In this episode I interview author Glenys Nellist and discuss her many wonderful books for babies and children. Her newest book, Little Mole’s Christmas Gift launches today, and we’re giving away a signed copy to someone at the end of October. Just comment below to be entered into the contest.
Books Recommended in this Episode:
Our Guest: Glenys Nellist
Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in Northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling Twas the Evening of Christmas, The Wonder that Is You, and many popular series, including Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, Good News, and The Little Mole. Her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband David.
Terrie: Welcome to “Books that Spark” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today we’re so excited to have a special guest Glenys Nellist, who is a writer. She was born and raised in a little village in Northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling Twas the Evening of Christmas, The Wonder that Is You, and many popular series, including Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, Good News, and The Little Mole. Her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband David. Glenys, thank you for joining us today. I’m so excited. I’ve been looking forward to talking with you.
Glenys: Terrie, I’m looking forward to our time together too well.
Terrie: I’m so excited to share your beautiful books. You have such a heart for children in your writing, and it’s like you see the child’s heart, that it needs gentle, loving words to nurture and to guide the heart of a child. What inspires you as you write these wonderful books?
Glenys: Thank you for those kind words. I’ve always had a heart for children. I was a teacher in my previous life. I’m from England, and I taught primary school children. And so I’ve just always had a love for children and a love for reading. But in terms of what inspired me, I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to say. I mean, in many ways, my work, when we came to the United States. I stepped out of teaching and began pastoring a church alongside my husband. He was the pastor, and I was the Christian education director. So, in many ways, what inspired me to begin was a love for the Bible stories. And I found writing, rewriting those stories for my teachers, I just fell in love with the way there’s always a new way to tell the old, old story.
That’s really what inspired me to start writing my first book, which was a book of Bible stories. And it all kind of started from there. That first book, Love Letters from God, is 18 Bible stories. And each story has a lift the flap love letter from God that you can address personally to the child. It was important to me to include that personal interaction because I think that’s what God wants from all of us when we read the Bible or when we sit to pray; God wants that personal connection with us and God as our creator who knows our names. And so the thought of being able to read a book with a child where a letter is personally addressed to them from God, and I know you can’t see me, but I’m doing that little, you know, quotation marks–“from God,” because obviously I wrote the letters, but a lot of prayer and thought went into those letters because that’s not something you do lightly, you know, everything I wrote, I wanted to be sure that God, if God were here, that’s what God would be saying to the child.
And so, I based all those letters on Bible verses where God was speaking. So, it couldn’t be a Bible verse that said, for example, “God will be with you.” It has to be, “I will be with you” that way. I tried to just enter God’s mind, if you like, and just pray for the Holy Spirit: “What do you want me to say in this letter?” So, yeah, that was my first book. Love Letters from God. And that was published in 2014 and turned into a picture book series.
Terrie: And then they also have these in a Bible as well, right?
Glenys: Oh yes. That was so exciting for me. After the first book was published, we then brought out these books are published by Zonderkidz. They were my first publisher love letters from God was followed by Christmas Love Letters from God. And then if you’re going to do Christmas, you have to do Easter. So, there’s an Easter Love Letters from God. There’s also one for women and girls in the Bible, which is Love Letters from God Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. I’m not an author that really thinks that boys and girls need different texts. But the Bible is so–well. It’s written by men, and it’s full of stories about men and boys, but there are wonderful stories of girls and women hiding sometimes. And so, I just wanted to tease those out. But anyway, the one I think you’re referring to somewhere in that process, that publication of the series Zonderkidz came to me, which is always great, you know, when your publisher comes to you, and said, we would like to publish a full edition Bible, but we’d like you to write, I think it was about maybe 30, 40 love letters that we can place at strategic points within the biblical text. That was yeah. Love letters from God Holy Bible. And that was amazing for me. I’m not really the author of that, you understand, but it was a wonderful opportunity just to expand on the series and write more love letters that God might write. And I think also in that Bible Zonderkidz left space so that children could write back to God or make little notes, you know? So yeah, it was so nice.
Terrie: I know you had most recently your book Grandma Snuggles launched around Grandparent’s Day. I thought that was really cute, but you have a whole series of Snuggle Time books, right? Are they all board books?
