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