Why do I write for kids? Seriously, with my name (Dandi Daley before I met the wonderful Mr. Mackall) what else could I do? Invent a candy bar (Dandi Candy)? I had big plans when I enrolled in journalism at the University of Missouri—I’d start my own newspaper, The Dandi Daily.
God had other plans.
I didn’t start out writing for children. Instead, for 7 years I wrote humor and inspirationals for grownups.
And then I had kids! Suddenly, I began to think as a child, to hear children’s voices in my head, and to feel I could reach those little people. When my children were little, I wrote a baby book (an earlier version of God Made Me!), then board books (like Little Blessings series). My kids grew, and I wrote picture books, then easy readers, then chapter books (like Backyard Horses), then middle-grade novels (Winnie the Horse Gentler), then young adult novels (Starlight Animal Rescue) . . . and now, I get to write for absolutely every age—even adults.
I love kids. The first time I did a public school visit, I walked into a kindergarten class and asked, “What does God look like?” Every hand went up. One little girl answered: “God is really, really, really old . . . like 23. But he never looks a day older every time you see him.” I asked, “What makes God angry?” A 5-year-old boy answered, “When his creations don’t turn out too good . . . like cockroaches and my brother.”
You can’t kid a kid. And that forces me, as a children’s author, to be as honest as a child, to present God’s complex truths simply and clearly. I get to explore God’s creation because kids are enthralled with nature and animals. When I wrote The One Year Devos for Animal Lovers: Cool Things Animals Show Us About Our Creator, I gained a new appreciation for God’s handiwork.
And now I’ve written My Bible Animals Storybook, and I learned that: a giraffe has 7 bones in its long neck, and so do we; sparrows, mainly the boys, sing 21 different tunes; and if you could get 17 daddies to stand on each other’s heads, the daddy on top could touch a blue whale’s nose and the daddy on the bottom could touch its tail (as long as the whale agrees).
I get to become a child.
I have come up with a Top Ten list of reasons why I write for children:
1. I believe God wants me to!
2. Christianity is always one generation away from extinction.
3 I am “forced” to experience God’s world as a child. (“Then he [Jesus] said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.’” Matthew 18:3)
4. I used to be a missionary; now, writing is my ministry.
5. Tackling big issues for little people keeps me honest and real.
6. Some families pull out my book for morning devotions, or bedtime, or at Christmas or Easter. One Australian reader of the horse series emails me on Winnie’s and Lizzy’s and Catman’s birthdays. What a privilege to be part of their lives!
7. I get to ride my horse and play with our dogs, and it’s all research!
8. I have a built-in excuse for playing with children.
9. I get to tell stories (in books).
10. I write for children because they write me. I love hearing from readers. Some of the letters begin: “Dear Winnie.” Others come from readers who need to “talk.”
I write for children because sometimes I can feel God smiling along with me as I write, as I think, and as I read my mail. I’ll never get a big ego because kids are too honest . . . like the girl who had me going: “Dear Dandi, I love your books! You are my favorite author. I read Starlight Animal Rescue and all of your books over and over again, and I want to read everything you’ve written at least 10 times each. I feel like your characters are my best friends. And besides, since my guinea pig died, I have nothing else to do.
Who wouldn’t you want to write for children?