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New children’s story aims to inspire gratitude

Local author-illustrator team release picture book

Mendota author Kathy Hardee and Utica illustrator Mark MacKay say their collaborative children's book isn't the average Bible story about creation.

Young readers won't find any pictures of Adam and Eve in this version, the duo said in a press release. Instead, their picture book "God Made That for Me!" features illustrations of everyday things for which children can be thankful — such as the sun streaming through a bedroom window, accompanied by the text, "On day one, God made the light. He called it Day."

The book covers the biblical account of the six days of creation, accompanied by Bible verses and artwork. The book also includes original song lyrics for children to sing to familiar tunes, such as "Jesus Made Me" to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me" and a rewrite of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

"God Made That for Me!" was released in December 2018 by Redemption Press, a Christian publishing company based in Enumclaw, Wash.

Hardee and her husband, Bob, moved from Ottawa to rural Mendota 12 years ago. In 2010, she began blogging one-minute reads about things she learned during her time alone with God, according to the press release. She later submitted her blog posts to DaySpring in 2011, which published her writing in a 2012 calendar. Hardee was a member of The Times' inaugural Write Team in 2001.

MacKay is a freelance illustrator who said artistic ability runs in his family. His father, Duncan, illustrated his 2010 book "Uncharted Waters." His son, Ryan, and grandson, Trenton, also recently released a book together that was written by Trenton and illustrated by Ryan. MacKay is married with three children and three grandchildren. He said his family often is the subject of his artwork.

Readers can purchase the book and meet Hardee and MacKay during a local authors event from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Prairie Fox Books, 719 La Salle St., Ottawa. The book also can be purchased through Redemption Press or on Amazon.

The Times recently corresponded with the creative team via email about their new book.

Q. How did the two of you come together to create "God Made That for Me!”?

Kathy: Our families have known each other for years. We attended the same church. Mark’s wife, Jan, and I are friends on Facebook. Once in a while, Jan posts Mark’s drawings. Every time I saw one, I’d dream about how awesome it would be if he’d do the illustrations for my book. So, one day, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I messaged Jan, who asked Mark. A few days later, Mark emailed me the first illustration — a little boy with outstretched arms, who seemed to be saying, “Come along with me and see what God made for you and me!” It was perfect. And so began our adventure.

Q. You mention the illustrations don't depict the usual biblical creation scenes but instead feature modern children and everyday scenes. What made you decide to present the story that way?

Kathy: It’s my hope that children will recognize all the things in their lives that God created for their good, and be thankful. When a child eats an apple, or plays with friends, or gets tucked into bed, or plays outside on a sunny day, I hope he’ll remember that God is a good and loving God. 

Q. Who is the ideal audience for this picture book?

Kathy: The book takes just a few minutes to read. So it’s ideal for reading to very young children with short attention spans. The words are simple, so it’s also a good early reader for children a bit older.

Q. Kathy, you have a history of faith-based writing and publishing, including your blog, One Minute with God ( Where did your journey as a Christian writer begin?

Kathy: I never had the desire to become a writer. But one morning, after reading my Bible, I jotted down my thoughts about what I had read. I found it easy to make rhymes, so I started writing poems and sharing them with friends. A couple from church, Jim and Karen Roy, thought I should do something with my writing. So they paid my way to a writer’s conference. I had never even heard of a writer’s conference!

At the conference, I learned that certain publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. So I wrote a poem for a Sunday school take-home paper and submitted it to Standard Publishing. A few weeks later, I received a check for $14. They purchased the poem! Then I submitted a short article about sheep. They accepted that, too. One thing led to another, which led to another.

Q. Mark, you've actually been on both sides of the storytelling process as both a writer ("Uncharted Waters") and an illustrator. Can you tell us about the collaboration you did on "Uncharted Waters" with your father?

Mark: My dad is a gifted illustrator. I thought we should do a work together for posterity. I wrote up a poem dialogue and every week when I went over to see him, I would tell him what to draw for the next week. Every week I'd get a picture from him, and then would give him another idea to draw up for the next week. Off and on, it probably took us a year, and then I gave the information to my son, Casey, to compile and put together with his ability on the computer and internet. All of our family knew of it, and was one way or another encouraging it till it finally came to completion.

Q. What's next for each of you? Are more collaborations on the horizon?

Kathy: I’m working on my second picture book. “The Color of Us” will be released in a couple of months. The illustrator, Susie Rogers, is a high school senior who lives in Vancouver, Wash. We met on Instagram! “The Color of Us” encourages children to rejoice in the love and creativity of God. It teaches that the color of skin is as inconsequential as the color of eyes or hair. It demonstrates that our diversity is God’s design, and a reason to celebrate.

Mark: I do have a few ideas of my own, mostly for another family project as time allows, but will always be anxious to help Kathy with another work if she does one. She was very easy to work with and especially forgiving of any time constraints.

Kathy: I would love to work with Mark again. So we’ll see what the future holds.

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