your children or grandchildren about recent events in our country and our world? Don’t miss out on the best guidebook you’ll ever find.

Sometimes people think that knowing the Bible well means loving the Bible more than God.

Sometimes they charge that caring about what the Bible says means we value the knowing more than we want to do what we know.

Both possibilities exist, but neither is a reason to avoid the Bible. And we miss out on too much if we do.

Tim Stafford (coauthor with Dave Dravecky of Comeback) wrote That’s Not What I Meant! about the power of words to heal and transform. The final chapter looks at words as God’s strategy of choice for redeeming the family he has made. Here’s an excerpt:

Every time God wants the attention of the human race, he talks. Often they don’t listen. Sometimes a few do. Yet he sticks to words. His followers revere a book that records his words. They understand them to be words that give life.

That is the power of words. It is not just words, of course, for God ultimately gave himself. Transformation began, however, with God speaking.

So it will be with us. To transform our own hearts and the hearts of others, we must follow God’s strategy. We must hear the words of God himself speaking to us, and we must speak them to others.

We miss out when we don’t know what God has said to us in his Word . . .

when we can’t encourage those we love or point them to a better path because we don’t know what God would have us say or do . . .

when we can’t hear what He wants to say to us today or this week because we haven’t made time to listen.

Sometimes I struggle to read the Word regularly. Sometimes I fail.

But then I pick up my Bible again, because I miss hearing from my Father . . .

because I want to know and do His will . . .

because there are others I want to know Him too . . .

because I want to prepare the next generation to be faithful.

Won’t you join me? Don’t miss out.

This post first appeared in June 2015 on ChristianChildrensAuthors.com.

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– Diane

For Grandmothers on Mother’s Day—A New Book That’s the Perfect Gift

With my grandchildren in two states, 750 miles apart, I don’t get to enjoy them together more than once or twice a year. But whenever they are together—even if I’m not present—the order of the day is “Get a picture of all four boys!”

Well, at first there were only three.

TheBoysResizedThen there were four. Here they are last summer, all recovering from a stomach bug at the beach.

TheBoys (2)ResizedAnd recently the cousins wowed Savannah—they were even color coordinated!

4 boysResizedYes, I love being a grandmother! [UPDATE 5/6: This fall there will be FIVE grandboys!!! Quite an adventure for this mom of two girls!]

Each Sunday afternoon I make certain I’ve got enticing lunch choices and “special treats” for the Cincinnati grandboy, who comes here on Mondays. And in between trips to Savannah, I stash surprises to mail the other three.

We’ve got a stockpile of toys and books in several places around the house, and a little chest of drawers and a toddler bed in the back room.

And a trampoline in the backyard.

And a sandbox. And a water table.

And a climbing/sliding playset with a swing.

And yesterday we picked up a second-hand train table.

I could go on.

But here’s the thing: the best part of being a grandmother is the opportunity to leave a legacy. A faith legacy. An example of hope and trust in Jesus, set among a thousand memories of unconditional love.

It’s the parents’ responsibility and privilege to nurture faith in their children first, of course. But how wonderful of God to allow grandparents to have our children’s backs, to support and pray and love our children’s children! It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow and we help to grow faith in our grandchildren.

That’s why Mary Manz Simon’s new book appealed to me as soon as I saw it.

FaithFootprintsFaith Footprints with My Grandchild: 52 Devotions, Activities, and Reflections would make a great Mother’s Day gift for any grandmother who wants to leave a faith legacy. It’s a year of short weekly messages based on Scripture and Mary’s own grandmothering experiences, faith-building activities to do with your grandchild (even faraway ones), and prayers.

There’s also generous space for journaling to respond to prompts like “When I think about my grandchild’s future, I . . .”  and “Knowing that my grandchild is a gift from God to our family means . . . .”

Grandmothering can be challenging at times. Mary acknowledges rocky family relationships, resistant grandkids, and every grandmother’s own personal imperfections, and she encourages us all to persevere with faith and grace.

