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BookWorthy Chats with Terrie Hellard-Brown

BookWorthy Podcast Season 2 Episode 13 Cover
Building Character through Picture Books Cover


Valerie - Today we're talking with the host of the Books That Spark podcast, Terrie Hillard-Brown. Terrie has just released a devotional called Building Character Through Picture Books, 25 family devotions based on favorite picture books. This devotion aims to make bedtime story time more meaningful, with devotions based on popular books you might already be reading with your kids. Welcome to Bookworthy, Terrie.


Terrie - Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.


Valerie - It is my pleasure. Now to start us off, Terrie, since Easter is around the corner, what is your favorite Easter candy?


Terrie -Well, I honestly don't eat much candy because I react to it, but I do give in and have


Reese's peanut butter egg sometimes. But the big controversy is I can't stand peeps and my children just think something's wrong with me.


Valerie - I agree with you, peeps are disgusting. I, yeah, I just want to like, gag, talking about them. But once those Cadbury, the mini-Cadbury eggs came out, I could like to eat those like popcorn. I'm like, this is dangerous. I cannot buy them. Now Terrie, do you have any special Easter traditions in your home?


Terrie - Well, the one that makes my children cringe the most is that every Easter we choose a color for our clothing, and our whole family dresses in that color and we take a picture. And most of the time it's fine, but one year I chose salmon and my sons thought it was pink they were not happy with the pink and they still tell me they just were disappointed in that choice, but I'd kind of make them do that every year and so we they. They put up with me.


Valerie - The traditional family Easter portrait is very important. Even in salmon. Too fun. Well, Terrie, tell us a little bit about your podcast, Books That Spark.


Books that Spark Podcast

Terrie - Well, we're in our fourth year, our fifth season, and we review picture books mostly. But I've started getting into a few more chapter books because I've had families like help, you know? I don't have time to preview all the chapter books. And so I have a team helping me read chapter books. And so we're starting to review a few more of those. I've had a few more guests who write chapter books for middle schoolers and high schoolers. And so that's been fun to get into. But we also talk a lot about disciplining our kids. So at the core of what we're talking about is everyday discipleship, every day based on Deuteronomy, where it says, you know, as you go along your way, as you put the kids to bed, you know, to talk about the things you know. And so that's a focus of it, even though we mostly talk about picture books.


Valerie Fentress - Now did your podcast kind of inspire your book of these 25 devotions?


Terrie - It did, I don't know if you know who Kathy Lipp is, but she's a friend of mine and she's a writer and speaker. And she's like, you love writing devotionals and you love picture books. You should put them together in a picture book devotional. And I'm like, Oh my goodness, that's perfect. And I started working on it a couple of years ago, but immediately started working on it and just loved it. It was the easiest and most fun I've had writing anything I've written. It just was my heart. So it was fun.


Valerie - So fun, it's great when your burden and your passion collide and it's a sweet spot in writing or in, I don't know, anything that we do for the Lord. It's so fun. Now how did you choose some of these books? You have several classic books, like what is it? Chica Chica Boom and Corduroy and the Runaway Bunny, but then you have some newer books that are The Very Impatient Caterpillar and Llama Llama Red Pajama. How did you choose the books that you highlighted in your devotional?


Terrie -Well, for this first one, I just chose some of my favorites that I loved. They needed to be general market. And so I thought of what are some of the most popular ones out right now that people already have in their library and what ones that they have in their library that are the classics. And, um, so that's where I started and I had a whole list and just paired it down to 25 for the book and I'm, I'm working on the next 25 now. That's how I decided was just books I loved. I started with Grumpy Monkey. It's one of my favorites. I just had to start there.


Valerie -I was wondering, you know, did your favorite children's book end up on the first 25 list?


Grumpy Monkey Cover

Terrie - Yeah, Grumpy Monkey, I think that would be it. And then, of course, I love We Don't Eat our Classmates. And that one's so funny. People who haven't, aren't reading, um, picture books, they're like, what? They don't know it's about a T-Rex. And so they got a little worried because I have a critique group who helped me, you know, go through it and stuff. And it was just so

funny. Cause like they're, what is that book about? And I'm like, no, trust me, it's a T-Rex. It's good. It's funny.


We Don't Eat Our Classmates Cover

Valerie -It is a very fun book, but yeah, if you didn't know it was a T-Rex, it would be kind of concerning. What is your goal for this devotional book?


