Ann Voskamp’s adult nonfiction titles, including One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, 2011), The Broken Way (Zondervan, 2016), and, most recently, WayMaker (Zondervan, 2022), have sold millions of copies around the world, but the Christian author and mother of seven is now going after a dual audience. Tyndale Kids is publishing her debut children’s book, Your Brave Song, with illustrations by Birmingham, Al.-based artist Amy Grimes, in February 2023.
“When my kids were little, I used to take my library card and sign out 100 books at a time,” Voskamp tells PW. “And the kinds of books I loved reading to the children were the books that spoke to me as an adult. I am hoping that Your Brave Song is the kind of book that moms and dads want to read again and again because it speaks to them, too.”
Your Brave Song follows Una Rayne, a girl based on Voskamp’s youngest daughter Shiloh, who was adopted at age one and later underwent three heart surgeries. Una Rayne learns a song that empowers her to respond to fear with bravery, and it includes the refrain: “Jesus loves you, makes you strong, says you’re brave and you belong.”
“It was a blessing that I prayed over Shiloh every night as I tucked her into bed,” Voskamp says. “I think what changes us the most deeply is our sense of identity, and this really is a book about knowing who we are in Christ. When I know who I am, really, I can move into hard places with this brave song in my heart.”
Throughout the book, Una Rayne encounters new situations and challenges, while also sharing her song with others. The text features Voskamp’s distinct writing style, which she referred to as “prosetry” during a previous interview with PW. And like her prior work on insecurity, Voskamp draws on what she calls the “scary places in our lives, the dark corners where we carry unspoken broken, where we’re too scared to even say I’m afraid,” she says. “Our stories look different, but there are always places we feel afraid.”
The writing process was “pure joy and delight,” Voskamp says. “Sometimes writing an adult book takes 225 pages to say what you want to say, but a children’s book cuts right to the quick, to the real heart of things.”
She likens writing for children to songwriting: “You have three minutes to move a reader emotionally,” Voskamp explains. “And a children’s book should really sing— it’s ironic that this book is called Your Brave Song. All children’s books need to be that winsome, charming, endearing kind of song that you want to listen to again and again.”
Speaking of songs, Voskamp wants the picture book to shed a new light on the familiar Christian lullaby, Jesus Loves Me.
“Everybody knows the song: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know,’ but do we really know how Jesus loves us?” Voskamp asks. “Is that a cerebral idea? Do we think of it as a trite little children’s song? ‘For the Bible tells me so,’ but does the Bible tell me so, or does my heart tell me so? It’s not just a song we sing at Sunday school. It changes who we are and it changes how we face all of our hard things.”
And further embracing the musical theme of Your Brave Song, Voskamp is co-writing a song with Christian artist Ellie Holcomb to accompany the book.
Linda Howard, publisher of Tyndale Kids, points out that part of the beauty of children’s books is “the ability to reach the adults and the kids at the same time," and she feels certain Your Brave Song is one such title.
She adds: “I love the heart behind this book, because it’s really for Shiloh. I love what it is telling kids. In the end, anything we need to be brave and face the day comes from knowing we are loved in Christ.”
The initial print run for Your Brave Song will be “significant,” says Howard, who has already signed a contract with Voskamp for a second children’s book.