A grandchild is a gift from God, and the time we give a grandchild is a gift we give ourselves, Mary says. God gives us another opportunity to view life through the eyes of a child, and each day becomes new again. We move further along our own faith journey with Jesus as we seek to leave a legacy of faith for our grandchildren.

You can see a sample from Faith Footprints with My Grandchild here.

MaryDr. Mary Manz Simon is a speaker, parenting specialist, educator, and an award-winning author with more than three million books sold. Mary and her husband have been married more than forty years and have three adult children and five grandsons. Visit her at www.marymanzsimon.com.

 

 

 

– Diane

An Interview with Author Carol McAdams Moore

CarolCarol McAdams Moore loves Jesus, books, and kids—and connecting kids to Jesus through the books she writes.

Her innovative preteen devotional for boys, Dare U to Open This Book, won the 2015 Selah Award for Children’s Literature. There’s an equally engaging girls’ devotional too, titled Just Sayin’.

DareU   Sayin

Carol’s a wife, mom, and soon-to-be grandma! She’s a teacher and a thinker.

I’m happy to have this talented author here today!

Carol, how long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
In the Christian and education markets for about 12 years, but I started writing for my students long before that. Originally, I was a teacher of the hearing impaired. At that time, it was difficult to find books and articles that were a good match for my elementary students’ interests and their reading level. The college program I attended at Illinois State University had taught me to rewrite things already in print, and I got lots of on-the-job training in writing and rewriting.

What impact has teaching had on your writing?
I am surrounded by preteen readers all day. I see the kinds of books they read and the books they toss back on the shelf. I also have the awesome opportunity to see the things that are huge to kids —what things excite them, worry them, and challenge them.

Why did you decide to write about your faith?
My faith has always been huge in my life. In fact, I was called to exercise my faith as a college freshman. It is a long story, but I wanted with all my heart to teach children with hearing impairments. I almost missed that opportunity because of some well-intended advice. I had to wait two years to see if I would be accepted into the program I wanted. THAT was a time of much prayer, soul-searching, and waiting faith.

Now I think that God actually used the well-intended advice to test my heart for sincerity in serving Him and for me to grow in my faith. I want young readers to grow in their faith, too. I pray that my writing will influence them to do that.

Where did you get the idea for your devotional books?
One day my students were returning from a Scholastic Book Fair. I noticed that they all had a similar style of book, something that allowed them to write or doodle their responses to questions. They were so engaged with the books, we actually cancelled reading class that day so they could spend more time reading for fun.

I wondered why we didn’t have devotional books that engaged preteens in the same way and decided I wanted to write devotionals in the same format. Zonderkidz agreed with me, and in the fall of 2014, the books came out.

What do you most enjoy about writing for young people?
I love to see young readers explore ideas for themselves through reading. When kids are 10 to 12, they start to be challenged by their peers to follow the group instead of what they have been taught at home and at church. I love writing things that early readers, preteens, or teens can read on their own and be encouraged to grow in their faith and stand strong when they are challenged.

What do you hope to be doing in five years?
I hope to write more books for children and teens. Besides devotionals, I’d like to try my hand at writing fiction. In fact, I have some titles in both those genres that are in the works right now.

That’s fabulous! When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love to spend time with my family. We have a very shy cat named Luna and a happy, energetic dog named Bear. I also love growing mammoth sunflowers that peek over our fence to tell the neighbors hi.

Sounds wonderful. I’d love to pay a visit and see those sunflowers!

Find my 5-star review of Carol’s devotionals here.
Learn more about Carol! Follow her blog or connect on
– Diane

Almost Spring! 5 New Kids’ Books for Learning About Easter

EasterCollageOn my annual search for age-appropriate Easter books for young children, I found these five new and new-to-me books that I can highly recommend.

Which ones will you add to your home library?

My First Easter, from Worthy Kids/Ideals. Signs of spring for the littlest ones in clear, simple photos include colorful eggs, flowers, and baby animals plus church, prayer, palm branch, Bible, sunrise, and cross. A hardcover book with board pages and rounded corners.