Terrie - Well, my main goal, most of my followers are homeschoolers. So I wanted it to be something homeschoolers would love. But I believe whether you're homeschooling or not, we need to do family devotionals. And to come together as a family, if we're reading, if we have kids who are five and others who are 12, we may not have a devotional that will match all of them. And so that was one of my main goals, was to create a devotional where the family could come together. I think whether they want to admit it or not, every child enjoys picture books, even if they're 20. And so the family could come together before bedtime, read the picture book together, and then have the devotional. And so within the devotional, I have questions for the older kids, as well as questions for the younger kids. And so those are there so the family can have just a short discussion before they pray and get ready for sleeping

Terrie Hellard-Brown Quote

time. And then I also included some additional information for the parents. So if they wanted to continue the conversation at breakfast the next morning, or if they just wanted to do the devotional during the day and include a little more discussion, I have some activities, you know, just different things the parents can use as resources. But my main goal was that families could come together whatever their children's ages and have everyone be there for the same devotional.


Valerie - It's really neat. I think what was it? C.S. Lewis said that you know, a children's book that's only good for children isn't a good children's book. So, I love that you're, uh, you know,

C.S. Lewis Quote

reaching, you know, an entire family and not just, you know, stuck on that, you know, younger age where that are reading picture books, but also leading teens and preteens to think about books that they loved when they were little and to think about them differently and deeper.

Now, when did your writing journey begin, Terrie?


Terrie - Well, technically it began in Miss Carmen's second-grade class when she had us write a poem. And we had to write about nature. And so I wrote about the moon. And I loved it. I never realized I loved writing until then. And I started just filling every piece of paper around me, every little book, with poems. They were horrible. But I still wrote them. I even made my little books. I always loved to draw as well. So I would have, I made a book of birds and, just through growing up. And then when I got into high school, I was very, very shy and nobody believed me anymore, but I was little, I was very shy. And so when I got to high school, I got into journalism and commercial art. And I loved it. And my, um, 12th grade, well, all of my English teachers were very strong in teaching writing, but my 12th grade teacher entered us in all kinds of contests. And so I won a lot of awards for my writing and that's what encourages you a lot. Yeah, so that was like, okay, I can do this. And so I've never stopped writing since then. I haven't pursued it as a career, so to speak until recently, probably the past six, or seven years. But I've always written monologues for our church. I wrote the cantatas, you know, using other people's music, but wrote the monologue or dialogue through the program for Christmas and Easter because we lived overseas and it was hard to ship things. And so I would just use songs we had available to us and then write a cantata for that or a drama. So I've always used my writing in that way. But it's only been the past, well, since we moved back to the States in 2016, that I have started saying, I want to do this as a career. So even though I'm old.


Valerie -Never too old to start a good thing, right? No, um, tell us a little bit about where you were, um, before 2016, you were a missionary over in. Tell us a little bit about how that experience influenced, um, your desire to write devotionals.



Terrie - Well, we moved to Taiwan in 1999, and we lived there for about 15 years. And just not being able to get materials easily, you know, I didn't want to break any copyright laws, you know, so I was always trying to be very cognizant of that. And so, because in Taiwan, they don't have copyright laws, so they don't care as much. But we did, and we wanted to be, you know, have some integrity about it all. So, if I couldn't ship something to Taiwan, I would write what I needed. So that went into devotionals, that went into programs at church, it went into my teaching. I wrote the curriculum when I needed to. You know, whatever I needed to do, I just wrote it. And I loved it, it was fun to do that. It took a lot of time, but I loved doing that. And then later on, while we were there, of course, being able to download things became much more popular. And so toward the end, I was able to use a lot more of things I could download, pay for, and download. Um, but for years, we just didn't have that option. And so it was a great way to be forced into something that I turned out. It turned out that I loved it. So that was cool.


Valerie -Very neat. Now raising kids over in Taiwan and trying to encourage them in faith, were family devotion is important in your home?


Terrie - Yes, not as consistent as I would have liked. And I talk about that because I think it's important. As homeschoolers, as moms, just moms, we are so hard on ourselves. And I wish when I was younger, I could have talked to the younger me and just said, chill. You know? Because I made life so hard for myself. My kids had a great time. They tell me now they loved it. Everything was great for them. But I felt like a failure so much of the time when I was homeschooling. And I felt like I never was consistent with my devotionals, with the kids. And so that's kind of where the everyday discipleship, everyday motto came from. Because even

