NEW ORLEANS (BP)--From a consultant and college professor to a columnist and a children's author, Mary Manz Simon has reached a lot of audiences.
This time her target is children, ages 4-8, and her subject is little-known Bible characters.
Despite the huge success of the fantasy-filled Harry Potter books, Simon likes using real people with real emotions to catch a child's interest.
That's what she hopes her children's books, "Hidden Treasures of the Old Testament" and "Hidden Treasures of the New Testament," published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, do.
"They should connect in a real emotional way. You can do that by either touching the heart or looking at situations which kids can relate to."
And her Hidden Treasures books do both, she believes.
"They are heart connectors, and they are also real. So it hits kids right where they're at -- wanting a real authentic experience, but also one that touches the heart with real emotions."
The characters in her books "are real people who God takes [at] the crisis point in their lives and uses them. They're like us, they're like kids today," Simon said.
She said she's had the idea for a book about little known Bible characters for years, but only recently felt it was the right time to write it.
"I looked for the little stories that might be only two verses about a person."
One of her favorite stories from the New Testament is the story of Rhoda. In the story, a group of Christ's followers was meeting secretly at the house of Mary, mother of James and John, to pray for Peter's safety while he was in prison. The group heard a knock on the door, which the maid, Rhoda, answered. It was Peter, and Rhoda didn't let him in.
"Anybody, the soldiers, could have seen him, and Rhoda leaves him standing there outside," Simon said.
She said the story reminds her that even when we do silly things God can still work through us.
"We are all Rhodas at some time in our lives. We all do stupid things. And for a kid who's growing up, who's trying to deal with sibling rivalry and peer relationships, those kids are making a lot of mistakes and they look at Rhoda and say, 'Hey, God can even work through her. He can work through me.'"
Simon began writing children's books because she couldn't find devotional books just for her children.
"I wrote my first book, "Little Visits with Jesus," on McDonald's napkins in 1987. And my children weren't bored. They didn't say, 'Yuck!' to devotions."
Some of Simon's favorite characters in her new books are women -- Rhoda from the New Testament and Deborah from the Old. "I like Deborah because she was a very strong woman. She listened to God."
Other stories in Simon's books include:
-- Old Testament -- Michal, David's wife, who helped save her husband's life; Shiphrah and Puah, two nurses ordered to kill all baby boys, but who helped save them instead; and Rahab, who hid two of Joshua's spies.
-- New Testament -- Matthew, the tax collector; Eutychhus, who Paul brings back to life; Jason, who helped Paul escape; and Zacharias and Elizabeth who are old yet have a son named John.
In addition to writing children's books and speaking about market trends related to children's products, Simon is a columnist for parenting magazines.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: MARY MANZ SIMON.