Children of the Light - Using a Book Series to Reveal the Nine Fruit of the Spirit

Mary I. Schmal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA)
Leanne R. Ross (Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Mary I. Schmal holds a master’s degree in classroom teaching and has taught in Lutheran elementary and high schools for forty years, the past eighteen at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was a writer of the 5th/6th grade level Christ-Light Religion Curriculum published by Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has published two writing courses and has recently developed a book series based on the fruit of the Spirit. She and her husband Dan are blessed with two married daughters and sons-in-law and three granddaughters.
Leanne R. Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Martin Luther College. She has studied art at Inver Hills Community College and the University of Minnesota in Mankato and Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has taught a variety of art courses for children and adults, including calligraphy, drawing, painting, ceramics, mixed media, fiber arts, and graphic design. She and her husband David raised six children while she taught in Lutheran elementary and high schools. They are blessed with seven grandchildren.

What is meant by Children of the Light?

Children of the Light is a six-book historical fiction series involving nine children of northern Wisconsin lighthouse keepers in 1884-86. Each book features one or two of the children matched with a fruit of the Spirit that he or she conveys to others or that he or she needs to nurture to live a fuller spiritual life. The stories are based on historical facts from an actual lighthouse keeper’s logbook as well as family letters, newspaper accounts, and historical research. The reading level is ages eleven through adult. While the stories involve mystery, adventure, and intrigue, underlying the plot is a strong emphasis on how God has rescued lost sinners by sending his Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world. Such spiritual insight fosters the nine gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, self-control, and faithfulness. In the final book, the children learn how these gifts work as one, thus the biblical reference to “fruit” (Galatians 5:22) rather than “fruits” of the Spirit. Each book contains 45-60 pen-and-ink drawings to make the stories come to life in a visual representation of late 19th century living at a remote island lighthouse.

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

What makes a book series and its illustrations particularly “Christian” literature and art?

Author Mary Schmal: While developing the series and thinking about the actual children who had grown up together at the lighthouse portrayed in the stories, I wanted to keep the fictional characters real. Reading letters from both adults and children who lived at the location and time period of the books gave me a feel for how they lived. Although not always stated but often implied, these letters convey a Christian approach to life. In these stories I present a fictionalized history of nine children growing up who, like most of us, are not as spiritually mature as they could be. We all need to be in God’s Word more often, and these children learn that. The nine children are cousins. All nine are grandchildren of a Christian pastor, but because the children live on an isolated island, they are not able to attend his church regularly. The grandfather lives far away on the mainland, but the children gain spiritual insight from family and friends who read them God’s Word.

A mile away from where the children live, the island village consists mainly of people who have limited spiritual depth. The children learn how vital Christ is in their lives and are enriched by this knowledge. As they learn of the nine gifts of the Spirit, they show their light so strongly that the villagers surrounding them cannot help but be led to a greater understanding of biblical truth. These children struggle with everyday issues and situations and are not unlike the children of any age. They do not always love, nor are they always patient. These stories lay out how the Gospel changes the lives of the characters.

Book 4 has a strong emphasis on the Gospel because it involves a Christmas service on the island. All the children take part, and although the director of the service is a sincere Christian woman, a spiritually weak character on the island has much to say about what goes on. This offers an interesting contrast. The story conveys the true meaning of the Savior’s birth, yet for the first time in their lives, many of the listeners hear the message in a greater depth. It has its effects. The six fictional books show how island dwellers become spiritually enriched, giving testimony to the power of the Gospel.

The value of adult spiritual mentorship is shown through the interactions of the children with three mysterious women who live in a cottage on the opposite end of the island from their home at the lighthouse. These Christian women befriend the children and form a valuable relationship with them. The children grow spiritually from their counsel. The stories convey “what if” to help readers of all ages ponder “what if” about their own means to convey the Gospel to others. The Children of the Light stories portray solid Christian principles through historic situations involving a mix of real-life characters. The men, women, and children who walk as children of the “Light” come to a greater spiritual understanding of “Love.” Readers will go back to the era of 1884-86 and experience a world of schooner sailing ships and lighthouse keepers. Readers today will find that their emotional encounters are not unlike those of the characters who lived over one hundred years ago. The honest ponderings of the nine growing children show how they struggle with the same ups and downs of young people today. The timeless message that Jesus died for all becomes clear, and readers will learn that spiritual blessings are meant for all who become immersed in the saving words of Scripture. Literature that unfolds such truth can be considered Christian.