family eating

though we didn't sit down at the table and do devotions at breakfast time, Um, we talked about things all the time. When there was a teachable moment, I would try to grab it. And I think I was pretty good at that. At, you know, we may have, I may be thinking, Oh, we're going over here. We're going to the library. We're going to do this. You know, we're always doing something. And I had four kids. Well, I had the fourth one while we were there, um, had three when we moved there, but, um, we would be in the middle of something and then something would happen. And I would be like, Ooh. teachable moment and I would stop where I was going and turn and take that moment. And I did try to do that. Well, I prayed for God to help me see that and take the time to just shift for a second and talk about whatever was happening. Um, one of the ones that sticks in my mind is, I don't remember what was going on. It's probably Easter or something. And I gave the kids some candy. and they were doing this bartering. Well, if you give me one of yours, I'll give you one of mine because they all had a different favorite candy, right? So, they're bargaining with each other. I thought we were about two minutes away from a fight because that's just what happens. And I said, OK, guys, if you want to share your candy because you want to bless your brother or sister, that's fine. But don't do it expecting something in return. I said, when we give, we should give without expecting someone to retaliate or to. That's not the right word, but to reciprocate, that's the word. Um, and, and then if they want to give to you, you can feel blessed by that. Instead, I expect you to do this. And it just changed the whole atmosphere of their attitude and what they were doing. And they started just blessing each other in that moment and sharing. It didn't last forever, but for that moment, they did a really good job. They got it. And I felt like it was a real teachable moment that just went well. It went really, really well. So that one sticks in my mind a lot.


Girl reading

Valerie - Very neat. I love how, you know, even in my parenting, I get hard on myself. Oh, we know we need to do this, do this, do this, you know because other people are doing this, that, and the other. But it's those sweet teachable moments that we are just acting on in the midst of the crazy that sit with our kids. I mean, devotion times and resources like you've put together are amazing. But there's no hard, fast rule that this has to be done for my children to grow in faith. And I love that God is so gracious. Yes. He's so gracious to use everyday moments when, you know, it's just too hectic and too crazy to sit down or, you know, I have two kids with ADHD. So having them sit down for a formal devotional time is just not in the cards. So, we have to keep it very dynamic.


Terrie -That's right. Thank goodness.


Valerie - I think the more we have a conversation and are just constantly talking about God and how God influences our world and the way we think, the more our kids are going to catch, like, oh, this is how we do things. This is how we talk about things. So, what God says on Sunday is the same thing happening on Wednesday and Thursday.


Kid with toy

Terrie - Yes, amen. Well, three of my four are on the autism spectrum. And we didn't know that they were misdiagnosed for a long time. Talk about guilt. Oh, my goodness. I have stories. But trying to homeschool, not knowing, you know, with them having the wrong diagnosis, doing everything that just triggered them. You know, I was told they had ADHD, and you time ADHD kids and say, okay, we're just going to do this for this amount of time. But with an autistic or Asperger's kid, giving them a timer just sets up anxiety. That's the word that sets up their anxiety. So I basically tortured my kids. We got through, we all survived. We're all friends still, but, um, you know, that was rough. And so daily. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I'm a failure. I can't get this. I can teach a whole classroom of 40 kids. Why can't I teach my four? You know, because I'm a teacher, I should be able to do this. And so yeah, it was it was rough. But they grew up to still like us and they grew up to still love God. So we're good.


Valerie - I love how God can even use our mistakes and our mishaps to shape our kids into who they need to be in the life that God wants to lead them on. And so we're a part of the journey. Even if we get it wrong, we're going to at least try to direct them towards God in some way. Like, oh, mom needed Jesus today, didn't she? Like, yes, I need him just as much as you do.


Terrie - Yes, well, and that's the thing, I think, with the devotionals as well, that we're honest. That's one of the things I talk about. If we're painting a rose garden and there are no thorns, we're not being truthful with our kids. If they don't see us struggling in our faith and, you know, sometimes questioning how long we have to wait, for God, for something we're praying for, they need to see that. They need, we need to be transparent with our kids. I mean, not especially in ministry, we don't tell them everything. Or they'd never go back to church

Family at Church

sometimes. I mean, you know, like Henry Black, he used to say his favorite part about ministry was the people and his worst part about the ministry was the people. You know, so, you know, iron sharpens iron. And sometimes you just want to scream a little bit. But I didn't want my kids to hate church and I didn't want them to hate ministry. And so we protected them somewhat and we tried not to put expectations on them to be perfect little children. And you can talk to anybody in our church, they call them little monkeys sometimes. But we thought they needed to be kids. They're just kids and they don't need to have that put on them to try to be perfect. And so they still love church and everything. So that's cool. I guess we did something right or God intervened anyway.


Valerie - He is capable of doing that most definitely. Now, you said that your kids were called little monkeys. Is that kind of why the grumpy monkey is one of your favorites? Too fun. I love how those... You never know what inspires your likes and your dislikes and sometimes just a little nickname can be like, oh, that's what makes this book even more special. Well, Terrie, what's the most impactful book you have read in your life? It could be, it doesn't have to be a children's book. It could be any book other than the Bible.


