Several Christian publishing houses have plunged into the crowded children’s book market for the first time this year. Each seeks to offer something unique to kids—and the grown-ups who shop for them—in challenging times. PW talked with several editors and publishers about their new mission and the titles they have planned.
InterVarsity Press announced the creation of the IVP Kids imprint in February, but the decision was years in the making, says IVP managing editor Elissa Schauer who heads IVP Kids. “We thought for a long time about what would it mean to do children’s books, like IVP books for adults but for kids. What would be unique to the IVP mission and vision? We thought of what we do and do well — justice, diversity, spiritual formation, discipleship.”
Then, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, associate publisher and editorial director Cindy Bunch brought in a manuscript about a little boy freighted with fear and anxiety who discovers that Jesus lightens his load. That manuscript-with-a-message—“Learn to trust God with all our cares, all the things that worry and weigh on us,” says Schauer—prompted a full team effort to launch an imprint with “a green light from editorial, production, marketing, and sales,” she notes.
Now, that book, Isaiah and the Worry Pack, by Ruth Goring with illustrations by Pamela C. Rice, will be the third title in the in IVP Kids' debut list. It is due out on November 9. Two October titles precede it: Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver on the spiritual meaning of giving to others, by writer/illustrator Ned Bustard, and The Celebration Place on the values of community, justice, and unity, by Dorena Williamson, co-founder of a multiracial church, with illustrations by Erin Bennett Banks.
IVP Kids’ author list for 2022 includes some writers aiming at a younger audience for the first time. Bestselling author and professor Esau McCaulley (Reading While Black) wrote about a little girl learning to celebrate the differences in God’s creation in Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit (May), illustrated by LaTonya R. Jackson.
“The last page of every book is a note from the author to the adult reader, the parent or caregiver, that gives a little bit more information and suggestions for engaging a younger reader in a conversation about the topic. Each book relates to a theme or topic we value,” says Schauer.
Good & True Media
Good Will Publishers, led by the fourth generation of the Gallagher family known for their specialty Bibles and Catholic titles under Saint Benedict Press, is moving aggressively into the children’s market. Their new imprint, Good & True Media, will feature 10 to 20 titles a year, including five to be written by publisher Brian Gallagher and several by one of his brothers, Kevin, v-p of production.
Brian’s Virtue Adventures series, launched in August, features “A Christian kind of ‘Magic Treehouse’ approach, highlighting virtues,” Brian says. The first title, Justice on the Acropolis, features a child “who goes back in time with a guardian angel and meets the philosophers of ancient Greece.” He adds: “If kids feel like they are being preached to, they will turn off. Instead, build a fun, adventurous story with all the emotions that a well-crafted story should build.” And in October BriN will begin “Poetic Primers,” a series with nursery rhyme versions of classic books beginning with his adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey. Each of these primers will feature a QR code linking to a free accompanying video.
Other scheduled titles are often by mom-bloggers and online influencers such as Sarah Monitor, author of I Grew with You (Oct.) a poetic lullaby about a mother’s spiritual and emotional growth during pregnancy, illustrated by Anastasia Sivura with images that reflect different races and ethnicities. The publisher says they are reaching out to new authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds, from Bulgaria to Brazil, to create books designed for “every child to know that the story is for them.”
The new children’s imprint for Lexham Press, primarily a Bible and theology texts publisher, is all about doctrine delivered in child-friendly-but-theologically-correct manner. FatCat editor Todd Hains, who is also academic editor for Lexham, says that while other Christian publishers may “retell biblical stories or create original stories, our focus is on reclaiming the fundamentals of Christian belief, practice, and liturgy across generations and traditions.” The press will launch the imprint, announced in August, with The Apostles’ Creed: For All God’s Children,” (Feb.), with the creed accompanied by reflections from theologian Ben Myers and illustrated by Natasha Kennedy.
The imprint’s logo, FatCat, is a plump feline, and its image appears in some form in every page of The Apostle’s Creed for a reason. Hains explains: “FatCat” stands for “cat” as in the catechism that is “‘fat’ with challenge and comfort for all ages.” Coming next: The Lord’s Prayer, in fall 2022 by the same team.
More titles are planned on key Christian texts. Each book will include a list of relevant Scriptures, a guided family prayer to aid children’s education and devotion, and a presentation of Psalm 100:5, telling of God’s faithfulness to his people, designed, Hains says, “so children wedge this psalm into their heads and into their little hearts.”
The pandemic had a role in prompting Chalice, a progressive Christian publishing house, into adding children’s books to its offerings, beginning with a title on grief. Remember Me When…: Creating Memories to Last a Lifetime, (out now) written by Todd Williams, a hospice chaplain, and illustrated by Ciara Compton, addresses talking with children about death by guiding them to recall precious moments with those they lost.
The second title, coming in February, will be Wonder Awaits! by Caroline Hamilton-Arnold, a pastor. But unlike most children’s books, Wonder Awaits! is not illustrated with drawings. It’s a photo book of real kids of all sizes, colors, and abilities, exploring the world around them. President and publisher Brad Lyons says this title is a Chalice choice because these multiple families represent diversity in the way Chalice has always stood for.
However, Chalice, which is aiming for two children’s books a year, is not launching a children’s book imprint. “We think the Chalice Press brand works for the whole family and this is a natural extension of that,” he says. On his company blog in August, Lyons wrote how, after years of books aimed at parents shaping children’s faith, these will be “specifically meant for children’s eyes and curiosity.”