Drawing of the nine Children of the Light

Illustrator Leanne Ross: The illustrations used in a book series in which the author wishes to convey subtle (and not so subtle) Christian elements can enhance those Christian messages. They can also depict the depravity of the human condition. Characters, as described by the author, have their individual strengths and flaws. As readers soak in the words and purvey the images, they get a full understanding of what is happening in the story. The author and illustrator must each have a good understanding of what the other is saying with his or her art and come to a “meeting of the minds,” so to speak, of what will best get the message across to the reader.

In the Children of the Light series, there are multiple characters whose personalities are integral to the story line. For example, the reader must realize the insecurities of the character Lillian in the beginning and recognize the haughtiness of Gwendolyn DePere.

Insecure Lillian

Haughty Gwendolyn

The reader must also understand the character and Christianity that is the basis of the three mysterious women who mentor the children. Their Christian character can be indirectly implied through an image. Notice how the illustration of the women singing at the Christmas service on the island illustrates their love of the Savior by the jewelry they wear which differs from their usual adornments.

The Conner nurses with sparkling red jewels (p.44)

The Conner nurses with crosses

Another example is when the Nektosha chief attending the service suddenly realizes Who is the true Light in his life and jumps up in his enthusiasm at the revelation.

Chief Black Stone

As cliché as it may be, “pictures are worth a thousand words”. The Christian message in a story is enriched by illustrations that convey truth.

“Walk as Children of the Light” Plaque

The lighthouse during the storm

The Nektosha peace pipe

The three children Christmas narrators

How does Children of the Light use video trailers to convey and summarize a Christian message?

A one-minute video trailer for each book gives a synopsis of the story and highlights the blessings of one or two fruit of the Spirit featured in that story. Nine Kids. Nine gifts. Nine blessed. Trailers are used in presentations and on the Children of the Light website and are available for viewing on YouTube.

Book 1 video trailer The Wandering Pirate Ship

Book 2 video trailer Moon Glow and Twisted Brew

Book 3 video trailer Trapped in the Tower

Book 4 video trailer A Cobblestone Island Christmas

What other forms of media are used to convey the Gospel message through the Children of the Light book series?

Other sources of media that convey this message include--

  1. Children of the Light website.
  2. PowerPoint offerings
  3. Book club presentations
  4. Kid’s Connection (video presented to Christian school children)
  5. School visits and “hands-on” writing/drawing student workshops
  6. Teachers Conference presentations/workshops
  7. Study Guides that offer story and character analysis as well as creative activities to enhance learning about the nine spiritual gifts.
  8. Door County Minute (Door County, Wisconsin, local online news)

Mary teaching

Leanne teaching

A book-related workshop

A class project during a book-related workshop

Study Guide Cover

Study Guide Table of Contents

Study Guide Activity

Where can I find out more about the Children of the Light series?

To find out more about the Children of the Light series and to read sample chapters of Books 1-4, visit our website. Books 5 and 6, which complete the series, will be available in the future.


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Discussion

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Eileen Draper 2019-10-21 6:42:00pm
Interesting article! Thank you.
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Nancy Roebke (Lutheran Mission Volunteer and Missionary Wife) 2019-10-22 2:41:57pm
So good to see someone acting on making their Christian stories real for kids
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Mary Schmal 2019-10-22 6:35:16pm
As I read family letters from the 1880s, it became clear that children then went through the same growing pains as children today. It has been a fascinating study to imagine what it was like for nine children to have grown up together at a remote island lighthouse. That these nine kids did is real. How they acted and felt became real to me as I thought about children today going through similar situations in their growth as Children of the Light. I envisioned the nine having a lot of fun in a world without electronic devices, working hard but finding interesting people with whom to interact. Blending the bits and pieces of what had actually happened on that island in 1884 and imagining events that could have happened made the characters come alive for me. Hopefully, the stories will also come alive for readers. Thank you for your comment, Nancy!
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Leanne Ross 2019-10-22 3:02:22pm
Glad you enjoyed it. Let us know if you have any questions.
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Katie Edwards (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:44:05pm
Mrs. Schmal and Ross,

I am a huge fan of Christian novels, especially ones that are allegorical and/or make Biblical allusions. This series sounds fantastic. When children read these books, they may only be reading them for entertainment and enjoyment, but their faith is being strengthened in the process. The characters in the stories are great models for the readers to learn from.

