Bible Stories For Kids Get The Kickstarter Treatment

At the center of publishing trends towards more aesthetically pleasing Bibles and richer theologically rich children’s books is The book of belonging.

A Kickstarter venture of writer Mariko Clark and illustrator Rachel Eleanor, the project was inspired by Clark’s six-year-old daughter, who noticed the lack of female characters in the Children’s Bible and asked: “Does God love boys more than girls?”

Among the best-selling children’s story bibles on Amazon, 7% of the stories featured a female lead character, 19% mentioned a woman, and only 23% depicted a woman in illustrations, according to Clark’s analysis.

I know that I am not the only parent to solve these problems with a homemade program, Mariko Clark thought to herself. What if I just created the book I’m already creating?

The book of belonging, slated for release in 2023, is a story bible for “modern and conscious children”. It will feature imaginative accounts from 30 scripture accounts – selected to feature more women than typical children’s Bibles – and unique and whimsical illustrations designed to represent a more comprehensive array of characters from biblical history.

“I think the images I create will affect people’s beliefs and values,” said Eleanor, who drew the scenes in teal, gold and orange hues. “Gaps in our perspective later turn into conscious and unconscious beliefs. … We could say that we think everyone is included, but are we showing it? “

The scriptures include men and women from the beginning (Genesis 1:27), and Christians celebrate female figures like Deborah, Miriam, Esther, Mary, and Dorcas, in addition to the women involved in gospel stories. Even when Bible stories focus on men, illustrators can take the opportunity to include women in the scenes; modern biblical scholarship and the stories themselves point to a historical context that includes women. (How many times do we see Noah building the ark without his wife?)

“I want my daughters to know that when it comes to God’s table, they always have a place. And I want my son to know that if he looks around a table and doesn’t see a seat for his sisters, he better pull up a chair, ”Clark said.

To throw The book of belonging, Clark and Eleanor chose to self-publish to maintain their creative vision and artfully design a book that will last for generations. They used Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, to fund the work. To their surprise, they raised 40% of their fundraising goal on the first day of the campaign and raised a total of almost $ 95,000, more than $ 21,000 more than their goal.

They sold the quality and details to supporters: the book will be printed in small batches, bound with a green linen and gold leaf cover.

“One of the reasons I’m excited The book of belonging is because I share a passionate vision to liberate Scripture from some of the limiting expressions it has been confined to, ”said Adam Lewis Greene, who has funded over $ 1.4 million to create Library, a library of the biblical text, separated into volumes and free of all numbers and notes.

“Mariko saw that the most widely available Bible story books… can leave children with the impression that God does not really care about those who are not patriarchs or kings. She’s creating something that rightly defies this trend.

The crowdfunding trend may be the right option for unique projects and creators who value the freedom to decide the details.

“Kickstarter works for a particular quantity with a high production value,” said Shannon Marchese, editor at Tommy Nelson. “But there are other things to consider in order for a project to reach a bigger market.”

The creators of The book of belonging said they are now in discussions with several publishers about a future partnership. But for the first version, they themselves undertake much of the process. For example, it is up to Clark, who hosts a devotional podcast, to research and consult other theological perspectives in the writing process.

“I use a cheesy mishmash of commentaries and manuals, age-old historical sources and podcasts,” she said. “In addition, I have met incredible pastors, priests, rabbis, scholars, theologians and historians. I track down everything they recommend to me.

According to Michelle Freeman, editor at B&H Kids, publishers often have their own Bible experts to review documents, right down to the details of the illustrations.

the Membership book focuses on three themes: naming (who does God say he is and what does that say about you?), wonder (prompts to help readers imagine for themselves) and contemplation (moments to experience God through silence in various forms).

One chapter follows “Five Fearless Sisters,” telling the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad — Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah — of Numbers and Joshua. When Zelophehad died, the book says, “they knew that even without boys in their family, God was still with them.” A “moment of wonder” in a sidebar prompts readers to imagine what it was like for Moses to hear God speak about the sisters.

The setup is designed to give “more freedom of exploration and questioning, allowing children to discover a connection with their creator”.

The book also wants to convey the message that everyone belongs, through “various stories and illustrations, including many women, men with feelings and people of color.”

The need for more diversity in Christian children’s books has been a conversation across the industry in recent years.

“I feel like there is a tendency to include all skin types, ethnicities, men and women in Christian children’s books,” said mom and literary critic Bailey T. Hurley. “I also think the illustrations have historically become more faithful to Biblical figures than the very white pictures I grew up on.”

Freeman at B&H noted that a lack of diversity among creators (writers, editors, and illustrators) had historically led publishing teams to assume their readership was exactly like them.

“I am grateful that we are now keeping our products and ourselves to a higher standard,” she said. “Our team is actively looking for ways to connect with [Black, indigenous, and people of color] authors and illustrators and provide opportunities for the industry where there used to be walls.

Publishers are expanding their offering for children, as CT reported this month, and new books are more likely to portray children of color and discuss diversity from a biblical perspective. Author Dorena Williamson appreciates being able to work with black editors who understand cultural considerations. “I have seen some increase in inclusion and diversity in children’s books, especially in the Christian market. … We (still) have a long way to go.

Those interested in The book of belonging can be added to the waiting list for future prints; its first round will go to Kickstarter supporters in 2023.

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