Glenys: That was the second series of books that I launched with Zonderkidz. The first one is called Snuggle Time Prayers. And then we followed that with Snuggle Time Psalms and these are all small with the soft back. So, they’re nice for kids to hold, and they’re chewable which is important for little ones. They’re all written in rhyme, which is something I’ve always loved to do. What I really love the Psalms one, because I just talk, I think 14 or 15, well known sounds like for example, Psalm 23, you know, the Lord is my shepherd, and you might not think that the Psalms are for children. You know, when you think of reading the Bible to children, it’s always the stories, the iconic Bible stories, but the Psalms are so beautiful and poetic and wonderful and paint wonderful pictures of God. And so, I just felt like I could find a way to make the Psalms accessible for little ones. And so that is one of my favorite titles. And then we did Snuggle Time Christmas Stories, and then Snuggle Time Fall Blessings, which is popular right now, you know, with the leaves falling down. And then I think the most recent one that I did was Snuggle Time Bible Stories. That’s just a sweet little series, and there are two more to come that I’ve done Snuggle Time Easter and Snuggle Time Love. And I think those are publishing 2022. It’s just a huge blessing, and then to add Grandma Snuggles alongside them. Grandma Snuggles launched in September.
Terrie: Little Mole’s, Christmas Gift launches today. I love Little Mole Finds Hope. And so I’m excited to read the new one that launches today. Can you tell us a little bit about your Little Mole series?
Glenys: I think everybody loves Little Mole because he’s such a sweet little guy. These books are published by Beaming Books. Little Mole Finds Hope, as you said, was the first in the series. It was published I think February of this year, basically Little Mole Finds Hope is an Easter-themed book. I’m excited about it because it was really my first sort of crossover the title. And what I mean by that is if your listeners are not familiar, up to this point, pretty much all my books published with Zonderkidz and Our Daily Bread Ministries had a mainly Christian slant, if not religious. But Little Mole Finds Hope was my first foray into trying to write a book that would reach both the religious and the secular markets. If you are a Christian, you will see the Resurrection in Little Mole Finds Hope because it’s all about Little Mole who is sad. He lives underground, and so he’s kind of literally and figuratively in the dark. And his mom suggests one day, “Why don’t we go and look outside for hope?” And he says, “What’s that? Hope? What is it? Where can it be found?” And so the premise is that hope can be found even in the darkest place–a tulip bulb or a daffodil bulb that looks dead and lifeless will one day be a beautiful flower. And of course, the butterfly that looks shriveled and lifeless in a Chrysalis will one day be a beautiful butterfly. It’s simply a story of Little Mole finding that hope can live even in the dark. It’s kind of a good message for COVID, you know? That even in the darkest place, hope can be found. And so obviously if you’re a Christian, the message is resurrection and new life in Jesus, but we deliberately did not mention God or Jesus in the book because we just want it to be read by people of faith and people who aren’t. And in the back of that book, there’s a little section on tips for adults or parents, caregivers helping if the child is feeling sad. And so that was, you know, a wonderful first introduction for Little Mole.
And then, so the book that releases today. Yay! Happy birthday, Christmas Gift! And it’s a little early to be talking Christmas, but you know, in the publishing world, you have to get the titles out and in the stores. All the retailers have to know what’s coming down the line. So Little Mole is back. And this time when we meet him, he’s less unsure of the world. And he’s super excited because he’s found this massive mushroom for mama in the woods, and he’s had his eye on it for a while and he decides this is going to be a fabulous Christmas present for mama. He pushes it, and he pulls it, and he finally topples it. And he’s super excited. And the illustrations by Sally Garland are just wonderful. But there’s a wonderful illustration where Little Mole is imagining this big Christmas gift and how much joy it will bring him to give to mama and how much she will love it. And you know, who among us has not felt that, you know, when we’re out shopping and we have our eye on this gift, and we think that is the gift, and you’re excited, you know, to wrap it and to give it. So I think we can identify with the emotions of Little Mole. Well, unfortunately as he’s on his way back to the burrow, as he’s dragging this big, massive mushroom, well, he encounters three little Woodland friends, and they’re all in need. And so our little guy has a big decision to make, should he share his mushroom with his friends in need? Or should he save it for mama? It’s just a sweet little story of kindness and generosity, and we sure need a lot of kindness in our world. Don’t we?