The pictures are also clearly portray messages from the books. I remember when I was younger, the pictures in the books I read and on their covers made a huge impact on how I interpreted the story. They were like a starting point, a basis for my imagination to build upon.

I did have a question based off this genre of writing. When considering allegorical and faith-based novels, should they be read independently or with class discussions? Which is most effective and why? I remember reading a modified version of A Pilgrim’s Progress in grade school, and discussing the meaning really helped me understand better what I was reading. However, I read a lot of other faith-based novels on my own and was able to make more personal applications to them.

Thank you for contributing to this conference and telling us about your books.
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Mary Schmal (author) 2019-11-12 5:14:39pm
- Katie, thank you for your comments. I agree that book illustrations enhance the reading. Through her frequent drawings throughout each book, Leanne Ross cleverly brings out aspects of the book that pull readers into the story, be it in scenes of nature, showing an historic object described in the story, or an insight into a character. I agree that pictures jump start the imagination. Leanne's drawings do it so well.

To address your question about reading the novels alone or alongside class discussions, both are appropriate. Many who have bought the books are outside my circle of acquaintance, and I have no idea if these readers are discussing the content with others. Hopefully, the messages are clear enough to create spiritual understanding. If, however, students read one of the novels together and have the chance to discuss historic ideas as well as spiritual concepts, the understanding is enhanced. Feedback from a teacher in Wisconsin tells us the Study Guide that accompanies Book 1 has launched many interesting class conversations.
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Katie Edwards (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-12 5:15:51pm
Thank you for your feedback regarding my question. I am looking forward to teaching literature someday and am always looking for more information and insights regarding literature. I will definitely have to remember your series.
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Diana Escalona (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:45:03pm

Mrs. Schmal & Mrs. Ross,

This article provided such wonderful insight into spreading the gospel through literature to children. I think the series is a phenomenal idea as it not only engages them spiritually, but also in their educational growth. I did not know that these books existed, but I am intrigued by the way they have been set up to gradually reveal each fruit of the spirit, ending with the culmination of them all in order to connect and put everything together in the reader’s head.

I do have a few questions though. Do you think this same type of formatting/ set-up could be utilized to convey other spiritual messages to children? If so, which other messages do you think could be conveyed similarly? Do you believe this series should be used in classrooms? If so, what grade-levels do you think would benefit most from such a series? I am curious because you mentioned that anyone ages 11 and up could appropriately comprehend the series, but I do want to know if there are age groups in particular that would benefit from this.

Thank you for your contribution to the conference!
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-10-25 8:43:15pm
Hi Diana - Thanks for your comments and questions. If by "this type of formatting/set-up" you mean to imbed the spiritual message in adventure or mystery, the format has been used before (think of C. S. Lewis and the Narnia series). I believe there are a multitude of Christian topics that could be treated in the same way. Almost any topic that Luther addressed in the catechism could be the underlying subject of such an adventure story. Children learn by example and are drawn to stories. Jesus was the master storyteller and used the technique to get His point across to His disciples often.

Mary and I hope this series will be used in the classroom. We have developed the Study Guide for book 1 and will create them for the other books as well to aid teachers in using the books in literature classes. We have been presenters at the teacher's conference in southeastern Wisconsin with a sectional on how to use any novel in a literature class using book 1, The Wandering Pirate Ship, as an example. Teachers of upper grade students (5th through 8th grades) can have students read the books on their own. Questions and activities can draw out the spiritual meaning and help the teacher understand the depth of comprehension of his or her class. Every class can be different in maturity and education level. The teacher will be the best judge of how much can be done independently and what information may need more guidance. The book can also be used in grades 3 and 4 as a read aloud. Because the students are younger some may not be able to understand without teacher guidance, but when explained the message will bring about good class discussion and learning through related activities. There probably is no black and white answer to your question about what age level the series would work best for since class make-up changes from year to year, but as you become an experienced teacher you learn to recognize what will work best for your class. Hope this helps.
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Diana Escalona (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:23:58pm
Mrs. Ross,

Thank you for your response! I suppose I did not really think of the Narnia series, as I've personally never studied it in that manner! But I do see your point in the whole intertwining God's message with stories. I also appreciate the diversity within grade levels for these books, as I see how it would depend on the classroom dynamic, but could see them being used in a wider range of grade levels now.

