The Words & Works of Kendra Andrus


The occasional musings of the author that don't turn into children's books.

Fulfilling A Much-Needed Niche

When my twins were three-years-old (and I also had a one-year-old and a baby), we lived a few blocks away from the library. It became our weekly routine, every Monday, to walk and stroll the bumpy sidewalks to return a pile of books, replacing them with new and exciting treasures. We checked out ten books every time - partly because that was all the weight I wanted to carry on the encumbered trek back, and partly because I never wanted to remember how many we needed to keep up with and find when it was time to return them. A mother's heart can carry the whole world, but a mother's brain can only carry so much. Whenever you can, keep it simple.

I learned a lot that memorable year. Our entire family grew in so many remarkable ways.

I rediscovered the world of children's books, recovering my own love for turning pages and being wowed by creativity, imagination, beautiful art, and the perfect turn of a phrase or well-placed word. I think I was genuinely more excited about pulling books off of shelves and cracking them open than my own little tots were - and they were quite thrilled to hunt for treasures in the rows and rows of colorful book spines. 

There is something sacred and awe-inspiring about a building full of books - it's as if the whole world that seems far, far away from you is suddenly accessible, touchable, knowable, experience-able. Libraries remind me of Mary Poppins' magic bag that keeps producing the wildest things, as if there is no limit based on its physical space. The potential whole is much more than the sum of its parts. A hushed atmosphere of whispers and tip-toeing also contributes to a sense of the holy awe and reverence that such a significant space embodies. Ceilings, floors, and walls cannot contain the heights, depths, and breadths of the truths and beauties that are found in-between the covers of the books inside.

Our ten books a week fostered quality time that knit us closer with each read-aloud. Snuggling on beds and over-sized chairs, we laughed and cried together, wondered and discovered together. Reading books communally gave us a shared language, inside jokes, and endless inspiration for our creative play. Eventually, my children - as all do - learn to read themselves and can get lost in a book alone (also magical and powerful in its own rite), but the days of eager bodies and faces hovering around the pages of a new book where the only decipherable things are the pictures and the sound of mama's voice acting out the unfolding story are a treasure trove to be mined with intention and celebration.

I learned that, for every dazzling story with captivating illustrations, there were several that left much to be desired. Everywhere I turned, I read a book that just missed the mark for me somehow. For fear of sounding elitist, I just have to be honest that I found myself rewriting the words and repainting the pictures in my imagination, offering my improvements. In fact, I actually did regularly rewrite some words and phrases as I read out loud to my kids. 

The other thing that I quickly learned was that there were very few books that acknowledged the spiritual reality amidst everyday stories and childhood lessons. I was forever adding that commentary to the books: "wow, look how much God loves us that God would create that beautiful thing," or "this is just like what Jesus did or said," and "we can be brave and strong and full of peace like this because of the power of God's spirit that lives in us." Sure, there are many Bible stories retold for kids, but there is a palpable lack of books that depict normal life with faith and God. Not heavy-handed spirituality, just simple and subtle and meaningful everyday spirituality.

I learned that this was a niche of children's books that was largely missing. I believed that I was not the only parent or caregiver that longed for books like these. I quickly felt the hefty burden of the countless children who could be forever impacted by books such as these. After all, the beloved books of childhood make a lasting impression on us all, coloring our pictures of life and self and future, stamping us with value and desire and direction. We memorize them and they mesmerize us. Science tells us that the stuff we stuff into our brains (and souls) in our early childhood stays deeply with us, fundamentally changing us and marking us. You can sing every song from your early years and quote every nursery rhyme, right? Some of it even chokes you up or gives you deep, warm, fuzzy feelings. I rest my case.

So here I am. Beckoned to provide children's books that cover an array of topics, I am journeying on the creative path to give the world stories and lessons for children that acknowledge and appreciate the spiritual truths that are such a dear and important part of who we are. It is my hope and prayer that you will appreciate these books, cherish reading them with your precious little ones, see the fruit of their message speak straight to their hearts and minds, and have your own soul pricked and soothed along the way. Timeless truths for ageless souls. Will you adventure with me? Will you get excited about the power of reading and the art of weaving truth into story, and sewing faith and divinity through language? Let's be better parents together - through the art of story and the medium of books!

"When you don't find the book you want on the shelf, write it."

-Beverly Cleary

Kendra AndrusComment