Episode 147: Natalee Creech Interview and the Importance of Subtitles

This week we talk with author Natalee Creech about her books “When Day Is Done,” “Something,” “Nothing,” and the possibility of “Everything” — and the importance of subtitles. đź™‚

Our Guest: Natalee Creech

Natalee Creech is a children’s author who is equally at home in Canada, (where she grew up) in the U.S., (where she studied education) and in South Korea (where she taught for many years). Regardless of where she lives, she is probably sneaking more children’s books into the house, much to the delight of her children and the dismay of her husband. Oreo, the family cat, remains indifferent.

Show Notes with Links:

(00:00): Welcome

(00:39): When Day Is Done

(01:49):  Nothing

(03:07): Joseph Cowman, illustrator

(03:41): Something

(05:34): subtitles

(06:40): Everything

(07:40): Korea

(08:57): Spain

(09:46): Venezuela, Taiwan

(10:18): Biblical Culture

(10:48): Home

(12:54): Covid

(13:00): Myanmar

(13:39): Korean church in LA.

(14:27): Everything

(15:10): Gen Z and printed books

 (15:44): The Monster at the End of This Book

(15:54): Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys

(16:03): Corduroy, Charlotte’s Web

(16:10): Sandra Boynton board books, But Not the Hippopotamus

(16:51): Dr. Seuss

(17:02): Hiccupotamus

(17:27): Picture Books

(18:19): Closing

(18:27): NataleeCreech.com, TerrieHellardBrown.com

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today we have a special guest with us, Natalee Creech is here to share with us. I can’t wait for her to share with you about her wonderful books. Well, Natalee, I’m so glad you could join us today. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Natalee:

I’m so happy to be here.

Terrie:

I love your books, I’m a big fan. I just think they’re beautiful, they bring God’s word to life for little kids, and I just love them. Can you start by just telling us about each of your books?

Natalee:

Sure. Well, I have three books. The first one to be published is a book called When Day Is Done, and it’s a very quiet, gentle going to bed book, and that one is actually not overtly Christian. It does mention saying prayers as part of the bedtime routine, but that differs from my other two and that the other two are actually inspired by scripture, so I would say that When Day is Done is a more poetic book. So I would say this book uses more poetic language as compared to the other two because it incorporates a lot of assonance and consonants and alliteration, but it just kind of walks through parts of nature that are going to bed, and then it has a repeating line that says “We sleep when day is done,” and it gently reminds children that they’re also going to bed, but all those fun things and nature will be there tomorrow that they can enjoy. Then this is actually my husband and my son’s favorite book of the three, but I would say it’s lesser known.

Terrie:

I have your other two books. I haven’t read that one yet, but it says it’s very soothing and calming.

Natalee:

It is. So ‘Nothing’ is based on Romans 8:38-39, which is the verse that says, I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus, our Lord, not death or life or angels, and it continues like that, and it also incorporates themes from Psalm 139 and from Ephesians about how high and deep is God’s love. It’s just a reminder to children that God’s love is everywhere, it is not something that you have to earn, and it’s not something that you are going to lose because of what you’ve done. It is unconditional, and I hope that it sparks conversations about how ideally our relationships should reflect that love. Of course, because the world is broken, that’s not always the case, but what would the world be like if we all tried to love unconditionally?

Terrie:

Wow. Yeah, and also just the security and comfort it gives a child to recognize just how much God loves them, and I think once we know that, it does free us up to love others more easily.

Natalee:

Yes.

Terrie:

Yeah, it’s just beautifully written and the illustrations are so cute, kids would really relate to those well.

Natalee:

Yes, Joseph Cowman did an amazing job, and I remember the feeling when you get a sneak peek sometimes as an author, they’ll send you a few illustrations as it’s coming along, and I was just amazed. And there’s one illustration where on the left hand side it says, “Not a mountain or valley.” On the right hand side it says “Not the deepest of seas.” And somehow he has that mountain on the left hand side with the blue sky on the right hand side of the page. It’s an underwater scene, and he just made that flow together so well.

Terrie:

Yeah, it’s just beautiful.