One Spring Lamb, written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy. Count the gifts of spring from 1 to 10 in this rhyming board book that concludes “On Easter it’s a joy to know that Jesus lives and loves me so.”

My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter, by Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Angelika Scudamore. The colors in a child’s Easter basket remind us of the true story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, very simply told. Board pages and glitter!

The Story of Easter Activity Book, from Worthy Kids/Ideals. With stickers, mazes, dot-to-dot, coloring and more, this bright activity book introduces ages 3 to 6 to the biblical story of Easter.

The Legend of the Easter Robin, by Dandi Daley Mackall, with new illustrations by Richard Cowdrey. This picture book offers an Easter legend, some serious but not graphic images of the crucifixion, a grandmother with calm confidence in the Creator, and a little girl discovering faith and trust.

– Diane

Free Printable Charts and Matching Game for I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God

Printable5A quick trip to visit the out-of-town grandboys = time to use the I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God free printables!

The coloring pages occupied Asher while Solomon and I organized the I AM matching game.

ColoringSol cut out the squares with the meanings of all forty names in the book.

Printable1Then he chose a square, read the meaning, and hunted for the name matching that description on the printable charts. I explained that one chart is Old Testament names and one is New Testament.

It took some thought …

Printable3When we made a match, we put the cutout square on top of the name on the chart.

Printable4We talked about why I AM is a name for God and for Jesus, looked up some of the stories in the book for clues, learned some things, and had fun! We only got halfway through the names before supper, so we’ll have to get in another session before it’s time for G and Bopba to return home!

Access your free printables on the Resources page!

– Diane

A Wonderful Easter Book for Little Ones!

My Easter BasketI recently reviewed this updated version of a favorite Easter book for young children, My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter, by Dr. Mary Manz Simon.

When I worked for Standard Publishing, it was a joy to work with Mary to bring this book to families. Now the book is published by B&H Kids, and I couldn’t be happier to see it again!

You can find my review here on the Christian Children’s Authors website.

The colors in this basket
are my own special way
for me to tell the story
of that first Easter Day.

– Diane

An Interview with Author Allia Zobel Nolan

allia best photo 1Allia Zobel Nolan is an internationally published author of 200 children’s and adult trade titles. Her books reflect her two main passions, God and cats.

Allia is one of my favorite people! Her books include such varied titles as Whatever Is Lovely; Thank You, God, from Kids Around the World; Hugs & Kisses, God, from Kids Around the World; The Beauty of Believing; Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell-All Book; The Ten Commandments for Little Ones; Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much; The Joy of Being Fifty (illustrated by Roz Chast), and The Worrywart’s Prayer Book.

Allia’s newest children’s book is Angels in the Bible Storybook.

Allia lives in Connecticut with her husband, Desmond Finbarr Nolan, and their feline children, Sineady Cat, the Fraidy Cat, and Nolan Nolan.

How long have you been writing for children, Allia, and how did you get started?
God, as He is so often wont to do, made lemonade out of lemons, which is how I got started writing for children. I was a journalist and an author of humorous cat books, when out of the blue, my retina detached.

I almost went blind. That’s the lemon part. Though God had a purpose for my going through this, it was a pretty scary time for me. Anyway, while I was recuperating, I went through a lot of my savings. So when I could see again, I answered an ad for an editor’s position at Reader’s Digest Children’s Books. I had been an editor for several kids’ magazines/newsletters. But I had never written a children’s book. Still, I applied, and got the job. It was only supposed to be until I got back on my feet. However, again, God had other ideas.

And that’s the lemonade part: I was so fascinated by the whole process of putting a children’s book together—and especially a Bible book for kids—that I got hooked. I loved the whole process—coming up with the idea, researching, writing the book, working with Scripture, collaborating with the designers on illustrations, watching the final art come in—it was the most marvelous thing I had ever experienced.

That when I realized this was what I was meant to do. This was what my whole life was leading up to.  That was about 15-plus years ago. Though I left Reader’s Digest to be on my own again, I never stopped creating children’s books and loving it … though I do vacillate from the divine to the feline and write cat books as well.

