Books that Spark podcast cover, Ann Ingall interview and the Journey with Jesus

Episode 180: Ann Ingalls Interview and the Journey with Jesus

In this episode of “Books that Spark,” we have a great conversation with author Ann Ingalls about her newest book just in time for Easter. 

Our Guest: Ann Ingalls

Ann Ingalls passes the day exaggerating (writing fiction) or telling the truth (writing nonfiction). She has written over sixty books for young readers. PENCIL: A STORY WITH A POINT! made the Banks Street Best Books list of 2020. J IS FOR JAZZ won the 2015 Annual American Graphic Design Award and the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation’s “A Book Just for Me!” LITTLE PIANO GIRL also won the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation’s “A Book Just for Me!” She has received a handful of awards from the Highlights Foundation for poetry and short stories.

When given the choice between educating children or entertaining them with her writing, she chooses to do both. Ann lives in Kansas City with her husband, Winston. Please visit her at

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie (00:10):

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. Well, I’m so glad you’re with us today. I have a special guest. Her name is Ann Ingalls, and she is going to talk to us about her brand new book that launched the end of January. Welcome, Ann. Thank you for being here.

Ann (00:32):

Well, thank you so much, Terrie, for having me.

Terrie (00:34):

Well, tell us about your wonderful book Journey with Jesus.

Ann (00:38):

Well, my husband and I went to Israel a year ago, then we actually went back this year because I didn’t see as much of it as I had hoped to see, but when we were there, we visited so many of the places where Jesus lived and prayed with others and created miracles, all of that. So I came home, pulled out four Bibles and set them out in front of me and lit my candle on my desk and said a prayer and launched into it.

Terrie (01:06):

Awesome. Well, it’s a wonderful story and the illustrations by Steliyana Doneva, they’re just beautiful, such sweet little pictures and it goes through the entire Easter story. Some books we’ve been talking about with Lent and Easter. Some tell the Easter story, some don’t. This one is just straightforward, shares the gospel and tells the Easter story. And I love that. I think it’s really wonderful.

Ann (01:31):

Oh, thank you so much. Well, that really was my intent. I wrote this book for children between the ages of four and eight primarily, so I didn’t want it to be too frightening. There’s no scouring or any of that. I do think the illustrator did a magnificent job. I like to write in rhyme. I had written it initially not in rhyme, then I decided I would try and Paraclete was pretty happy with it, so we let it go at that.

Terrie (02:00):

Well, it’s wonderful and the rhyme is wonderful too. It’s hard to read a book where the rhyme is not solid, and this one is easy to read. I even read it out loud today to my husband and he loved it too.

Ann (02:12):

That’s great.

Terrie (02:13):

Well, and I know you’ve written, what, about 60 books? And some of these are so intriguing. I know you can’t talk about all 60 books, but tell us about a few of them. I’ll pick a few and you pick a few that you want to talk about.

Ann (02:26):

Alright, you go first.

Terrie (02:27):

Alright. I’m intrigued by Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly. Tell us about that book.

Ann (02:33):

Well, that was really fun to write. I sat on my back porch with my morning coffee with my husband by my side, and we saw this mother bird stepping out to the end of the limb and one of the baby birds was sort of wobbling and trying to catch up with his mother. She had extended food for him to eat and he or she, we don’t know about that baby, but anyway, we went out every day and watched and watched, and then I came in and wrote it and at one point we saw the mother give the baby a little gentle nudge, and the publisher at that time, it was Dawn, which has since sold to Source books, but they said, “Oh, that doesn’t happen,” and I was so proud of myself, Terrie, because I had already gone to the Audubon Society to ask if it did happen, and they said yes it does. Not typically, but it definitely does happen, so I left it in.

Terrie (03:21):

Cool. That’s awesome. I love that. Well, and then the other books, I love that you have a Good Manners series. Do we need that today or what?

Ann (03:31):

You know, I wrote that quite a long time ago and that was a lot of fun to write because I put a multiple choice questionnaire at the end of the book and some of the answers are flat out ridiculous so the kids can get rid of the ridiculous answer first and kind of go from there, and they did a really nice job on the illustrations I think, too. I was very pleased with that.

Terrie (03:53):

So there’s several in that series, Good Manners at the Table, at School, when you’re a Guest, in the Family. I think that’s wonderful.

