Daniel Erlander’s retelling of the Bible, Manna and Mercy, has been popular with Lutherans for decades. Now, Augsburg Fortress has made a curriculum based on Manna and Mercy that is appropriate for many age levels and situations. This curriculum includes four board books: See You Tomorrow, God with Us, Looking for Jesus, and Partner People. Mary Lindberg wrote the board books, and what follows is an interview with Mary about the process of creating the board books as well as what she hopes people will gain from using them.
How did you develop the ideas for the four board books?
Developing the board books included a multistep process.
- First of all, Dan's work was the foundation of anything we developed! I started by rereading Manna and Mercy a couple times from cover to cover to look for the themes that ran through the whole book. During my second time through Manna and Mercy, I simply focused on Dan's illustrations.
- I thought a lot about my experience with preschoolers—what they like in a book and how they grow in faith.
- After narrowing each book down to a few potentials ideas for development, I worked closely with editor Dawn Rundman. We considered the ideas with kids in mind and refined the words over several drafts.
In what ways do you see Dan’s work connecting with preschoolers?
Dan's work has been called "deceptively simple." Who better than kids to understand concepts that are boiled down to their core?! As anyone who reads Manna and Mercy knows, the book is really funny as well as sincere and deep. Little ones love humor, and Dan's playful spirit provides a great starting point to invite kids in.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process. How did the illustrations and big ideas in Manna and Mercy inspire you to write the text for these four books?
Throughout Manna and Mercy, we read about God's faithfulness to God's people. God ALWAYS provides manna and mercy, even when God's people forget to be faithful. Manna and Mercy is about a relationship and Dan's illustrations stick in our mind because they demonstrate relationships and the ways people interact. For example, the hierarchies in the Old Testament, the faces of the crabby people, the kids who often appear with Jesus. And of course the prairie dog buddies who always have something to share with each other about the larger story.
Another beauty of Manna and Mercy is that it works in real time. The lessons of "enough," love, and forgiveness are lessons we need every single day. These lessons definitely offer us structure for how to live as God's people.
Imagine a Sunday morning when preschoolers and their caregivers have gathered and are doing one of the book-based sessions you wrote. What does the room look and sound like? What do you hope happens?
As a pastor who has worked a lot with kids and families, I can tell you that the very best part of any such gathering is the connection that happens among families. I imagine lots of activities that highlight the stories, and books to take home. But mostly I imagine kids and caregivers using the experience to get to know someone else at church so they can feel more at home in their faith community.
What do you think preschoolers will love about these books?
My fondest hope is that preschoolers will enjoy the repetition of See You Tomorrow, will hold on to the sense of God being near in God with Us, and will trust the relationship described in Looking for Jesus. Preschoolers love to sing, so I think they will love Partner People. I tried many different versions of this book before finding that a familiar tune worked in such a fun ways with the deep ideas of Manna and Mercy. I imagine preschoolers singing their way into learning exactly what it means to be God's partner people.