Natalee:

The companion book to that that just came out is called ‘Something’, and that book is based on Matthew 25:35 and 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” And so it’s about paying attention in the world. There’s a line that repeats, it’s “Keep your kindness radar working.” Maybe something starts with you. It’s about paying attention and looking for ways that we can love others, show compassion. So I think those two books, ‘Nothing’ and ‘Something’ go together really well, because the one is about God’s love for us and ‘Something’ is about us loving others, and near the end, it brings in the verse from John where Jesus gives His disciples a new commandment and tells em to “love as I have loved you,” so hopefully we are inspiring children to do that, think of just small ways that they can pay attention. I think we tend to get very distracted and caught up in our own lives, and I’m so guilty of this myself that I’m going through my day thinking about “What do I need to do? What’s next on my list?” and I don’t take those small moments to make a connection with somebody else, even if it’s just something very small, like really looking in their eyes and seeing them and just giving a genuine smile.

Terrie:

Oh yeah, or even just a small word of encouragement can make someone’s whole day, and I love that the title ‘Something,’ one small thing, can make a difference, and I love that that just points that out from the title on. I think it would really encourage and challenge children to look outside themselves and look around and see what they can do, and I just love that scripture too. It’s such a powerful, powerful scripture.

Natalee:

Well, the titles needed the subtitles that go along with them, because if you just looked at that picture book called Nothing or Something, it would not be very obvious what the book was actually about, so…

Terrie:

Yeah, I got you a book about something and then I got you a book about nothing.

Natalee:

Yes.

Terrie:

But it’s clever, I think it sticks with you when you read them, when you see the titles, you’re like, “Oh yeah, those are those books.” I think they’re cool.

Natalee:

It makes it very entertaining. If you go to do a reading somewhere, like in a store and they make an announcement, I was at a Barnes and Noble, and they asked me, they wanted to confirm what the title of the book I would be reading was, and I was actually going to be reading both of them, but if they say, “Author Natalee Creech is here, and she’s going to be reading Something or Nothing, it sounds funny.

Terrie:

Oh, they’re just beautiful, and when I got the books, I fell in love with them and I was like, “Oh my goodness, I have to interview Natalee.” So I was so thankful when you said you could do an interview.

Natalee:

My pleasure.

Terrie:

How did you decide on these two scriptures? Is it just because you wanted to emphasize the love of God and loving others?

Natalee:

Well, honestly, there’s another book that’s called ‘Everything’ that has not been published yet, and that was actually the first manuscript that I wrote, and that was from the psalm, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” That’s what I started with when I wrote that first. I don’t know honestly why I started with that one, but after I wrote that, I wanted to try and write something else, and the verse from Romans was just a favorite of mine that I felt was so powerful, so I wanted to try to do something with that. After that, it was like, well, I’ve got Everything and I’ve got Nothing, so the next logical thing seemed to be Something. So I actually started with Something and then thought about, well, if I were going to write using a Bible verse, what would fit in? So I guess because of the title, Something got chosen, but I think the theme fits very well with Nothing and Nothing is probably my favorite, just because I love that verse and I think that the message is so powerful.

Terrie:

Yeah. Well, I just love them and I think that every family should own these. Well, I wanna talk a little bit just about your life, I love your bio. We were missionaries in Taiwan and I’ve been to Korea and I almost took a job teaching in Korea, but I got engaged instead. And so, tell us a little bit about your experiences on the mission field.

Natalee:

Well, what happened actually is I got my education degree in Tennessee because I wanted to go to a school where I could get my education degree in a Christian setting, but still teach in public schools, but I grew up in Canada, so after I finished my education degree, I had to do some paperwork to be able to teach in Canada, and while I was doing that, I saw some information about teaching overseas and decided to do that, and initially I was teaching at a language school where the students would come, there would be adult students in the morning, and then children in the afternoons, but then we found a Christian international school that was actually in the same city, and I got married and dragged my husband over there, and we both ended up teaching at that school for a number of years, and in fact, bounced back and forth between there and the United States several times, which made life very exciting. But it was a very… Living overseas definitely expands your world view, and you get a much broader look on things instead of just what your country thinks. You get to see what other people think about your country and how they view things, and you get that experience of being the minority, having to learn another language, having to adapt to all different sorts of cultural cues, and it’s funny because after you’ve lived there for a while, we left Korea and we went to Spain, and then I found myself in Spain still doing mannerisms that were Korean. So I’d be trying to say goodbye to somebody in Spanish and I’d be bowing my head. Sooh it’s amazing how it kind of seeps into your life.