Ann (04:01):

I think there are actually eight books in that series, which surprised me when the publisher asked me to do that. Like I typically do my desk cause it’s pretty much always a mess, but I have a bunch of notebooks, so I’d written down notes about what might go into each book.

Terrie (04:15):

Nice. Okay, so I’ve asked about a few books. What books would you like to talk about?

Ann (04:20):

Well, I suppose I’d like to mention Pencil: A Story with a Point that was published by Pajama Press. I do a lot of presentations and I was a teacher early childhood and special ed for 32 years. I always and continue to have kind of, oh, not the tidiest junk drawers, so I was in the kitchen cleaning one of those junk drawers and it occurred to me that each item in that drawer had a purpose. What if it had a personality? So I came to my desk and fiddled with that and I only submitted it twice, which is atypical. Typically, you have to submit picture books more often than that to get an acceptance, and the publisher really liked it and they found a great illustrator. I think Dean Griffiths did a wonderful job and that is one of my bestselling picture books and most often children will ask me about that book when I do either a virtual visitor in person.

Terrie (05:15):

That’s cool, and I thought it was really cute. I saw the illustrations as well on that one. They’re really just adorable. Okay, and what other book would you like to talk about?

Ann (05:25):

Well, I guess I would say that the Biggety Bat books by Scholastic, there’s two in that series and in one Biggety Bat is hungry and he is looking for food, in the other one, he is looking for friends. Children like those two books rather very well. And then Ice Cream Soup that was originally published by Penguin Books. That has also been a favorite of children. Another book I suppose I want to mention would be a book that is out of print, but I would love children and families to read it. It’s called Little Piano Girl, and I wrote that with my sister Maryann, who is also a writer. It’s about Mary Lou Williams, who was the first lady of jazz. She was a faith-filled individual. She was a Catholic, most of what other really prominent jazz musicians played. She wrote it and she is one of three who’ve ever lived who could do three things at one, and one thing she could do was lead the band with the movements of her head and she would use her left hand to play all the parts of the song, and at the same time, she would write music for the next act with her right hand.

Terrie (06:34):

Oh my goodness. Wow.

Ann (06:36):

She wrote the first jazz mass and all the music for that. She was just an incredible, incredible individual. So not a lot of people outside of the jazz community know about her, but I think children might really benefit from learning about her. So that’s why I mention it.

Terrie (06:53):

Okay. You told me before we started that you have a book on prayer. Is that right? Or devotionals that you wrote a long time ago.

Ann (07:01):

We’re talking about Worm Watching and Other Wonderful Ways to Teach Young Children to Pray. That was published by Pilgrim Press, and it’s all based on time spent with children and how we pray and how they come up with topics that they’d like to pray about. Maybe they’d like to bring their puppy to school or maybe their puppy lives at home, and they want to pray for their puppy or thank God for the puppy they’ve received. So they develop the language they want to use. We pet the puppy, feed the puppy, play ball with the puppy, and pray for the gift of that puppy. So that’s kind of how that book works.

Terrie (07:38):


Ann (07:38):

Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that book.

Terrie (07:40):

Yeah, I was just yesterday reading a really good article about teaching our children to pray, and I love that that book would give us an opportunity to just walk through how to pray with our children and to teach them how to pray. That sounds wonderful.

Ann (07:55):

Well, I did use it in the classroom, both when I taught pre-kindergarten and three and four year olds at a Disciples of Christ Church, and then later on when I taught at a Catholic school and it seemed to work pretty well with children, so that’s why I continued to do that.

Terrie (08:11):

That’s cool. Well then you have another book, J is for Jazz. I’m guessing that you like jazz with some of the topics you’ve covered in your books. Is that one of your favorite kinds of music?

Ann (08:22):

I do love it. I love it, and I live in Kansas City, Missouri, and jazz is a big deal here, and after I left teaching, I was subbing for the music teacher. She had to take her child to the doctors and I did not know what in the world I was going to do, but they were doing a unit on jazz, so I went to the library that evening to look for books on jazz for children, and I really couldn’t find any, so I determined that I would use the alphabet format and see what I could do. World Book published that, it’s still for sale and it’s gotten a lot of recognition. It won the Ella Fitzgerald Award as did The Little Piano Girl, and it also won a book for illustration. The illustrations in that book are just phenomenal. As writers, we provide the scaffold and then the illustrators really flesh it out and give it so much color and life and meaning, which I think they have done. The illustrator certainly did do that in Journey with Jesus. I think the Illustrator did an outstanding job.