Thanks again for your response!
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-10-25 8:58:33pm
Diana, thank you for your comments! I am glad the series sounds interesting to you!

Just today I chatted with an author who is doing something similar regarding the Ten Commandments. Her book or books will be geared toward third and fourth graders (In my head I am also thinking about another spiritual message that might be conveyed through fiction to very young children. However, it's too early to talk about my theme. Have to finish this series first!) Whatever spiritual message fascinates an author is a good topic around which to develop a stand-alone book or series. Perhaps you are an author who wishes to tackle such a project. As an author, you can choose a spiritual concept that interests you, do much research, ask many questions, and ponder what you wish to present and which audience you wish to reach. Finally, and most importantly, a Christian author always, always relies on the Holy Spirit to convey the clarity of Scriptures. Whether an author's narrative is modern or historical, the ageless truth of God's Word on any topic can and will convey to readers God's unchanging love to fallen mankind and mankind's inability this side of Heaven to fully comprehend such amazing grace.

Leanne and I are developing Study Guides to accompany each book in the series. Like the books themselves, the guides are directed toward upper grade elementary students (Grades 6-8). However, any teacher of middle school children (Grades 4-5) can decide if the books and guides will work in his or her setting. When Leanne and I visited a classroom that was reading Book 1, The Wandering Pirate Ship, we were amazed at the spiritual insights of the sixth-grade students. The classroom teacher was using the Study Guide to promote discussion. We clearly noted how the students were thinking about the meaning of love--exactly what character Lillian Bates in the story is directed to do. Lillian has no Study Guide, but the Lord places in her life three diverse Christian mentors: Miss Garnet, Miss Ruby, and Miss Tourmalina. Teens and adults have remarked that these three mysterious ladies have captured their interest. Perhaps they are pondering their own spiritual impact upon today's younger generation.
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Diana Escalona (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:28:49pm
Mrs. Schmal,

Thank you for your response! I see what you mean. While I am not an author myself, it definitely is a project I would consider taking on later in my career!! I also appreciate that you guys have set these up with study guides, and the fact that the books can be used in a wide range of grade levels, as I think it is impressive that they can be used among so many of them! Definitely something I will consider using in my future ministry.

Thank you again for your response! It is really insightful to be able to understand the process that led you to produce these books.
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Maya Aden (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:48:20pm
Mrs. Schmal and Mrs. Ross,

I really enjoyed reading about the project you put together. I think that having these books as an option for children to read could be incredibly beneficial for children coming of age and learning what it means to let our light shine as Christian people. Modeling for children how to witness their faith without directly preaching the Gospel news is important for kids and young adults who might not necessarily be eager to jump into direct evangelism.

I was wondering if you had a more specific age group that you intended these books for as you wrote and illustrated them? Additionally, do you think these books could be marketed and successful in the secular world, or do you foresee them being read mostly in Christian circles?


Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-10-25 2:22:45pm
Maya - thank you for your comments on The Children of the Light series. When Mary began writing the series she was thinking of the books being specifically middle school novels. As time and writing/illustrating went on and as people began reading the series their feedback has expanded our consideration in this regard. The stories have taken on a much larger audience base than we had at first thought. Many adults have told us that we should not only think of them as children's books but market them as children through adult novels. That description seems to be more accurate.

Your question about the secular world is interesting. We have sold many of the Children of the Light series books in Door County, Wisconsin. The books are popular there because of the location. People visiting Door County want books that speak to the area in general and also lighthouses. As we sell them in that area we always tell them about the spiritual aspect and for many of them that is a bonus. Some are aware of the Fruit of the Spirit and some are not. Often we see their eyes light up with delight at that aspect of the books. We aren't always aware of their religious background but are happy that they will read our books, and pray that the Christian message is clear to them.
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Mary Schmal (author) 2019-11-12 5:18:42pm
- Maya, the ages of readers have been all over the board, from eight to eighty. Here are several examples of those who have purchased one or more of the books. After reading Book 1, a twenty-something remarked how Lillian's actions had taught him a lesson on love. He said to Leanne and me, "This book is not just for kids!" He went on to tell us how Lillian had "taught him to be more loving" when recently he hadn't been feeling very loving toward his friends. Just last week in Door County, a man in his eighties wanted me to tell him about the books. Proclaiming to be a "a poor reader," he listened with interest. When I explained how the children are paired with the fruit of the Spirit, he began reciting all nine. "I'll take them," he said. "It may take me a long time to finish, but I'll keep at it--and then give them to my grandchildren." An eight-year-old girl picked up Book 1 and asked her mother if she could have it. I cautioned her that the reading level was at or around age twelve. She then proceeded to read the Prologue out loud--fluently! Her mother bought the book and the girl walked away reading. The most unusual example is when just last week a woman asked for Book 4 in hardcover with a personalized note "for Henry." I asked how old Henry was and she shocked me by saying, "Two months." She explained that she was getting an early start on building her grandson's library.

