New Podcast Episode: Teaching Kids Scripture Through Story with author Madeleine Carroll

In today’s episode, I speak with author Madeleine Carroll about Ephraim’s Gladness, an Advent/Christmas story with message from the parable of the lost sheep. You’ll hear about:

  • An update on my new contract for a book for adults (details to come)
  • Illustration progress for upcoming book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server – in color!!
  • Timing updates for Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, 2022)
  • Insight into one-on-one manuscript critiques and personal book coaching
  • Writing question answered: What is back matter?
  • How God inspired Madeleine Carroll during a time of grief
  • How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches Scripture
  • How to WIN a copy of Ephraim’s Gladness
  • Where to find Ephraim’s Gladness
  • And more!

New Book Contract!

I have recently signed a contract for a book for adults on a personal topic I’m not ready to share yet. Unlike fiction, where you generally write the entire book upfront, this is a nonfiction book, which you query with a book proposal. Which means I have a lot of writing to do. I’m excited that this book is going to be out there (I definitely could have used it previously in my life), and but now I’m a little nervous for the writing part because it will mean some kind of raw sessions at the keyboard.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway


So as the manuscript comes together, I plan to share a little more about it. You can always sign up for my email list at theresakiser.com to make sure you don’t miss any announcements when the publisher finalizes the title, picks a publication date, and so on.

Picture Book Illustration Updates!

As far as kidlit goes, a lot of writers (and readers) sometimes wonder about the behind-the-scenes illustration/publishing process, so I’ll share some updates on my upcoming picture books:

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server illustrations are now in color! I gave my feedback to the publisher, and now the next time I will see them will be the proof, so I am just so jittery about what it will look like.

I’ve gotten an update from Holy Heroes, the publisher of my upcoming board book, Seven Gifts of Baptism. They’re expecting Seven Gifts to come out around Lent/Easter of 2022. I haven’t seen ANYTHING on this book yet, and can’t wait to see how it’s done because this manuscript had a lot of illustration notes. The illustrations are half the story for Seven Gifts of Baptism, so I’m kind of just waiting to see how the story will be told and I know they’re going to do an amazing job like they did with A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors.

Help for Writers

If you are a writing a picture book, you will be able to unlock a ton of resources and support in the Catholic Kidlit Writers’ Club, which is currently open for enrollment at a super-discounted rate, which will increase at the end of November.

What some people don’t know is that I also offer one-on-one picture book critiques via email and writing/book coaching via Zoom. I love love love reading the work of my fellow Catholic kidlit writers and helping to strengthen these big-hearted manuscripts for submission. It just makes me so happy inside to read these stories that I would never think of and are so well needed for Catholic kids.

I encourage any of you out there writing picture books to keep going and to listen to your heart. You’re writing a story that someone else may really need to read. So anyway, if you’d like some extra guidance, hop over to theresakiser.com to connect for book coaching or a critique.

Today’s Kidlit Question: What is Back Matter?

Finally, I’d like to answer a picture book question. Today’s question is: What is back matter? Back matter is the informational text/fun activity that is not part of the main text of the picture book, and is included in the back of the book for supplemental information.

You can find an example of back matter in my board book, Liturgical Colors, which includes facts on liturgical feasts and colors on the final spread. An example in a secular board book is in one that I love, Alaska Lullaby, which features facts about Alaska on its final spread. PBs for older children can include back matter as well.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server will have back matter, as does the general market PB Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert, which includes lots of information about the various backyard bird species featured in the book.

If you are writing a picture book, be sure to write and polish your back matter before submission to a publisher, as you should include it with your main text. All that said, many books do NOT include back matter, and that’s wonderful too. It completely depends on your vision for the final book on whether to include back matter or not.

An Interview with Madeline Carroll

Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce today’s interview with Madeleine Carroll, author and owner of Isaiah Books. Be sure to listen to the end for information on how to win a copy of her new Advent/Christmas book, Ephraim’s Gladness.

Theresa Kiser: Hello and welcome to the show. Madeleine we are so excited to have you here today. I’m here talking with Madeleine Carroll. She is the author of the upcoming book, Ephraim’s Gladness as well as several other beautiful children’s books. She lives in the UK, and and is here to talk about this Advent/Christmas adventure that you have for kids. 

So before we get into the book, Madeleine, tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to writing for children. 

Madeleine Carroll: Oh, thank you. Well, thank you very much for inviting me. It’s very exciting to be here. I’m very grateful. So yeah, I always loved writing stories when I was a child, and when I was being homeschooled, I always loved like English, essay, composition writing. 