Terrie (09:24):

Oh, I agree, and I agree with the one on jazz too, J is for Jazz. The illustrations there are very unique, and that’s what I love is, each artist is so different and when they capture the story well, it’s such an amazing collaboration and, I agree, I think in Journey with Jesus, she’s really captured not just the story but the spirit of it and the joy in the faces of the children, just all of it. It’s just wonderful.

Ann (09:50):

Well, you might find this funny. I know I had been concerned that children would be upset, so I read it to my five-year-old granddaughter, and we reached the part where Jesus is up on the cross and she looked at me and said, “Grandma, don’t worry. He comes back alive.”

Terrie (10:07):

Aww. Oh, that’s so cute. Oh, I love that.

Ann (10:10):

I do too. So it was very hopeful.

Terrie (10:13):

Yep. If we remember the resurrection, we can get through the sadness of the cross, that’s for sure. I love that. I do appreciate so much that your book does not go into too much of the upsetting details, like you said, the scourging and all of that. I love how you have Pilate saying He’s innocent, but we’re sending Him to the cross anyway, basically, and that’s so right on with the scripture. I love that. What about your Missouri books, since we have a lot of homeschoolers in our audience, so would that be something to talk about or your Australia one or any of those that would be good for homeschoolers?

Ann (10:53):

I give a number of presentations at the library for homeschool, and they request a variety of topics. Of course, here in Missouri, I’ve written two Christmas books, The 12 Little Elves of Christmas. I wrote that for Familius, and then I wrote 12 Days of Christmas in Missouri, and I wrote that for Sterling, and then Sterling became part of Union Square Books. So yeah, I would say those are lots of times when I do presentations, especially for homeschooling, they ask about how I write a book, how I begin my writing process, that’s what I share. I’ll share a little bit of that today. First I get my idea, then I get my, as we talked about, notebooks out, then I consider how the book will end. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I know what the beginning of the book will be, but how will it end? So I look for what I think will be an entertaining, educating, or somewhat satisfying resolution at the end. It doesn’t have to be a hundred percent satisfying, then I plunge in if it is fiction or nonfiction, I always, always study up on whatever I’m writing about. So for instance, well, I’ve written a book that is yet to be published about Thomas Garrett, who was a station master on the eastern branch of the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman considered him one of her closest friends and the only white man she ever trusted. All of the people she brought through came through his home. It took six years to write that book, and that’s the longest I’ve ever spent to write a book, but you can’t make a mistake when it’s non-fiction, whether it’s a picture book or a longer book. For instance, I have a book coming out next year called Cowpoke Christmas, and I had to really study how ranchers celebrate Christmas and what’s most important to them.

Terrie (12:47):

How fun. Well, that will be a fun one to read.

Ann (12:50):

That comes out in Fall of next year with sleeping there, but that was a very fun book to write, and I wrote it out of rhyme and then the editor wanted it in rhyme, so I redid it, but first just get the ideas on paper, figure out what your beginning is, your end is, and then everything in the middle.

Terrie (13:08):

That’s cool. I like that a lot. Okay. You mentioned several times that you do speak at homeschool events and other events. How can people reach you if they want to have you come share?

Ann (13:18):

Oh, sure. I have a booking agent and her name is Sarah DeVore, capital D e capital V o-r-e, and the email there is, I believe How Now Booking, but if you look that up, you can find her. Now. Her fees are flexible, so I don’t want anybody to be concerned if they see something that looks totally out of the range, because Sarah is flexible and I am flexible. That’s a good way to do that is to contact her.

Terrie (13:51):

Alright. We will have that email in the show notes so people can reach out. I will also have your website there so they can see all the books you’ve written and know how to get those. That’s

Ann (14:04):

And they’re not all listed there. People can also contact me from that website. There is a way to contact me, send me a note, ask a question. I answer everything, everything, even how many fillings I have in my teeth. I’m happy to answer any questions that are presented.

Terrie (14:21):

That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ve had fun talking with you and getting to know you a little bit. We look forward to your book doing really well. I think it will really bless families, and that’s Journey with Jesus: An Easter Story, and it came out January 30th this year, so it’s brand new, so be sure and look for that. Well, thank you again so much.

Ann (14:43):

Thank you so very much. I really appreciate this, Terrie.

Terrie (14:47):

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and 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 are here or leave comments on one of the podcast host sites. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. 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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