Behind-the-Scenes: New Storybooks that Show Jesus in the Old Testament

 
Alison Mitchell | 22 Feb 2024

A few years ago, as part of our Tales That Tell the Truth series, I wrote a book called Jesus and the Lions’ Den. Yes, you read that right—it says Jesus, not Daniel. But why?

With all our children’s books, we try to help young readers see how any specific Bible story fits within God’s big story of everything. In particular, our Old Testament retellings show children how these events point forward to Jesus.

I was keen to go a step further and give children a tool they could use when reading any Old Testament story, and I wanted that tool to be visual as well as literary. Hence: Jesus Moments. These are moments in the Old Testament when someone or something is a little bit like Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I included those moments in the text, but we also hid clues in the illustrations. So as children listen to the story, they also scan the pictures to spot a hidden clue. And then, at the end of the book, those clues are used to show how, in this case, Daniel is a little like Jesus.

With all our children’s books, we try to help young readers see how any specific Bible story fits within God’s big story of everything.

Children enjoyed the Daniel story and hunting for the hidden clues. Parents appreciated a tool their child could learn and then use with other Old Testament stories. And one reviewer even said, “I would love to see Alison Mitchell do these ‘Jesus Moments’ in other Bible stories as well.” And a series was born…

Who to Write About?

As part of the editorial team here at The Good Book Company, my work is never done in a vacuum. The editors regularly get together to discuss ideas for potential new books. We also get specific feedback from our Editorial Director, Carl Laferton. I thought about a lot of Old Testament characters (so many to choose from!) and came up with a suggested list, which was then discussed and whittled down. We decided to start with David and Moses, followed by Esther and Jonah.

One reviewer even said, “I would love to see Alison Mitchell do these ‘Jesus Moments’ in other Bible stories as well.” And a series was born…

The first step in writing any Bible story is to spend time in the passage. I usually print it out (which was a lot of chapters for David) so that I can write all over the printout. I highlight repeated words or ideas, add questions in the margin, look up linked passages, and particularly look for any moments that have a clear link with Christ. I then choose the four or five moments that I think will be both clear and engaging for a child. These will form the heart of the story.

Alison's original notes on 1 Samuel 16

My first draft tends to be much too long, so there is a lot of cutting out to do. My second is shorter, but I usually spot at least one place where I need to make something clearer or more dramatic or both. My third draft is the one that goes to Carl for feedback, which always then means further tweaks to get the story as good as I can make it.

What About the Pictures?

One of the greatest joys of writing children’s books is that you get to work with some amazing illustrators. In this case we had three new series that were all looking for illustrators, so our Art Director, André Parker, put out feelers far and wide. A group of us met to select our favourites; then André commissioned those artists to do sample spreads for one or more of the series we were developing. Another group meeting helped us to choose the best illustrator for each series.

A rough sketch of one of Noah's illustrations in Jesus Moments: David

The Jesus Moments series is being illustrated by Noah Warnes, someone we have not worked with before. He is fantastic! I love his use of colour and of light, as well as how faithful his pictures are to the Bible text. In particular, I was thrilled to see how he took my initial idea of hidden clues and made it so much better than I had imagined. As an author who cannot draw(!), it is a delight and privilege to work with such superb illustrators.

Turning It into a Physical Book

The words are written; the illustrations are finished; the cover is designed. But the elements of the book are still sitting on a computer waiting to be printed. This is where our production team jump in. A book gets sent to press electronically, but has to come back to us as a finished (and heavy) product. So as well as choosing the best printer for the job, our production team have to work out which other books need to be added to fill a whole pallet; which combination of ships and lorries will get it to the parts of the world where it is needed; and therefore what print date is needed to make sure the books are ready in time to be released. There are some complex logistics involved.

I highlight repeated words or ideas, add questions in the margin, look up linked passages, and particularly look for any moments that have a clear link with Christ.

The timing of all of these processes may surprise you, especially for a short children’s book:

I started planning the David story in January 2022, and finished it in March. After our illustrator-choosing process, Noah was commissioned in August 2022, and we received the final illustrations in April 23. The finished pages, with text and pictures, then had to be proofread, and also sent out for some endorsements. The final book was then sent to press in October 23. There is then a five-month turnaround, to give time for the books to printed and shipped around the world, ready to be released at the beginning of March 2024.

As you can tell, there are many people involved in creating one children’s book. We have different gifts and experience, but we all have the same aim—to create a book that is faithful to God’s word, engaging and fun to read, and that helps young children come to know and love God more. I am honoured to be a part of that process.

In Jesus Moments: David, children can spot moments in David’s story when David is a little bit like Jesus with symbols throughout the book, helping them to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. This fun, interactive resource will give children skills to read the Bible as they connect the stories and learn that the whole Bible is about Jesus. Learn more about Jesus Moments: Moses, the next book in the series, on our website.

Alison Mitchell

Alison Mitchell is a senior editor at The Good Book Company, where she has worked on a range of products including Bible-reading notes for children and families, and the Christianity Explored range of resources. She is the best-selling author of The Christmas Promise and the award-winning Jesus and the Lions' Den.

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