Terrie:

Yeah, we went to Venezuela while we were living in Taiwan, and every time I got in a taxi, I’d speak Chinese to them and they’d just look at me like I’d lost my mind.

Natalee:

Yes.

Terrie:

I was thinking, gotta speak in Spanish, gotta speak in Spanish, and Chinese would come out every time.

Natalee:

I mean, it’s amazing once you start thinking in a language and then you have to try to switch to another one, and you know, I grew up learning French, but I don’t think I could speak it very well now if I had to, because Korean is more fresh in my mind, so…

Terrie:

That’s fun. Well, I just think everyone should experience other cultures as much as they can. Like you said, it changes your worldview and it opens our eyes to where culturally in our faith or whatever, we’re adopting our culture more than we’re adopting the Bible, and I always talked with people, I discipled that we need to live a biblical worldview, we need to live a biblical culture and really pare that down to what is truly biblical and not just American. So that’s been challenging. It’s not easy.

Natalee:

It’s sometimes I feel like I have a lot of homes. I grew up in Canada, but in some ways it doesn’t feel like home because I haven’t lived there in so long. You know, I became an American citizen, but I spent a lot of my years off and on for 20 years in South Korea. We were only in Spain for about a year, and that was during the pandemic, so that was a bit of a different experience. I feel like I have a lot of homes, but at the same time, I’m not sure, which is my real home, so, Heaven, right?

Terrie:

Yeah. Yeah, we talk all the time about how we’re homesick and I’m like, well, actually we’re home, but we get homesick for Taiwan constantly. Yeah, it’s always gonna be kind of home. Well, one of my children was born there. Were all your children born in Korea?

Natalee:

Well, our family’s very interesting. So there are four of us, and each of us was born in a different country.

Terrie:

Oh my goodness.

Natalee:

I was born in Canada. My husband, his dad was in the Navy, was born in Japan. My son was born in South Korea, and my daughter’s the only one who was born in the United States.

Terrie:

Wow, that’s amazing. So I’m just curious, what took you to Spain?

Natalee:

Well, I told you we were bouncing back and forth between Korea and the United States a few times. My husband wanted to finish degrees and we went back to Korea thinking we’re going to stay at this school. We love the school where we were teaching, they had such a wonderful Christian atmosphere and we really enjoyed teaching there. We thought our children are going to graduate from this school, and then we had some visa issues that would require my husband to only teach the subject of English. He was wanting to teach science and had been teaching science in English, so we were told on this visa, you can only teach English literature or English as a second language and not teach the subject of science even though you’re teaching in English. So because of that, we needed to leave or else go through a lot of hoops to kind of stay in the country and get a different kind of visa, so that’s how we ended up going to Spain.

Terrie:

Wow, okay.

Natalee:

And little did we know that Covid was going to hit literally weeks after we got there.

Terrie:

Oh my goodness, and so then you wound up coming back to the States. My daughter was in Myanmar when it hit. She lost her teaching job and her visa, and she got the last flight out cause they kept canceling all the flights, and so she couldn’t get out. And then finally she got a flight, got tested, got on the plane, and she couldn’t stay in Thailand more than 24 hours or 23 hours, or they wouldn’t let ’em go through, transition through. Her flight layover was 22, 23 hours. I mean, it was like right at the cutoff, and so she got that last flight out and made it home. Then a week or two later they had a political coup.

Natalee:

Oh goodness.

Terrie:

And her heart is there, she wants to go back, and my mommy heart is like, “No.” And I’m just like, well, if God’s calling you back, I can’t say no, but please make sure God’s calling you and that it’s the right timing and everything. So I understand her heart though, I mean, I know. But our first church that we had after we got married was a Korean church in LA.

Natalee:

How interesting.

Terrie:

It was great. We were in first grade Korean class on Saturdays.

Natalee:

Fun.

Terrie:

I had been to Korea before, we both had been to Korea on a mission trip in ’84, and then we went back in ’87, but I was in Daegu. That was my favorite place.