When we sell in a secular setting, we always tell the people of the distinct Christian theme running throughout the series. We assume that those who take a book or two home with them are interested in how nine kids are blessed through God's Word. It is always an uplifting experience.
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Maya Aden (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-12 5:19:48pm
Mrs. Schmal and Mrs. Ross,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. I enjoyed your specific stories about different age levels who enjoyed them Again, I want to tell you both that I think this project is a very unique and cool way to share your faith. It is also cool to hear that you have had some interest coming from a secular setting as well. God's blessings as you continue to live your faith and evangelize in an interesting way!

Your sister in Christ,
Maya
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Lexi Fischer (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 8:36:33pm
Mrs. Schmal and Mrs. Ross,

I really enjoyed reading your post about the book series you have been working on. The series sounds very interesting and a fun read. I like how you took a real story and related it to the fruits of the Spirits. That is a very interesting concept. I also really liked how you incorporated pictures in with the words. The idea to make a story full of mystery, adventure, and fun but also have the Gospel message incorporated in it is incredible.

Are there going to be ways to promote the series? How will other churches and schools find this series and use it in there teaching?

Thank you for all the hard work and time it must have taken to write this series.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-10-25 3:47:49pm
Hi Lexi - Your comments are insightful. Having an adventurous story with the message of the Gospel incorporated is inspiring for children and affirms their faith. We pray that is what this series does. Many people love that the stories are based on real historical fact. At the end of each book there is an author's note that tells the reader what is, indeed, fact in the story.

To answer your question promoting the series has happened for us in ways that surprised us. We started with our publishing company, Christian Faith Publishing, who promotes the books by placing them on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and ingram (which is a place book sellers go to purchase books). We have taken the books to Northwestern Publishing House and many stores in Door County, and have also done some craft fairs there where the books sell surprisingly well. To our astonishment we were approached by Kid's Connection and asked to do segments for two different months; one on the series itself, and one on the drawing. This helped to make us recognizable at our subsequent sectionals and booth at state teacher's conference in southeastern Wisconsin. The sectional itself is on how to use any novel for a children's literature class in which we use our first book as an example. We have also created the Study Guide for book one and intend to create one for each of the books as an aid for teachers. We have visited some schools with a powerpoint presentation and classroom activities. We hope to do more of that in the future after the series is complete. We were able to do an hour long presentation at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, which is our alma mater. It was a pleasure to talk with students studying for the teaching ministry. A booth at an ELS/WELS author sale at Bethany Lutheran College's Fall Festival resulted in our being invited to this Christ in Media conference which is another blessing to spread the word of our book series ministry. That is how we have promoted the series so far. Hopefully travelling to other schools, churches and teacher's conferences will help to promote the books as well.
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Mary Schmal (author) 2019-11-12 5:23:59pm
- Lexi, thanks for writing to us!

Writing a series is indeed work. But you know what people say--work you love doing doesn't feel like work at all. When I think of the hours and hours of researching, pondering, writing, revising, revising, and revising--my head about explodes. But never have I said, "I'm done with this." Why not? Because this is truly a labor of love. And to share this project with my talented illustrator, Leanne Ross, is truly a gift from God. (Our husbands are very involved in the marketing, so I will include the four of us. My two daughters are incredibly supportive and helpful as well.)

