U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black is focusing on unity in his first book for children, A Prayer for Our Country: Words to Unite and Inspire Hope, due from Zonderkidz on June 7. Illustrated by Washington, D.C.-based artist Kim Holt, the picture book for readers ages 4-8 celebrates “everything that makes America an amazing place,” according to the publisher.
Black, whose 27-year career with the U.S. Navy included serving as Chief of Navy Chaplains, has served as chaplain to the Senate since 2003, and he is drawing on the nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and nonsectarian role in A Prayer for Our Country. The book aims to help children give thanks to God while also encouraging all Americans to heal divisions and come together.
“Children have such capacity to lead us in finding the words that inspire all of us to model God’s love and create a future that is strong and united,” Black said in a statement. He is dedicating the picture book to his mother, “who taught me to love God’s Word and how to pray,” he said.
The idea for the book started with Katherine Jacobs, senior acquisitions editor at Zonderkidz and Blink YA, who came across a prayer that Black delivered during a session of both Congress and the Senate after the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
“He remembered those who had died, asked for guidance through the dysfunction threatening our democracy, and called people to look for the common humanity in one another,” Jacobs told PW. “I loved the idea of a book that acknowledged that we are a divided country and called readers to do the work of healing, as well as offering a hopeful vision for the future.”
Jacobs connected with Black with the book idea and discovered his “huge heart for speaking to children.” She added: “We immediately had a shared vision for this title. I think one thing that people from many walks of life can agree on right now is the deep need for prayer, thus the title A Prayer for Our Country was born.”
Megan Dobson, v-p and publisher of Zonderkidz, said in a statement that A Prayer for Our Country features both wise words of prayer as well as illustrations “that highlight the beauty and diversity of America.” She adds: “Black helps point the way for children to pray for their country, thank God for their blessings, and to think about how they can be living lights.”
An excerpt from the book is as follows:
Great God, we admit that we face big problems.
Sometimes we feel scared, hurt or even lost.
It’s easy for us to be overwhelmed by the work we need to do.
But we know that You are always with us.
Give us wisdom to understand that You are stronger than any challenge we face.
Black is also the author of five adult nonfiction titles, including Nothing to Fear (Tyndale, 2017), The Blessing of Adversity (Tyndale, 2011), and his autobiography, From the Hood to the Hill (Thomas Nelson, 2006), which tells his story of growing up in Baltimore and becoming the first military chaplain, the first Seventh-Day Adventist, and the first African American to hold the office of chaplain to the U.S. Senate.
Marketing and publicity for the book will include interviews with faith-based and general market media, as well as select appearances. One such appearance is a speaking event during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., on June 26.