Natalee:

Yeah, we lived not far from there.

Terrie:

Oh, so neat.

Natalee:

We were in Busan, so Daegu was about 45 minutes from us.

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s my favorite. Okay, so a couple more questions. You said you have the book, ‘Everything’. Is it coming out soon?

Natalee:

Well, now that ‘Nothing’ and ‘Something’ have been published, I really need to go back and revise it again and kind of bring it more into line so that the feel of it and the interactions are similar, because that was the one I wrote first, and then the others have been edited along the way, I need to go back and take another look. So they have an option, they had an option clause in my contract that I signed with ‘Something’, so we will send it to them and chances are it will be published, the question is when.

Terrie:

Yes.

Natalee:

Everything seems to move so slowly these days, but yes…

Terrie:

I read a really interesting article just yesterday that was talking about how Gen Z-ers love printed books and that sales and books are just skyrocketing compared to what they were doing, and so that was very encouraging. I’m like, cool.

Natalee:

I mean, I’ve read a lot of eBooks, but I prefer to read on paper.

Terrie:

Same here, yeah. Okay, and then my other question is, when I have the opportunity, I love to ask my guests, what is your favorite picture book? When you were growing up, what was your favorite picture book? And then what’s your favorite to read to your children?

Natalee:

Well, honestly, we read so voraciously, when we were growing up, we read everything. I remember the monster at the end of this book. We loved to hear that, but we read all the Bobsy Twin books, the Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys. We would read all those series. I loved Corduroy, I loved Charlotte’s Web, everything. I’m not sure I can even pick one. When my son was little, we really loved the Sandra Boynton board books. Probably one of his favorite for me to read to him was, But Not The Hippopotamus. I don’t know if you know that book, but.

Terrie:

No, but I know her and I love her books.

Natalee:

Yes, and it’s just so funny when a little toddler is trying to say the word hippopotamus.

Terrie:

Oh, I bet.

Natalee:

But honestly, I almost feel like we read so much, we read very broadly, but I wouldn’t say that there was one book that I always just came back to, “this is the one, this is the one.” and maybe that’s an odd thing to say, but

Terrie:

No, I think it shows that you love books and your kids love books. That’s great, yeah.

Natalee:

Dr. Seuss was a staple in our house and we did read a lot of nursery rhymes and I don’t know if that is part of why I often write in rhyme or not, but it could be. Who knows?

Terrie:

I have a favorite right now that is called Hiccupopotamus. Have you read that one?

Natalee:

I’ve heard of that, but I have not read it.

Terrie:

It’s just hysterical. It’s hard to read because you keep giggling while you’re trying to read aloud. My kids are grown, but I still read to them, I’m like, “Oh my goodness, I got a new book. You have to hear this one.” and I make ’em sit and listen to me read a picture book to my adult children.

Natalee:

I mean, I get picture books out for my preschool students all the time, and then sometimes I catch my son, he’s almost 18 now, and he’ll walk by and then he’ll start reading it.

Terrie:

I think they’re great.

Natalee:

When I was getting my teacher’s degree, I would take picture books and read them to my college friends. I don’t know if they appreciated that or not, but I think they did.

Terrie:

I think picture books are awesome, I used them with my high school students. I taught British literature and American literature, but when you’re teaching those literary devices of alliteration and imagery, well, getting a picture book that shows that is so much clearer than opening up Shakespeare. It’s like, you can apply it to Shakespeare later, let’s look at this picture book, and so I use picture books a lot to teach the literary devices to my high schoolers, it was fun.

Natalee:

Yes. I love that.

Terrie:

Well, I’m so glad you talked with us today. Thank you for taking the time to be here, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you.

Natalee:

It was my pleasure.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we’re here. We really appreciate you doing that and we are so glad you joined us today. If you would like to connect with Natalee, you can connect with her on her website, NataleeCreech.com. And if you would like to connect with me, you can connect with me on TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you go to our websites, you can sign up for our mailing list, you can find extra material, you can learn more about her books and what she has available for you as a follower, and on my website, you can find lots of freebies when you sign up for the mailing list, and I also have a lot of freebies that are just on my website, so check it out when you get a chance. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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