Love Letters From God: Bible Stories – A Review

91QjaJsWoXLLove Letters from God: Bible Stories by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sophie Allsopp, is a collection of short Bible stories for children published by Zonderkidz. Each of the 18 stories has a companion ‘love’ letter to the reader written by “God” hidden under a flap with a charming ‘stamp’ as if it had just been mailed. There is a blank spot to fill in the name of the child for each letter, making this a highly personalized book. There is also one last letter at the end of the book asking the reader to join Jesus’s team and a blank letter for the reader to pen a response to Jesus.

Of the 18 stories, some are classics, like the Creation, Noah, Jonah and the Whale, and the birth of Christ. Then the less ‘popular’ stories such as Samuel, David’s Anointing, the lost sheep, and Zacchaeus. The pages are filled with full page illustrations, that are unique to each story, some having a more photograph feel set in with the drawings. The overall feel of the book is very elegant with heavy pages and a glossy and mat dust jacket. The choice of a turquoise as the main color makes it incredibly soothing in its own way. It’s a very well done book.

I found this book, though, hard to review. I found the premise of the book was creative with the personalized letters to the reader, yet I found each story to be ‘dumbed down’ to the point of being cutesy instead of containing enough depth to really teach anything. Most Bible stories are not what I would call ‘happy’, but Ms. Nellist has made every story exuberant in some way. The story of Noah, while one of my favorite stories, is all about God destroying all but a few people. It’s not about just Noah’s family and the animals in the ark. Nor is it exactly exciting for the lions to be soooooo happy because they are going to get to eat Daniel, in the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. I just think there should have been better content in regards to the stories instead of making them so ‘happy’. ( I feel like I should cue Pharrell Williams and his song “Happy”)

That being said, I think many Christian families will enjoy this book. I myself was raised with a more traditional backing where we read the Bible instead of learning the stories from other books. I think that there are methods to Bible stories that make it more simple for a child to understand without making it ‘fun’. For instance, one of the best methods I remember being taught the stories was with large flashcard pictures, that were works of art in themselves, while the story was read. The content wasn’t taken out, but the pictures helped coalesce the whole story. I found this book to be just cute and I wonder if once the stories have been read over it will become old. Also I would say with what I have seen of most children reading books, don’t let your 4-8 year old alone with this. The letters will get torn because there is great care needed in reading this book.

I’d would probably give this book at the most 3 out of 5 stars. And I can honestly say I hate to write more negative reviews.

I was provided this book free for my honest opinion and review from Harper Collins Christian publishing.

Signing off

Kate

Goodnight Ark – A Review

51LYm8I1YXLGoodnight, Ark  By Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman must be one of the best modern picture books I have read in quite a while. Laura Sassi tells the tale of Noah and the ark in a sing song rhyme that is incredibly pleasing and something that will charm a child.  The ark is filling up with animals and it’s time for bed…. but when the loud storm scares the animals, they all start ending up in Noah’s bed. Boars, goats, elephants, tigers and even skunks! How will Noah get the animals to calm down and sleep? Maybe a softly crooned song will do the trick!

I cannot express how much I enjoyed this picture book.  I am always on the lookout for a really charming and well written picture book, and this one fits the bill.  Regardless of whether or not it has a ‘Christian’ theme with Noah being the main character, this book is marvelous and any child would enjoy the wonderful rhyming rhythm Laura Sassi has used. Rhyme in any story is incredibly difficult (I know as I write picture books). Making it interesting enough for children is sometimes even harder. Laura Sassi has captured the lovable qualities of animals in this story and the style make you want to read the book over and over. (personally I have always been a fan of the story of Noah and the Ark.)

However, no picture book would be complete without the illustrator. I cannot expound enough about how much I love Jane Chapman‘s illustrations. I was first introduced to her illustrating with Karma Wilson‘s ‘Bear series books’, which I also own and adore. Jane Chapman’s art is incredible to look at with all the intricacies within the illustrations.  The fuzziness of the tiger’s hair, the little things that make you feel like you are on the ark. Food for the animals and even an umbrella for Noah.  I admire her illustrating so much that it was specifically for that reason I chose this book to review. I have said since I found her work, I want her to illustrate one of my picture books.  With Laura’s marvelous rhyme (akin to Karma Wilson’s) and Jane’s endearing illustrations, this is a wonderful picture book.

I would highly recommend this book for any child and I will enjoy reading this book over and over. Five stars and I could continue gushing, but I say, just get the book!

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Harper Collins Christian Publishing for my honest review.

Signing off

Kate

Agent Query Cover Letters

So, I have a question for anyone who has considered submitting to a literary agency or has submitted.  Have you ever written a cover letter instead of a query letter?

