Today I’m delighted to have debut Zonderkidz picture book author Mindy Baker here as my guest to chat about her Christmas story MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT. Here’s the adorable flap copy: “Can one tiny church mouse find a way to bring Christmas spirit to his little town when Parson gets sick and the usual Christmas Eve service is cancelled?” You will have to read to find out, and when you do, I think you fall in love with this heartwarming picture book story just as much as I have. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now… the interview!
Thanks so much for joining us today, Mindy. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?
My husband and I have been married for almost 23 years, and we have three children. My oldest daughter is a sophomore in college, and I have a daughter who is a senior in high school and a son who is a freshman in high school. I love being a wife and mom!
I am also a high school Spanish teacher at a public high school in our area. I enjoy my relationships with my students—they keep my life “muy interesante!” You can check out my classroom via my “teacher Twitter.” The address is @srabakerhse.
Another unique thing about me is that I have been able to travel to almost thirty different countries for various reasons. I LOVE experiencing different cultures and am thankful for all of the amazing experiences that I have had along the way in my travels. If you want to hear some crazy travel experiences, ask me…I can talk for hours about my trips!
I have always loved writing, but about ten years ago I decided to take a few classes in writing specifically for children and that is how I began to learn about writing picture books. It has been quite a journey, but I truly love writing. It is a creative outlet for me and very relaxing and rewarding.
Wow, what a rich bank of experiences you bring to the writing table! I always so fascinating to see all the different paths that can lead to writing.
What inspired you to write Mouse’s Christmas Gift?
I had originally seen a publisher’s wish list that included “books that explained the meaning of Christian holidays.” Although this was not the publisher that ended up buying my manuscript, it was what inspired me to begin shaping my story.
Also, I love Christmas, and I collect nativity sets and church ornaments. It is the running joke in my family that even though they have “banned” me from buying any more nativity sets, somehow the collection keeps growing!
Nativity from Mexico
Nativity from Ecuador
Nativity from Israel
Honestly, my stories seem to grow from idea seeds or mind pictures. With this story, there were several elements that kept swirling around in my brain.
–The Christmas Eve service at our home church has always been something special to me, and spiritually significant in my life.
–The element of family and community, like at a church pitch-in dinner, or get-together with family/friends when everyone brings a dish to share. I wanted to capture that feeling of “togetherness” or “connectedness.”
–The idea of light in a dark world, or being a light in a dark world, one person trying to make a difference. I wrestled with how to show this in the manuscript.
–I have always found stories including mice to be endearing and charming.
So…all of that…somehow became this story!
And you did a wonderful job of bringing all those elements together! I can’t wait to share you story with my Sunday School classes – which I will be doing next month. They’ll be reading the story and then building it out of Legos!
What would you like readers to take away from this story?
There are several messages that I hope shine through. The most obvious message is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Without his birth, there would be no Christmas. The second is that even someone small can make a big difference. Mouse never loses hope, and his acts of setting up the nativity set in the church and lighting a candle in the window set off a chain reaction in the village. A third lesson is that a Christmas celebration is not about how much money you spend. There is beauty in simplicity. I hope that readers uncover even more lessons as they read and connect with the story of Mouse.
These are all wonderful messages – and so beautifully and seamlessly woven in to a rich story.
Tell us about the illustrations. How long did they take Dow Phumiruk to complete? Was the process of bringing your words to life through pictures at all collaborative?
As you said, the illustrator of the book is Dow Phumiruk. She told me that it took her about ten months to complete the illustrations for Mouse’s Christmas Gift. A Twitter acquaintance commented that I “struck gold” when Zonderkidz selected Dow to be my illustrator, and I whole-heartedly agree. Everything Dow draws has a magical quality, and I love the warmth conveyed in the cover, and throughout the entire book. It invites you to curl up and enjoy the story of Mouse. I am in awe of what she has done with the illustrations. If you are interested, you can connect with her through her website at www.artbydow.com.
Honestly, Dow and I did not collaborate on the illustrations. Once I submitted the manuscript, Dow and the art team at Zonderkidz took it from there. However, I was delighted at how beautiful the book turned out. I am so thankful and honored to be paired with Dow for this project.
I’m delighted at how the book turned out too. It’s very appealing.
What’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
I wrote a teaching guide for Mouse’s Christmas Gift that will be offered as a free download on the Zondervan website in just a few weeks. I am very excited about that! Click here for the teacher guide.
I have been working on several other projects and Mouse’s next adventure, but only time will tell if those manuscripts will make their way into the world. I certainly hope they do! Mouse’s Christmas Gift can be found on Amazon.com, Christian Books Stores, Barnes & Noble, and the Zondervan website.
Thank you so much, Mindy, for giving us the lovely glimpse into the story from the author’s point of view. And, I don’t think it’s too early to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
And now for the GIVEAWAY!
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 11/1/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 11/2/18!