Terrie: Yeah, we sure do. I can’t wait to read it. It sounds adorable. Well, my absolute favorite one of all your books that I’ve read–this book made me cry. I love it so much. And that’s The Wonder that Is You. Oh, I just that book, I think it’s going to be on my gift list from now on for new moms, because I think it’s such a beautiful thing.
Glenys: Oh, I’m so glad that you brought that up. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to talk about it, but The Wonder that Is You came about, because my editor invited me to lunch one day. I was all nervous, you know, but it’s a wonderful thing when you could meet your editor face to face. I have just learned in this publishing journey to ask my editors one important question, and that is “What are you looking for?” Her answer to that question is the reason why The Wonder That Is You was born. She said, “I’m looking for a book that will celebrate the arrival of a new child in the family, whether through birth or adoption.” And so I said, “Okay, let me think about that.” And I went home and what is that book, Terrie? That the really popular book that sold millions. And I can’t just remember the author now, but it’s the go-to book for all the showers. It’s the one with the two polar bears dancing together on the front cover. Do you know which one I’m thinking? [On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman]
Terrie: But if you ever wondered or—
Glenys: It’s something like that. It’s just escaping me now.
Terrie: I think I actually have it in my bookshelf here. I was just trying to find it.
Glenys: I do too, but I just cannot for the life of me remember, but it’s a wonderful book and really it’s a go-to book for baby showers and new baby gifts. And actually that book is so clever because that book is a secular book, but there is a Bible verse at the very end. And it’s the one from Psalm 139: “I praise you because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so anyway, I know that your listeners right now, they’ll be like, “Oh, they’re talking about that book.” And I just can’t remember the title, but anyway, she said, “I want to book like that one.” So, I went away and Terrie, it was just, I don’t even know what made me think of that. But I was thinking about when–we have four wonderful children, all grown now like yours, but when my first son was born, I had this amazing experience in the hospital. Like I was flying because I was so full of joy and wonder at being a mother. That was the impetus for The Wonder That Is You. And so that book is dedicated to my eldest son and you know, it’s marvelous what God will do with a title because so many women have told me I’m going to buy this for my grown up kids because somehow I think it just captures the emotions and the feeling that mothers have when they hold their child for the first time, whether they give birth to that child or whether they’re adopted. And actually I should say, I should correct myself because that title was actually my first crossover title, because although it’s published by Zonderkidz, there are no direct religious references. What I tried to do was to capture: suppose all creation, rejoices. When a new child enters the family. Suppose rivers bubble over with joy, and suppose the trees clap their hands, and suppose the stars are singing. I’m so glad that you love that book because it really is one of my favorites too really.
Terrie: Even if they don’t, it feels that way for us. Our life is so changed, and we feel like the world is rejoicing with us. Everything has changed. And you know, we waited so long to have kids. And when that first child was born, she was such a miracle. You just captured my heart with what you said. That’s exactly how I felt. And so, I just, I love it.
Glenys: Thank you. Well, that gives me goosebumps to hear you say that, and just to talk about it. Because you know what happens is when you’re a busy mom all that wonder, sometimes it can just slip through your fingers and you forget that, you know, in the midst of diapers and laundry and babies and crying in the night, you forget the miracle and the joy and the wonder of being a mom. And so, I think what you just said is right, that even if the trees don’t know we are never the same. And I think any words that can take us back to that place of wonder I think are a special thing.
Terrie: Then you have a book coming out. When will that release?
Glenys: Actually, that one will release in February of 2021 Twas the Morning of Easter.
Terrie: Yeah. And I’ve already read the Christmas one: Twas the Evening of Christmas. And I love that one. I love the artwork. Your illustrator in those made beautiful pictures.
Glenys: I know. She is a Russian illustrator, Elena Selivanova. That one is published by Zonderkidz. And I remember, again, having lunch with him the first time I had lunch with my editor, we were talking about Love Letters from God, that very first book. And she just said, do you have anything else that you’ve written? And I said, well, I do. I have a poem that’s based on the Clement C. Moore Classic. But instead of being called Twas the Night Before Christmas, it’s called Twas the Evening of Christmas, and it celebrates Jesus instead of Santa, you know, I’m not anti-Santa in any way, but that’s just the way I like to frame that. And so she said, I’ll take a peek at it. Twas the Evening of Christmas was born. And oh, my goodness, when I saw those illustrations, they’re just staggering. And I’m super excited to be publishing Twas the Morning of Easter. Twas the Evening of Christmas begins, “Twas the evening of Christmas when all through the town, each inn was so crowded no room could be found.” And so I just took that familiar cadence and rhythm and rhyme, and just rewrote it about being,
Terrie: Do you have the same illustrator for the Easter one?