Can you tell us something about your writing process?
I really don’t have a “process” per se. I have a deadline and I write what I need to. I’m not one to spend a lot of time on outlines, though.  I do have one writing tool I use when I’m blocked, which my husband suggested. And it works.

If I’m writing a long book and I get stuck, I don’t push it.  Instead of staring at the computer, or going around in circles, I write the chapter title on top of the page, then write whatever comes into my head, nonstop, free flow, in no special order, complete with typos and format mistakes.  Then I print out these “notes,” put them in a folder, and move on to the next chapter. Writing nonstop saves me from wasting time, and the freedom to put down anything and everything unblocks me. Some of what I’ve written eventually makes it into the chapter, and some doesn’t. But at least I have something to show for my day.

Why did you decide to write about your faith?
I think my decision was already made for me. I was led.

What gives you joy about writing?
I love to make people laugh, or failing that, at least make them smile. I love to leave them with a sense of hope and enthusiasm about God and the world. I love to remind them—and especially young children—that they are loved no matter what. And then of course, if I reach someone with my writing, I can’t ask for more.

One Amazon reader posted that his son was in the ICU and that he had a 10 percent chance of making it. His wife got a copy of my book I Love You the World, and the father wrote that he read the book to his boy every day. He ended his review with “I really believe that part of Jackson living came from us reading this book to him on a daily basis. I am grateful for this book, eternally grateful.”  Now that gives me joy!

Did you read a lot as a child? What were your favorite books?
I read everything and anything. My mother used to tell me to get my head out of a book and go get a job. I was twenty-three at the time. Actually, I read lots of poetry and fairy tales and novels; my father read us the Bible on Sundays. I loved Eloise at the Plaza and Matilda. My favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

You have a special love for cats … and dogs too. Tell us about your animal family members.
Where to begin? Well, I absolutely love cats and I’ve written nine humor books about them. Recently, though, I lost two of my cats within six months of each other. As you might imagine, I was devastated. But the most amazing thing happened. I went to a rescue I don’t normally go to because I saw a cat on its website. The cat in question was not a good fit for my family, as I still have an older, timid cat. On my way out, I spied a tiny black kitten peeking out of his cage. (I wanted a black cat.)  I asked the adoption lady about him. “Oh,” she said, “you mean Nolan?”   Talk about a gift from God. I didn’t want a kitten (Nolan was five months at the time).  But how could I not adopt a cat who already had our name.  We call him Nolan Nolan, and he’s a dream!

Your newest children’s book, Angels in the Bible Storybook, includes fun facts about angels. What fascinated or amazed you most as you were researching and writing this book?
Two things threw me for a loop: the misinformation out there about angels (for instance, some people turn into angels when they die…NOT!) and the dearth of books focusing on the role God gave the angels in his overall plans. That’s why I was thrilled when we decided to include real facts, as well as introduce some not-as-well-known stories—stories that are compelling and exciting but don’t receive as much attention as favorites like Noah and Moses. I was also intrigued to read some scholars feel that in the stories that mention the Angel of the Lord, this is really the preincarnate Jesus, and not just a “regular” angel!

Do you have new projects underway?
Right now, I am working on excavating my office, which is a “creative” mess.  Sometimes, when I’m working on a big book, I let things slide. So I have to take some time to file and get things in order.

I am also working on a book about cats and heaven, a gift book, some children’s novelty book ideas, and a chapter book with a fat cat as its main character.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I read a lot, and then I read some more, and watch Downton Abbey and anything on PBS TV.  I teach chair aerobics on a volunteer basis to seniors at a convalescent home (two are 102 years young), I sing in the church choir, I am studying Spanish, and I keep in touch with friends I’ve had for ages … and I do mean ages. I also make earrings for fun. I am blessed, for sure.

Thanks, Allia! I hope you will keep writing for a very long time!

My 5-star review of Allia’s new Angels in the Bible Storybook is here.
To connect with Allia or learn more, visit

Website: www.alliawrites.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alliazobelnolan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Allia-Zobel-Nolans-Books-n-Things
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kittyliterate

– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!