Leanne pretty well tells above how we are marketing the series. I can't get over the fact that when we are in the general public, such as the craft fairs in Door County, people are loving the idea of not only Door County historical fiction but the Christian tie in. At times when we explain how the nine kids each represent one of the nine fruit of the Spirit, the look on people's faces is that of a question. They do not understand. Sometimes I will ask if they know of these spiritual gifts. Sometimes people say no but more often they say yes. What I like the best is when I see a whole new expression on people's faces after I explain the mystery/adventure/intrigue aspect of the plot and then get into the Christian thread that weaves through the stories. Many, many times people simply light up at the mention of "love, joy, peace, patience,” etc. Oftentimes, that is when they truly become interested in the books. And that is remarkable because I don't know these people, but the look on their faces tell me that they are in God's Word and they themselves are blessed by it. Sometimes I think, "Hmm, we will likely never meet again." But it quickly changes to, "Ah, but then again perhaps we will--in heaven!"
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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-28 4:35:42am
Mary and Leanne, what a blessing your presentation and comments have been to the conference!

When contemplating and teaching "Christian storytelling," whether in print or on the screen,I've often puzzled about ways of getting the gospel integrated smoothly into the story. It's much easier in stories to portray good behavior (even easier and more interesting to portray bad behavior), but of course, the essence of Christianity is not good behavior but the forgiveness of sins won for us by our Lord Jesus on the cross. Without that our stories promote moralism, not Christianity. Have you also puzzled about how to make the gospel integral to the story, and not seemingly dragged in by the hair? How have you managed that?
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-10-31 1:45:27pm
Dr. Kuster,
You are right that without a Christ-centered approach to Christian story-telling, the impact on the reader can easily turn into moralism. For example, if a character lies bringing disastrous results but then learns that telling the truth brings positive results, readers might surmise that “the moral of the story is to tell the truth.” However, without the character’s knowledge of what Christ has done for lost sinners, the gospel is ignored. I don’t want that empty approach in my stories. Yet, I also don’t want, as you say, for the greatest news to be “dragged in by the hair.” So, I had to think how nine children would experience the gospel impact. Because there is only one way—through God’s Word, I had to figure out how that could happen best for nine adventure-loving children.

As a child myself, I was greatly impacted by my Christian parents, siblings, and other adults. I wanted to be like them. Throughout the Children of the Light novels, the nine kids are also influenced by older characters. For example, Miss Garnet, Miss Ruby, and Miss Tourmalina are continually in the Word. The children see that. Miss Garnet uses probing questions to get them to think and then goes away, forcing them to consider how to handle crucial situations. Miss Ruby leaves an open Bible on her writing desk at critical moments which leads the children to read, learn, and ponder. Miss Tourmalina writes poems with personal messages that help the kids realize how they have been blessed with a fruit of the Spirit—but only because they know Christ. This trio of women also share the gospel in music. Their hymns and other hymns that the nine kids have learned or sung in church impact them and help them understand the value of the gospel conveyed through songs.

Also, Iona Bates, assistant lighthouse keeper, mother of seven, and the island schoolteacher, is a Christian example as she lets her gospel light shine not only toward her family but to Lucinda who early on is portrayed as an unloving and selfish character. So, we must give Lucinda a chance. She may surprise us!

In the stories, the reverse also happens. In Book 4, the Christmas gospel message presented by the children touches the heart of a Native American chief who is searching for the truth of salvation at an important point in his life. Lillian’s love toward troubled Mr. Scarsley also has its effects.