Glenys: I do. Wait. The I’ve had a peek at them. They’re just as stunning. They’re just beautiful. And that one begins, “Twas the morning of Easter before the sun rose, two guards on a hillside were trying to doze.”
Terrie: Oh, that’s cute.
Glenys: Yeah. But her pictures are phenomenal, and I’ll just let you in on a little secret that nobody else knows. And so truly only my husband and my publisher Zonderkidz know, but there is another book in the Twas series with the same illustrator, and that will be publishing this time next year.
Terrie: Oh, wonderful.
Glenys: I can’t say anything else about it.
Terrie: Wow! You are a busy, busy person.
Glenys: I know. And you know what, honestly, I was taking part in a writer’s conference last week. It was my first time being one of the headliners, and it was such a blessing. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but one of the things I said was, “I honestly feel like God is the author, and I’m just along for the ride,” you know, because I don’t know. I just, I think we are all creative in some capacity where that you have the gift of writing or drawing, which I don’t have that gift or creating art in whatever form, making things we all, because we’re all made in God’s image, we’re all creators. And I just feel like I’ve been able to tap into the whole, I don’t know that the creativity that the Holy Spirit just gives. And honestly, I just feel like a vessel. So when I sit down, right, I just prayed Holy Spirit flow through my pen. And let me write the words that will honor you. And it’s just amazing. I don’t know how I got so fortunate, so blessed to be in this position, but I do love what I do.
Terrie: One of the focuses of my podcast is the importance of reading aloud with our children, you know, to our children and with our children. Would you like to speak to that?
Glenys: Well, as you said, that is just so important and it’s vital and it’s key in all, you know, all the research about raising readers and literacy skills, reading aloud to them on with them is just foundational. And so what, what I would say to parents are any of your lessons, anyone out there listening, who, who were, who is nurturing the child, first of all, just enjoy it because my four kids, one of mine was a struggling reader. So you just don’t want to get to the point where it’s hard work or it’s a chore. And so I think just to inspire that love of reading and a lot of looking at pictures, and if your children are little, just that interaction, you know, of having them cuddle with you on your lap or next to you and turning the page. I think some people might think that reading aloud to children, that’s not helping them read, but that’s not true because you were just setting the example and you’re paving the way for children to enter a new world through a book, you know, so make it fun.
Do it as often as you can, don’t be afraid to kids. Our favorite books, don’t land parents might get a bit fed up with repeated that book, but just do it because just nurture that love of reading and read yourself, you know, children, see what we do on there. They’re going to imitate what we do. And so the more we are readers, the more we will raise readers. Amen. Well, I would love to give one of your listeners. I’d love to get them with Little Mole’s Christmas Gift.
Terrie: Oh, that would be wonderful.
Glenys: Yes. Since it’s his birthday today. That would be appropriate to give that as a Christmas gift. And I’d look to, that would be a signed copy too that one of your readers could receive.
Terrie: So if you are interested in entering for an opportunity to win this beautiful little book, Little Mole’s, Christmas Gift, you just need to comment on our blog post or on one of the announcements on social media about this giveaway. And every time you comment or ask a question, you’re entered in the contest.
Glenys: And I should add that I’m only able to mail the book within the United States.
Terrie: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking time to talk with us today. It really was a blessing to get to talk with you and meet you a little bit. And I look forward to reading more of your books in the future and just ask that God will bless you and continue to inspire you to write these lovely, lovely books. Oh, well, thank you so much for having me.
Terrie: For those of you listening. Remember we have a giveaway. Glenys is giving away a signed copy of her brand new book that has a birthday today, that launches today. And that is Little Mole’s Christmas Gift. Comment on this blog post or on one of the social media announcements about this giveaway, and you will be entered to win. We’ll draw the winner the end of October, and announced the winner on November 1st.
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. Be sure to check out my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you join my mailing list, you automatically receive access to several freebies just for those who sign up.
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 are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
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 “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!