I’m working on one for the Sheldon Fogelman Agency, and I’m just not quite sure about it. I was wondering if anyone has some advice about typing one of these up.  I’ve got the synopsis down pretty good, I hope (gutting some of my query letter) but it’s mostly the bio I’m struggling with. I mean, I have not published a thing, anywhere! How does this sound to everyone?

I wrote Lulu Buys a Hat after my own experiences hunting for a good hat that wasn’t too expensive and looked just right. It took several shops, and a best friend in tow, to find the best hat in an area where hats are not a common thing.  When I am not writing picture books, I write weekly on my own WordPress blog, entitled Kate’s Bookshelf.  I was referred to your agency via the Writing and Illustrating blog, run by Kathy Temean.

Jazzy enough?   Yep, I am relying on you readers for some help. You’ve been great in the past and I am SOOOOOOOO nervous I’m going to do the wrong thing. I’ve only queried two agencies in the past.  So, any help you want to share would be great.

Alright bloggers. Have a marvelous Wednesday evening! I’m off to pick some jostaberries. Yes, that is a real thing. Ah, farm life. I wish it was more of a writing life (by which I mean published author writing life)

Signing off

Kate

Printed Books Are Fun

Aren’t those lovely? What are they, you ask? Well, I was feeling very adventurous so I printed up my children’s story ‘Lulu Buys A Hat’.  For those interested, making your own book isn’t exactly easy.  Especially when you don’t have a printer that likes collating.

You have to know how to stack pages so that they come out in book format. Again, not easy in the least.  Fortunately, I’ve done this several times for my own personal thing, or gifts. (stacked books, not printed my own books) Also, this was only three pages, four if you count the cover with the title. The hardest part was actually creating the binding and making sure the scrapbook paper covered the card stock I used for the binding.

Inside the cover

They turned out better than I expected, and it is somewhat thrilling to see something of your own, printed and bound.  I can’t wait for the day that these actually have pictures.  Because, yes, these are supposed to be picture books.

My father finally got to read the completed, and edited version (funny story about that. See below this paragraph).  His comment was totally girly.  Well, duh!  It’s about a girl who buys a hat.  Do you know of a guy that is really going to want to read about a girl buying a hat? I don’t.

Regarding the editing?  Well, apparently, even though I have gone over this story several times, I missed a few words.  It wasn’t until I printed it the first time Mrs. Day asked if I had edited a second time. Of course I hadn’t, so she ran through it. And obviously she found some words I had missed. The one that I laughed the most at was ‘window’ being ‘winder’.  What was I thinking there? Well, it’s all pretty now. I’m sure there are still mistakes. I don’t actually have an editor for this, sorry George. While I totally trust everything you say, even you have missed things.

Anyways, it was fun to do this.  Now to finish the query letters for this one, collect a few agents to query and we are getting somewhere.

(for those that read Escaping the Inkwell, sorry for the double post)

Signing off

~Kate

A Good Children’s Story

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. ~ C. S. Lewis

I think that statement quite profound and really quite true.  I love children’s books.  Good children’s books.  It helps that I keep my eyes open for new children’s books for my sister who has down syndrome.  She is a perpetual child, so I have gotten my fill of listening to Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Harry Potter, The American Girl Collection, The Hobbit, and various others.  I keep my eyes open for ones that sound interesting at the library, and yes, I occasionally read them myself.  Why, even today I brought home a book from the juvenile section.

Now, most of the time I find it hard to get into the Happy Hollister books, or the American Girl books… Lord please no…., but I respect and appreciate them. I mean, I did go through all of those several times.  I actually find it easier to read picture books!  Yes, I love to look through picture books.  I am not ashamed of admitting it because its true.

I have been criticized for being in the picture books by library employees.  Yes, they think I’m too old to be there.  Um, when my goal is to write picture books, how is it too old to be there?  I just brush it off and go back to reading Dr. Seuss, Bill Peet, Jill Barklem, and others that I find fun.  When I come across a new picture book I bring it home for my mother to evaluate as well. I like her take on books because, well, it was her reading to me and my sister as much as she did that created a monster of a reader… ME! 

I think more people should try out a children’s book now and then.  Many of them are quite enjoyable despite their association with a younger audience.  I mean, the whole Narnia series is meant for children, but I still find them quite fascinating.  Same with various other books. 

I could go on and on about this, but I dare you to go into the children’s section of the library or book store and find a children’s book to read.  There are some really great ones out there.  (there are also some really bad ones too, but then they are not good children’s stories)

Signing off

~Kate