In the Children of the Light stories, the gospel comes to children through unique adults and vice versa as characters wrestle with the problems of life. The collective fruit of the Spirit becomes a blessing to those immersed in the Word, for it is through faith in what the Word says about Christ that alone changes hearts. In the natural circumstances or situations of the plot whenever the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is highlighted through caring individuals, Christ stands alone as the only one who has shown perfect love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, self-control, and faith. And as the nine children and others in the stories are affected by such knowledge and grow in their faith, the perfect example of Jesus also inspires us to be like Him.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-10-31 5:31:38pm
Mary has given an in depth reply to your question so I will be brief. A focus on where the motivation for the children's "good deeds" comes from in the Children of the Light series can also be depicted in the illustrations. The very first picture in the chapter one in book one shows Iona Bates, mother/aunt of the Children of the Light, praying over scripture she has been studying. It is a clear message to her daughter Lillian (and those reading the story) that she relies on God as her guide. Another such illustration is later in the Wandering Pirate Ship when Lillian discovers the Book on the desk in the cottage open to a passage Miss Ruby wants her to discover. Our hope is that through the story and the illustrations the true motivation for Christian behavior becomes clear to the reader.
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Benjamin Johnson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-01 5:02:28pm
This is a very interesting looking series! I think it is very good to get a christian message across through illustrations. I also think it is good to make awareness to the depravity of the human condition. Thanks for the read and I will look into these!
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-04 12:04:27am
Hi Benjamin, Thank you for your comments. I am wondering if you are an artist because of your comment about the illustrations. As an artist and illustrator, when you agree to illustrate for an author you take on an awesome responsibility. You must be true to the author's message and also bring their words to life in the eye of the reader. Not only do Mary and I hope to bring awareness to the "depravity of the human condition" in these books but we also hope to show that the solution to that problem for human beings is not of a persons own making, but has been handed to us all as a free gift. If you want to have more information about the books the best way would be to go to our website. There are chapters to read which are a good preview for each book.
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-11-04 1:45:24pm
Benjamin, thanks for your comments. Yes, without Christ we are all lost and depraved. Character Lillian has a change of heart in Bk 1 when she realizes the world doesn't revolve around her. Because it's a daily struggle, Lillian's human nature surfaces in the other books, but she truly knows that her new loving attitude is a result of what her loving Jesus has done for her.

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Sashia Swenson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 9:07:31pm
Books are a wonderful way to spread the message. When I was a little girl my parents would read to my sister and me different bible stories before we went to bed. This, although meant for an older age, would be a good series to read to kids especially since there are images involved which children enjoy seeing. It is wonderful to see the series is available online as well, making the books even more easily available.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-04 12:13:21am
Sashia, You are correct in saying that the illustrations help to make books appeal to even younger students. I have read the Children of the Light books with my 7 and 8 year old grandkids and they enjoy the stories and the pictures as well. We have also had a classroom teacher in as low as first grade eager to read the books to her students. The first thing I remember doing as a child when picking out a book to read was to page through the book and look at the pictures. That puts a big responsibility on the illustrator to be sure to do an in depth study of the text when creating pictures so they accurately portray the author's message.
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-11-04 1:51:33pm
Sashia, I agree that reading to children is vital. Even my high school students loved being read to! Leanne and I are looking into audio versions of the books. Thanks for your comments.
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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-04 4:38:00am
Mary and Leanne, have you ever considered turning any of your books into a movie? Which of them, do you think, would lend itself best to portrayal on screen?
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-11-04 2:28:33pm
Dr. Kuster, what a great idea! Actually, this suggestion has been brought up to us. The stories, we think, would make a good series. The first movie could start with the pirate ship plot of Book 1 and the following films could work through the ensuing adventures of the nine kids. Because of the "Fruit of the Spirit" theme, the production company would need to be one willing to promote a Christian viewpoint. Book 4 could be a rollicking Christmas tale contrasting the truth about Christmas versus the alternative secular point of view.