Author Madeleine Carroll with her book Gifts

And then I wrote something when I was a young adult about the Resurrection and I just left it and then I trained as a Montessori teacher and a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, all around children’s formation. And then I was a nanny as well. And then I got married and I’ve got six children now, quite young. 

And one of my favorite things, being a nanny and also being one of six kids and having younger brothers was reading aloud. I loved reading aloud and my dad used to read aloud to me in the evenings, but also make up these hilarious stories.

So it’s kind of in my blood, storytelling. And, and when I’d been married for a few years and had a few children, I just decided that I’d love to actually do something with the writing and I can’t draw to save my life. So I was sort of searching out friends who were artists, and that’s how it sort of progressed from there. It was baby steps, and quite basic at the beginning, but it was a really fun journey.

Theresa Kiser: The reading aloud… with your experience, working with kids in so many different atmospheres, tell us about the impact that that has on the children. 

Impact of Reading on Children

Madeleine Carroll: I have a very chaotic household…quite loud! But it’s the thing that calms us down. In America, I don’t know if you know this author called Shirley Hughes.

She’s just a spectacular author and illustrator of children’s stories. And I grew up with her stories. It’s day-to-day normal living, fun times with the family. Ordinary events, but she just such a beautiful way of writing it. And then also her images are amazing.

So I always found when I read those stories, especially when I was a nanny…it just really calmed us all down. We’d just snuggle on the sofa and, and it was just a really beautiful experience. 

And even now I have these six children, but my fifth one has a few struggles. She has a very severe speech delay and we’re getting her assessed, but. Books! She’s just discovered that actually she can sit still for books. She loves books about whales. And it’s kind of really opened up an avenue, which I thought developmentally delayed as she, as she couldn’t find, but it’s quite worked a miracle as well.

It’s so beautiful to see how it touches hearts of everybody. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s beautiful. That’s a great gift to be able to have that. 

How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Teaches Scripture

You were inspired, then, to create these books. What led you to this particular story of Ephraim’s Gladness? 

Madeleine Carroll: Yes. So I’m a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a really beautiful formation for children.

And one of its main themes is developing this relationship with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And we are his sheep.

I trained for a while and then I taught in a little atrium near our house where my children go. But at the moment I’m not teaching. It’s busy at home, but a lot of my children go and my little girl, the three-year-old has got these struggles.

She went to the toddler atrium and for a while, and it really helped. It was just peaceful. And she loves the Bible. She holds it up. 

So the big thing in atrium is actually that you direct the children’s straight to the Scripture, straight to the authenticity of God’s word. So storybooks are not used so much in like the level one, two, and three atrium. 

But this whole idea of the Good Shepherd, wanting our children to see Jesus as loving. And there are so many beautiful images of the sheep over Jesus’s shoulders. 

Message of the Lost Sheep at Christmas

When earlier in the year just gone, I lost a friend unfortunately. She died, and I was working out in my head. I was just working through the whole process in my head and Ephraim’s Gladness is sort of this whole take on the Good Shepherd. Sorry, the shepherds that would go to the Nativity and find Jesus, but also the story of the lost sheep. 

So the shepherd who lost his sheep, he had a hundred, he lost one. He went off to find it. Then he wanted to go and celebrate with his friends.

Okay. So he takes a sheep back home. He puts it in the pen. He’s calling them all by name, you know. So it’s all this take on Scripture, but in my own words. And then he finds it, puts it in his pen, and he’s like, “I’m going to have a party now with my friends.” And he can’t find his friends.

He sees shepherds a way ahead of him, heading off to Bethlehem because of what’s going on.

So he follows them and then he finds the baby Jesus and all his friends are all there. Baby Jesus is in a cradle, a manger. 

But at the very beginning of the book, the shepherd Ephraim. He struggles sometimes with his prayer life. Like sometimes he’s just dry like I was, sort of in this struggle time, and he’s just dry, and it said he persevered in his prayer come rain or shine.

And so one of the images in the book shows the struggle on his face. So I was in my head thinking, “I’m just going to keep persevering through this stage, which is a bit dark.” And then you keep on praying, keep on persevering, no matter what you feel. And then at the end you have this amazing joy finding this Baby who is the King of the Universe.

And Ephraim was glad. So that’s how it kind of came to be in my head. 

Virtue of Perseverence

Theresa Kiser: That’s a beautiful virtue to teach: the perseverance. I’ve been told that: you make your plan for desolation while you’re in consolation, so that when you’re in desolation, you continue on doing what you planned to do while you were consoled.

