Episode 64: Interview with Author Glenys Nellist

In this episode we talk with Glenys Nellist, author of many board books and picture books that inspire wonder and curiosity in children about God and His wonderful world. 

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 four popular series: Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, Good News and Little Mole, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy and hope in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David.

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

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. We are so blessed. Today with us we have Glenys Nellist, and she was on our program last year. And this is our second year of the podcast, and I’m so happy to say she’s joining us again this year. Glenys was born and raised in a little village in Northern England. She’s the author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling Twas the Evening of Christmas, The Wonder That Is You, and four popular series: Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, Good News, and Little Mole. Her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy and hope in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David. Thank you for joining us.

Glenys:

You’re so welcome, Terrie. I’m glad to be here.

Terrie:

When we talked before, you had one more in your series of the Little Mole stories, which I just love. So let’s start there, and then you can tell us all the exciting things that are coming up. I’ve been following you on social media, and I know you’ve got a lot to share today.

Glenys:

Oh, well, thank you Terrie. I know it’s kind of a wild ride. I don’t know if I shared this with you last time, but I honestly sometimes feel that God is the author and I’m just along for the ride, you know?

Terrie:

That’s awesome.

Glenys:

So, yeah, I’ve been super busy, so yes, Little Mole. I just actually signed the contract for what will be the fourth in the Little Mole series. So you know about Little Mole Finds Hope and you know about Little Mole’s Christmas Gift. And so next July, I’m so excited. You get to meet Little Mole Goes to School. He’s going to kindergarten, and he’s all afraid because he doesn’t know his ABCs, and he feels like he hasn’t got anything to offer, but he discovers otherwise, you know. So that’s Little Mole Goes to School with Beaming Books, illustrated by Sally Garland. That publishes next, I think, June, July. And then the year after that, which is the one I just signed the contract for, we’re doing Little Mole Gives Thanks for Thanksgiving. So I never thought it would be a series of four books, but I guess he’s a popular little mole.

Terrie:

If the listeners have not read these books, it’s not a story where the story preaches to the child. It’s like the child discovers the meaning of hope, the meaning of what it is to give, and those kinds of things as the story unfolds. And it’s just very special in that.

Glenys:

Oh, thank you, Terrie. So I hope that these next two forthcoming ones will be as widely received, you know?

Terrie:

I hope so. I’m excited to read them, and you’ve had some other books come out and some other books are expected to come out very soon. Tell us about those.

Glenys:

Well, earlier this year, I had Twas the Morning of Easter release, and that is the second in what is now becoming the Twas series. The first in that series, I think came out 2018, I want to say–it might’ve been 2017–Twas the Evening of Christmas. And it is a poem that takes the familiar rhythm and rhyme of the Clement C. Moore classic Twas the Night Before Christmas. And instead it tells the story of Jesus not Santa. So if you’re not familiar with the Twas series, that was the first one. And then earlier this year in February, I think we brought out Twas the Morning of Easter. So it’s a similar style–it’s written in that familiar rhythm and rhyme. And of course it’s the story of the Resurrection, and those books are published by, Zonderkidz. And so this third in that series actually releases October the fifth. So coming up pretty soon, and that one is Twas the Season of Advent. So I’m really excited. It’s a little more, it’s a bigger book. It’s a longer picture book than the previous two. The previous two are 32 pages. This is a 48, because it consists of 25 family Christmas devotionals designed to be read December 1st through December 25th. But again, each devotional begins with a verse, a stanza patterned on that similar rhythm and rhyme to the Clement C. Moore classic. Twas the Season of Advent publishes October 5th.

Terrie:

Oh, that’ll be so nice. I can’t wait to see it. And of course the same illustrator has done all three of these, and she’s just amazing.

Glenys:

That’s right. Yeah. I’m so happy and blessed Elena Selivanova. She is a Russian illustrator who first illustrated Twas the Evening of Christmas and was able to continue with the series. And I just signed the contract for the fourth in that series, which won’t release till, I think it’s either 2023 or it might be 2024, which will be Twas the Season of Lent.

Terrie:

Oh, wonderful. That’ll be a devotional book too?

Glenys:

That’s right. Yes. So again, it will be longer than any of the previous three. I’m not sure how many pages but it will have 40 family devotionals to take children and families through Lent. Yeah. So I’ve signed the contract. Well, I’ve only just started working on that. So yeah. It’s so exciting.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s wonderful. Well, share with us the book that is about to come out. I think you’ve already gotten your copy. That is so exciting. The Bible.

Glenys:

I do have my copy right here in front of me. You know, it’s just like a dream come true to be able to write, to be able to author a full children’s Bible. When I first started writing, and I published my very first book, Love Letters from God, that was kind of a walk through the Bible from Creation to the Resurrection, but it was only 18 stories. So this one is called, I Wonder: Exploring God’s Grand Story. And it’s an illustrated Bible illustrated by a new illustrator to me. Her name is Alexandra Fusey, and she lives in Rome. The pictures are just so beautiful and the cover. And so I just got my first copy a couple of weeks ago. So this one is much more comprehensive than the Love Letters from God. So obviously it begins with Creation, and it goes through to just beyond Resurrection to explore what Jesus’ followers did just after. So this one has 30 stories, 15 from the Old Testament and 15 from the New. So again, I mean, it doesn’t have every story, but so much more comprehensive. It’s about, it’s a real Bible.