Terrie - Okay. Um, well, you took my Sunday school answer though. Um, well, I love CS Lewis cause he makes me think. Um, but one of the most impactful books I would say is Oh, Houseby, um, his book on prayer. And it's just called prayer and it's, it's an old book, but you can still get it out there on the different websites, but it was life-changing for me and showed me how important prayer is. And he says in the book that prayer is our occupation. And it's

Experiencing God Cover

just powerful. So that one, I think, had one of the biggest impacts on my walk with God. And I mentioned Henry Blackaby. Experiencing God was revolutionary for me in my walk with God. So those two were important. But one book I have to share for kids, and this is for older kids. It's a trilogy of chapter books. It's the Journey of Souls by C.D. Baker. And I used this when I was teaching literature because it talks about the children's crusades. And those were so awful. Children were taken into slavery when they thought they were going to be involved in the Crusades and see peace come to Jerusalem. And

Journey of Tears Series Covers

it's based on the historical research that Baker did. C.D. Baker. I love his books. He's very meticulous in his research. But it's a hard read because it is a terrible story. So, you do want to use it. I used it with high schoolers mostly. But that book, even as I was teaching it, opened my eyes to how if we aren't careful, and if we aren't in the Word of God, we can be taken in and we can be fooled. We can fool ourselves and conjure up our callings and understandings. And that's what happened, I believe, with all of this. You know, they didn't have the Bible to read, and they didn't know better. So, the best way they knew how was to try to please God and wound up in a tragic situation. But that impacted me that we've got to be reading the Word of God and know what it says so that we don't get fooled or deceived into believing things we shouldn't believe. So that was very important.


Valerie -Sounds like a book I need to pick up. That sounds cool. I have my bookworm kid who might be a little too young for that one, but he would probably eat that one up.


Terrie - Yeah, it's really, you don't want to put it down. That's for sure. The story is just when I read it, it was one volume. Now he's done it into three volumes because the one volume was huge. And so now it's three different books. Yeah. But it's just excellent. It is. And there's a younger one he does on the American Revolution. And the first part of that one, it's a two-parter. The first part of that one is from England's perspective. And the second part is from

The List Cover

America's perspective of all that was going on then. And it's called The List. And it's really good. And it's more about a fifth, or sixth-grade level. So yeah, and then he has books for adults beyond that. But they're almost all historical fiction. And he writes devotionals as well. But I just love his work. And he's not well known. But I just appreciate him so much because when I called, I was trying to work on my lesson plans. And so I contacted him and I said, you know, I don't have any materials to use with your books. You know, do you have any suggestions? So he wrote a letter to my students and posed some questions about the themes that are in the book. And, and they just thought that was the coolest thing ever that the author wrote to them. It just helped to bring the book to life for them and to discuss those themes. And it was just special. So, it's kind of neat. He's a cool guy.


Valerie - Very cool. It is neat when kids can see beyond the pages of a book and see that there is a person behind that there is intention and thought. Lots of prayer sometimes. And all that. Well, I love the devotional that you have put together. I've had the privilege of reading through some of it and I love that it's going to be a great resource for parents. To take those books that are fun and what they see on the library shelves at their public school or at their church and to be able to take those and be intentional with every book that comes into your home, not just the ones that are Bible specific. I think that there's great wisdom that can be gleaned from all books, but I love that you have done that with these just fun books that kids just absolutely love.

Valerie -Now what can we expect next from you, Terrie?


Terrie - Well, I'm working on the second volume. It won't be out probably for another year or so, but that one. And then I have a curriculum that is, you can use it as a Bible curriculum or just as a Bible study with the family. And I have David, The Life of David is out. It's called Heroes of Faith. And I'm working on Esther that will be out soon. And then we'll have Daniel after that. And eventually, I love character studies because we learned so much from the characters in the Bible. So that's what this is. And so that's coming out soon, the Esther one. And then you can also find me in Upper Room Devotionals now and then I'll have one, Starlight Magazine for kids. If you're listeners know about Starlight, I love that magazine. It's only been out a short time, but it's fantastic. And I've had two published, two stories published in that. So, you know, I'm around here and there.


Valerie -Just staying a little busy, I guess. Well, Terrie, where can people find out about you and your books?


Terrie - Well, they can find everything on my website, And that's probably the easiest because you can link to anything from their social media and all my books, and everything are there. So that's the easiest.


Valerie - Well, we'll have that in the show notes for sure, just so people can find you easily and discover your books too. Thank you so much for joining us today, Terrie.


Terrie -I've enjoyed this so much. Thank you for having me.


Valerie -My pleasure. And thank you for joining Terrie and me on this episode of the Bookworthy Podcast. Let us know in the comments what's your favorite Easter candy.

Happy reading!


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Five Fun Facts about Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown Headshot

  • Terrie served as a missionary for 15 years in Taiwan.

  • She has ridden a water buffalo in the Philippines.

  • She wrote her first poem in 2nd grade and knew she wanted to be a writer ever since.

  • She has been a teacher for over 20 years, and her two favorite grades to teach are kindergarten and 12th grade. 

  • In addition to writing, she makes jewelry, paints, and creates other art.


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