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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-05 1:53:10am
An alternative to a single movie might be to turn the characters and stories into a mini-series to be distributed as a series of webisodes on the internet.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-05 6:37:01pm
Dear Dr. Kuster,
We are not familiar with "webisodes" but it is something that sounds interesting. Is there more you could tell us about this, or we are willing to do the research if you can point us in the right direction. We have seen the Janette Oke and the Anne of Green Gables series' on TV and find them an interesting way to bring the books to life on film.
Leanne & Mary
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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-07 5:32:44am
Webisodes are short story videos that are distributed on YouTube or Vimeo or other internet sites, much like a TV series using the same characters in a long story arc but told in a series of short "episodes." Some of them are original stories, others are spin-offs from TV programs, maybe the most popular are from "Walking Dead." Webisodes can gather their own followers and fans that look forward to each story segment when it is produced and put online. I imagine that a web episode might be less expensive to produce than a full-length movie. Would be worth learning more about.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-12 1:23:05am
Thanks for your reply. This may be something of interest when the series is done.
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Taryn Christensen (Bethany Luthern College) 2019-11-04 3:36:09pm
I'm so happy that someone is acting upon creating Christian stories for the younger children. This series sounds amazing. When children, or even adults, read these books they might just be reading them for the entertainment of them but also there Christian faith is getting stronger. The characters will be a great role model for the audience. Including pictures will also spark the imagination of the kids' reading or audience.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-05 6:29:21pm
Taryn, When Mary began the series she was aware of the lack of Christian series for middle school children. It was also brought to our attention that it is difficult for our Lutheran High School libraries to find literature that is appropriate for Christian young people. The children in the book are typical children, with all the issues children might have now days. They are not perfect! But, they are models in that they are led by the Word and their adult role models into a better understand of God's gifts of the Fruit of the Spirit. The pictures have been a joy for me to create and hopefully will do as you say "spark the imagination of the . . .audience".
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Mary Schmal (author) 2019-11-12 5:26:09pm
- Taryn, you are probably correct in thinking that some will read for entertainment only. But for those who wish to go beyond that, readers will find things to think about. All stories are shared entities between author and reader, and because readers bring different backgrounds and perspectives, what an individual gets out of a novel is somewhat of a unique experience
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Chris (BLC D.E. Student) 2019-11-05 1:38:50am
Thank you for writing these books. It is amazing how God has used you two to write Christian literature for children that will help them with their walks with the Lord. Today, there truly is not enough Christian books out there for children. I definitely plan to consider buying these books for my children once I have children.
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-11-06 3:39:37am
Thanks, Chris, for your comment. In searching for an illustrator, two artists were under consideration. One lived on the east coast, so working face to face was next to impossible. The other had too many other commitments to make the project work. Then God brought in Leanne who has been a blessing to the series from Day 1. We work well together and share the same passion for presenting a Christian message through story and illustration.
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Leanne Ross (illustrator) 2019-11-12 5:49:51pm
- Hi Chris,
Mary and I are pleased that you recognize God's hand in our work. It is truly our mission to help children navigate the negative influences they have in everyday life, especially those that would tempt them away from their walk with God. We have thought as you do that there is not enough Christian literature for parents to use, and for kids to read to support the guidance given by parents, pastors and Christian teachers. It is our prayer that you will find the Children of the Light series useful in the future as you have your own children.
Leanne & Mary
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Isabella & Michayla (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2019-11-08 8:43:48pm
We thought that it was interesting that you decide to write books about this subject. We don't see too many books for children that are about Christian faith. It's a great way to encourage exploration into the Christian faith. As well as a great learning experience through fictional characters. What inspired this book series?
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Mary Schmal (Author) 2019-11-09 5:02:45am
Isabella and Michayla,
In middle school and junior high, I enjoyed reading the Danny Dunn books by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. They are wonderful adventures with scientific themes. I also enjoyed the Famous Five mystery/adventure series by British author Enid Blyton. Of course, I also read many Nancy Drew mysteries. What captured my interest at that age was the uniqueness of repeated characters and getting to know them through their varied adventures. I grew to know and love them. As a writing teacher of many years, it was my plan to someday develop my own series with characters that readers could also get to know and love. It's natural for authors to write their passions, so I combined my love for lighthouses, Door County, and the fruit of the Spirit to create the Children of the Light books. I am happy that readers have expressed how they have identified with certain characters and that other characters in the books have caught their interest. Another inspiration was to take readers back to a time in history when lighthouses were integral to American economy and where children had adventure, mystery, and fun on a remote island.
It's a bygone era of strong face-to-face communication that I wished to bring to life. My dream is that readers will be as inspired with the lives of characters Lillian, Julia, Luke, Thomas, and the others as I was with characters Danny, Joe, and Irene in the books that I cherished not only in my youth but even now as an adult. Thanks for your great question.
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Mary Schmal (author) 2019-11-12 5:29:07pm
- One more important inspiration was to have illustrations. That was always a vital part of my vision for the books.

Again, in my youth I recall being inspired to read the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. The black and white drawings in some of the editions I read helped me picture objects, characters, and events. I loved that and wanted that in my books. Pictures as well as words capture the imagination!
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Leanne Ross (illustrator ) 2019-11-10 4:35:49am
Thanks for your comments Isabella & Michayla,
I really looked forward to drawing for Mary's Children of the Light book series, but when we went to the location where the stories are set I was really excited. Mary's descriptions are very complete, and seeing what she was writing about at both Rock Island (Cobblestone Island) and cottage Laurentia (Parakaleo') gave me all the inspiration I needed. As we go on in the series with writing and drawing I go back again and again to pictures I took when we were there, and it is easy to picture the kids in that environment going through their adventures.
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