Terrie:

So it’s like we would call a Bible story book. It has the Bible stories, like you said, up through from Creation to the Resurrection to Acts maybe?

Glenys:

Right. Yes. Up to Acts. It sort of ends with Lydia. So yeah, 30 stories. And so, yes, it’s I think Zonderkidz is calling it an illustrated Bible, but you’re right. It really is a storybook Bible. Okay. What I did was, for example, the story of David, you know, David had such an amazing life from being that little shepherd boy to fighting the giant, to becoming the king, to, you know, his downfall and his son Solomon hit. His life in another storybook Bible–maybe authors would take five, you know, short stories to relay his life, but I can put them all together in one story. So the stories are a little longer than you might find in some other story book Bibles, but that’s what I love to do is just storytelling. So hopefully they’re not too long.

Terrie:

Oh, I bet they’re great. I know we can pre-order it now. I saw that on Amazon. We can pre-order the advent book and we can pre-order the illustrated Bible, right?

Glenys:

Yeah. I’m so excited. So I hope people are pre-ordering, and I have these nice self-adhesive book plates that I sign and mail out to people who are pre-ordering. And that’s exciting for me. Amazon is good because it has that peek inside feature. You know, you can read a couple of sample stories right there online. And you know, as authors, we have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. You know, you can’t live without it, but I do like also to support the independent bookstores. And so Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan (I’m in Michigan, but I’m actually on the east side, Baker Book House is on the west), but they have the book, and you can pre-order it from them. It’s a signed one, and it’s 20% off too. That’s where I’ll be launching the book actually in October. That’s a good place, Baker Book House, to support also.

Terrie:

I’ll put the link to Baker Book House in the show notes too. That’s where I went to pre-order my first book I ordered from your set of books was from the actual Baker.

Glenys:

Oh, thank you so much. They will really appreciate that. You know, COVID has been so hard on independent businesses.

Terrie:

Yeah. Yeah. And also supporting any Christian bookstores because we’ve lost a lot during COVID.

Glenys:

Absolutely.

Terrie:

A lot of them have just gone to online, but some have even closed that. So anytime we can support the smaller bookstores, that’s what we want to do.

Glenys:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Terrie:

Okay. What else do you have going on? Not like you need more!

Glenys:

No. Well, you know, I’m always working on something. So as I said, my big project right now is the Advent book. I also have to write Little Mole Gives Thanks because although I signed the contract, I haven’t written it yet. So that’s kind of exciting then. They must trust me, you know? But right now I’m actually busy working on writing a free downloadable resource pack to accompany the I Wonder Bible because I think that’s just a good resource to offer parents and children’s ministry leaders, you know? So I write the content and then I give it to the design team at Zonderkidz and they make it look great. I’m really excited to be able to offer that to people soon. It’s like a 25 page, and it’s all printable. So you can look at it and print what you like and leave what is not helpful to you, but there’ll be coloring pages and activities for younger kids and older kids. There’s a sample lesson plan to use for the creation story. But one I’m really excited about is a set of wondering questions that parents, children’s ministry leaders–you can print them on card stock, cut them out, and put them in a little box. There’s a template to make your own little box, and you can use them. They are designed to be used like at mealtimes or on car rides or, you know, family times–just questions that you pull out, open-ended questions, that invite you to wonder about God and who God is and where God is and what your part might be in God’s grand story. So that’s what I’m working on right now.

Terrie:

That will be so wonderful to have. That’s such a great gift. And that’s exactly why I started this podcast is because we’ve got to keep the conversations going and open up conversations and curiosity with our children. And it is so important when our kids are little to just let them know they always have a place to come and talk, and they can always ask questions. No question is out of bounds. That’s just my little soap box, you know. It’s just so important.

Glenys:

Yeah. And I think, you know, children, as you said, you know, they need to learn that no questions are too hard to ask or there are no questions that shouldn’t be asked. And I think it’s the same with God. I think so much depends on your upbringing. But you know, some people are almost afraid to ask hard question like, why does God let bad things happen in the world? You know, I mean, it’s a great question. And it’s one we don’t have an answer to, but it’s a great conversation starter and for us to wonder about. And it’s not like God’s going to be mad with us or disappointed in us. God wants us to have that dialogue and to keep talking. And so this Bible, after every story I included three or four wondering questions, and they’re just open-ended and there’s no right or wrong answer. And so it just encourages children to just think about God and their place in God’s story. Because, you know, Terrie, we fill our world, don’t we, with entertainment and noise. And sometimes we feel like our kids have to be, you know, occupied all the time, healthily occupied, whatever that might looks like. Well, sometimes there’s just no room for kids just to wonder, you know, or appreciate nature or just sense that God is with them. And so this book is an invitation to slow down, to read the stories of the Bible that are so mysterious and filled with wonder, and just to ponder who God is and what this story has to do with my life. You know. One little book that’s coming out that I didn’t mention is called, it’s tentatively called, Baby Blessings. And that’s with Zonderkidz coming out, I think next year or the year after. I kind of lost track. I’m excited about that one because it invites parents and grandparents to say a simple blessing over the children at bedtime and kind of speak in scripture over them. So I’m excited for that one.