And just that “keeping on, keeping on” is so important. And instilling that in children’s hearts! I’m glad that you’re doing that. And combining the lost sheep imagery with Christmas. I haven’t seen that done, but it makes a lot of sense. So that’s exciting. 

And I was saying it wrong. It’s Ephraim’s Gladness. How did you say it?

Madeleine Carroll: I called him “Ephraim.” I didn’t even know how you would say in Hebrew, really. But I just call him Ephraim and I don’t know, might be right. You might be right. 

Theresa Kiser: Who knows? The parent reading it to the child is pronouncing it correctly however they do it. Well, that’s beautiful.

And I loved hearing what you said about the Scripture, how in the atrium, you’re going directly to Scripture and at home, this book, it’s pointing them to Scripture too, just through more of an adaptation sort of way.

What age is this book for? 

Madeleine Carroll: I always wonder about that.

At the back of the book, we have the Scripture for the Nativity story and the lost sheep Scripture as well at the back, so that parents can then after the story, they can direct it and read the Word of God straight to the children. 

So the pictures are very suitable for a young age: three, four…because they’re quite endearing, gorgeous sheep. And you’ve got these pens and this really beautiful imagery of the stars and stuff. 

So even if you paraphrase the story, you can read it to the younger ones, but I often aim it around three to eight years. 

Like that whole sort of section. That’s what I do with most of my stories. I sort of say in that age bracket, but then you’ve obviously got the Scripture in the back so it’s kind of good for that older age group too, because then they can read what it actually says in the Bible. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s really useful to include it right there. You don’t even have to go look it up. I love that. So what message do you want our listeners to take away from our conversation today? 

What’s Your Message for Listeners? Joy!

Madeleine Carroll: So I suppose: just the joy of books and the joy of storytelling! Also just the joy of making up your own stories. And this is just a credit to my dad. He passed away a few years ago, but I was one of these six kids and I was in the younger age bracket and my mom and my older siblings would go off some evenings to these. meetings in the parish. 

And I was never old enough to go, sulking at home. But my dad and I would just lie in the bed and he would make up these absolutely amazing stories that had me in fits of laughter. And I suppose that’s what got me through, you know, that grumpy stage. So I don’t know. If you have a storytelling bone in your body, go with it, I’d say.

And also read lots and lots of picture books to children! I just love picture books, but seriously. I just think they’re great.

Theresa Kiser: I completely agree. And you are helping parents do that because Ephraim’s Gladness is not your first book. You have several other books on your website. And what is that website? How can listeners find those other books, which are beautiful by the way? 

Where to Find the Book

The covers… there’s a lot of nature that I can see on the covers of your books. I love the aesthetic that you have. And I think that, I honestly think this is just a personal opinion, but I just I think that the art is just as important in the story. 

And that’s what makes picture books so powerful is they team up the beautiful texts and the beautiful art together.

It can just have such a strong impact on a heart and can just stay with you. So I really liked the, the aesthetic that your books have and the heart that you write with. So where can listeners find more of that?

Madeleine Carroll: So my website is www.IsaiahBooks.co.uk. And I am a storyteller; I’m not very tech savvy at all. The website currently is that some of my books have been published by other publishers. And then I set up my publishing company, myself and I have been printing them myself as well. So what the website does at the moment, I’m sort of branching out as well. At the moment, it directs you to the distributors for the particular books. So they’re all the books are there. And then you get directed to where you can buy them. 

But yes, the art is brilliant. And I find when I find an art that…I love just going through artists work actually on Instagram and stuff. And when you find art that fits your words, it’s like so much joy!

Theresa Kiser: It’s like in Ratatouille when the two flavors come together!

So check out Madeleine’s books over on her website and she has been so generous as to offer a copy of her book to a listener. So check out the show notes for some information on how to join that giveaway and get an early copy of Ephraim’s Gladness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

And if you have been struck by the heart with which Madeleine’s writing. She has a lot more to share with us about her publishing. She has experienced traditional publishing, self-publishing, has created her own publishing house, and has written a number of books for children. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club, where we will be diving a little deeper into her experience, where she has some tips that she can share with you from working with children, writing for them, and publishing in a variety of different ways. 

So there’s a lot of knowledge that she has, and we’ll be able to learn a bit from her there. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club and check out the giveaway to get your hands on a copy of her book.

Thank you so much for joining us. Madeleine, this has been a blessing. 

Madeleine Carroll: Thank you so much. It’s been great fun. 

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

What strikes you most about Madeleine’s story? How has the message of the lost sheep touched your life?

Let me know in the comments!


About Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. On a rare moment when I’m not writing or changing diapers, I might indulge in fruity teas, dark chocolate, and a good book.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


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