Religion and spirituality publishers are steadily expanding their children’s lists into the general market by adding more books that celebrate values and virtues—themes that appeal to believers and secular book buyers alike—with no mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible.
Beaming Books senior acquisitions editor Naomi Krueger says, “About 60% of our 2023 titles are values based, while 40% are specifically faith based. The broader audience was always part of our intention when we launched in 2018. We have a holistic approach with a mission to help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and spiritually.” Several upcoming books feature the value of self-confidence and self-empowerment, such as Be Your Own Bird by Russ Willms (Nov.), about a bird that doesn’t always fly with the flock.
Values titles are on the rise at Random House Christian Publishing, a group that includes Convergent, Multnomah, and WaterBrook. Campbell Wharton, v-p and deputy publisher, says Random House sees opportunity in the market both for books that are “faith-informed,” aligning with biblical values without religious terminology, and those that are clearly “faith-forward for the core Christian readership.”
“Historically, WaterBrook has been faith-forward,” Wharton says. “Now, it is adding faith-informed titles with more ecumenical themes for spiritually-minded parents and grandparents.” For example, he cites their million-selling Wingfeather series, which is full of religious allegories that believers may recognize while others will simply enjoy a gripping story. One of Wharton’s favorite forthcoming titles is WaterBrook’s Be My Valenslime by Kris Tarantino (Dec.), which features a little monster modeling patience and generosity when her Valentine’s Day party turns into monster mayhem.
Wharton describes Convergent as leaning more into “faith-informed titles that appeal to the spiritually curious and the ‘nones,’ ” or people who claim no religious identity. These include titles such as A Message in the Moon (Oct.) by Roma Downey, star of the television series Touched by an Angel, about how love connects parents and children wherever they are.
According to Zonderkidz publisher Megan Dobson, “Our list is still primarily overtly Christian, but for the last four years we have been adding more titles that have the right message to inspire young lives that do well in both the Christian and the general market.” Dobson points to ABC news anchor Linsey Davis’s Girls of the World: Doing More than Ever Before (Mar. 2024), which, Dobson says, is focused on “leaders for equality, fairness, and a safe world in which to live.” Dobson also highlights Race to Kindness (May 2024), by 12-year-old Orion Jean, who was named Time magazine’s 2021 Kid of the Year for initiatives around book and food drives when he was in elementary school.
Some faith-based houses build in a values-forward approach. Pen and Sword’s Jewish juvenile book imprint, Green Bean Books, focuses on books with cultural and historical dimensions such as the forthcoming A Boy from Baghdad by Miriam Halahmy (Dec.). Editor Michael Leventhal describes the book as “a tale about the power of perseverance, friendship, and family in the face of hardship, hatred, and change.”
At Shambhala, which specializes in Buddhist titles, Bala Kids books emphasize wisdom and loving-kindness, including Share Your Love by Susan B. Katz (Oct.). It introduces simple phrases children can repeat—a practice drawn from Buddhist meditation. Entries include “May you be protected and safe. May you feel happy and pleased. May your body be healthy, and may you live with ease.”