Bible Basics: A Baby Counting Primer is a new way to look at faith formation in small children. An interview with the creators, Danielle Hitchen and Jessica Blanchard.
In my younger daughter’s toddlerhood, we received a counting board book based on Jane Eyre. The illustrations were stark and muted in a grayed color, matching the novel’s atmosphere. I moaned on social media that I would have purchased the entire series of books based on classic novels if I had known of it earlier.
Once again, I find myself regretting that I don’t have a baby at the introduction to another series of primers of baby books. Danielle Hitchen, a mother and talk radio producer, and Jessica Blanchard, a mother and graphic artist, have created a board book that contests my former desires for books based on novels. Rather these are books for children’s spiritual formation.
The word gorgeous comes to mind. The first book they’re producing in their Baby Believer Primer series is a Bible Basics: A Baby Believer Counting Primer. It removes any doubts you may have about most Christian kids’ books. Although self-published, the book is the quality of Eerdman’s—the kind you’ll keep for your grandchildren’s visits. (I know I am gushing, but I can’t help myself.)
In an interview with Danielle, the author, and Jessica, the illustrator, Danielle tells me that “When my daughter was a baby, we began looking for resources to teach her about her faith, and we just found that there was very little out there that was age appropriate for a baby or a toddler.”
She and her husband were disappointed: “We were searching for books that presented material in a beautiful way which would be appealing for children and parents, and finding something that was both age appropriate and beautiful proved to be a near impossible task.”
When her daughter was one, she began dreaming of a series of baby concept books—numbers, letters, etc.—for faith formation. Her pastor connected her with Jessica, and Danielle sent her a Pinterest board of illustration ideas. Their collaboration began, emails flying back and forth, as they discussed how to represent theological concepts that could be counted: one God, two natures of Jesus, three persons of the Trinity and so on.
Does that sound too deep for a two-year-old? I resonated with Danielle’s response:
I think the reason the counting format works so well is that the kids can understand counting. If they can connect a theological concept to something as concrete as a number, that’s something they can start to internalize and remember. Even if a two-year-old doesn’t know a theological concept such as the Trinity, he knows that there are three persons of the Trinity. That’s a great foundation and starting point for building a deeper life of faith.
As Jessica pointed out, there are “visuals to help explain concepts that even adults don’t fully understand.” The visuals are so appealing that children and adults will be drawn to pick this book up. Imagine the watercolor texture and brightness of the illustrator Eric Carle combined with the simple folksy style of Tomie dePaola with a full-color background.
The book introduces very young children to a vocabulary of religious language, and it does so in a way that’s not ponderous. Each two-page spread introduces a concept in an attractive typograph with either a Bible verse, an ancient quotation, or a line from a traditional hymn underneath. The left page’s color complements the vivid illustration on the right.
On the date of our interview, Danielle was about to show Jessica the final product—the first sample printing as a board book. It had been seven months since they began working together. Danielle said, “I cried when I read it to my daughter.”
Because of the challenges of entering publishing as a new children’s author, they decided to self-publish, although a respected agent has already contacted them. Board books have to be mass produced, so they’ve just initiated a Kickstarter project for those interested in purchasing or supporting this book and their series. They’ve named their publishing house Catechesis Books.
I’ll be buying one, and more as I’m invited to baby showers. I’m grateful for this way to add quality children’s literature to family collections of storybook Bibles. Click on this link to view their Kickstarter page and see more of Jessica’s beautiful illustrations.
Along with being a mother to two young and remarkably different daughters, Heather Walker Peterson is a member of Redbud Writers Guild and Chair of the Department of English and Literature at University of Northwestern-Saint Paul.