Terrie:

You said next year, that one will come out.

Glenys:

Do you know what, Terrie. It’s either the next year or the year after; it’s either 2022 or 2023. I have a lot coming out. I know that next year, 2022, I have two more little Good News books coming out. The little board books series with Our Daily Bread. I’ve got Good News: God Loves Me and Good News. It’s Creation. They’re coming out fall of 2022. So yeah, I’ve been busy.

Terrie:

Sounds like it. You amaze me at all that you get done and how many books you have come out each year. You have to come on the podcast every year and just fill us in.

Glenys:

Well, I’d love to. Thank you.

Terrie:

Glenys could you recommend some great picture books to our listeners–besides your own?

Glenys:

Well, absolutely. You know, picture books are my thing. So I have a whole host of them, but the two, Terrie, that immediately spring to mind are two from a good friend of mine. That’s not why I’m recommending them, but Jennifer Grant, I’m sure your listeners might be familiar with some of her books. She is the author of the Maybe Series: Maybe God Is Like That Too and Maybe I Could Love My Neighbor Too. Those are really popular books from Beaming Books. She just brought out two new picture books. The first one was published last year, and I had the privilege to endorse both these new titles. The first one is a book on grief and it’s called A Little Blue Bottle, illustrated by Jillian Whiting. And it’s just so lovely. Terrie, it’s like very gentle, and her books walk alongside children. They don’t kind of direct them. They don’t try to gloss things over necessarily, you know, make things better. They just walk alongside children and allow them to experience what they’re feeling. So this one on grief is just a lovely little book to share with children. And then her most recent one, again, very gentle, very sparse in her words, beautiful illustrations by the same illustrator. It’s called Once Upon a Time, Not So Long Ago. And it’s all about the pandemic and how that affected our lives in so many ways. It’s just a very gentle exploration of what happened and how our world was turned upside down, but how there is still hope to be found. I’m sure that loads of books will be written about the pandemic, but this one is just so gentle and tender and moving. I just can’t recommend it too highly. It’s Once Upon a Time, Not So Long Ago.

Terrie:

I’ve read that book too. And I think it’s just beautifully written, and she really is helping us heal as we read that. That was the thing that struck me was that it allowed us to grieve, to acknowledge that this was a major thing in our world, and then to heal from it. That there’s, like you said, there is hope, and we continue on, and I love that. Do you have any recommendations for books for parents?

Glenys:

I do. In fact, I could make it easy for your listeners. They just need to Google Traci Smith, T-R-A-C-I. She is a Presbyterian pastor living in Chicago, great author. She has a fabulous series of books called Faithful Families. And Traci is a mom herself. She has three little kids. And so she’s on the ground. She knows what it’s like to be a parent of, you know, busy children and try to teach them, guide them about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit in gentle ways. So her books, she has a series of three with a fourth one on the way. The first one is called Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home. And these books are just filled with a plethora of spiritual practices, just easy to do, gentle, inclusive. And I just think they’re really impactful. She has a way of being able to weave these practices into daily life. And so the second one in that series is Prayers for Faithful Families. Again, a plethora of prayers for parents to use, very simple, but very powerful. Her most recent one is Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas, which covers that whole beautiful season. And I know because I’ve just been asked to endorse, and it will be my privilege to endorse her upcoming one. I think it’s publishing 2022, and that is Faithful Families for Lent and Easter. And so I’m excited about that one because I feel like there’s not a lot of good quality devotional, reliable materials that are available for the Easter season. And so yeah, Traci Smith. Parents just need on those four books and there’ll be well-covered raising their kids to know about God.

Terrie:

That sounds wonderful. And I agree. I think we need to do more with the Easter season to make it more impactful for the church and for our kids. We celebrate Christmas way more than we need to, and we don’t celebrate the most important thing: the Resurrection. I enjoy talking with you so much and I love your books. You know, I do. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today. I’m excited to see these books. It’s wonderful to see what God can do with someone who just submits and says, Lord, use me.

Glenys:

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

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions, as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to contact Glenys or learn more about her and the books that she has written, you can get in touch with her at glenysnellist.com. And if you would like to join my mailing list, you can sign up on TerrieHellardBrown.com. Remember when you join my mailing list, you have access to some special free gifts that are only available to those who sign up.

Your Host:

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.

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