Spark Your Child’s Curiosity About Christianity – Ginger Blomberg, Champ Thornton

In the rugged, analog days before we could carry all human knowledge in our pockets, my grandmother had an encyclopedia set, and I tried to read the whole thing. I never did make it all the way from “aardvark” to whatever the last word in the Z volume was (I never made it to Z at all), but I loved the idea of all that information being organized and laid out like a feast for anyone willing to sit down at the table.

Champ Thornton has written two books for children that capture the feeling of opening up the knowledge and wonder of an encyclopedia—except with jokes, recipes, secret codes, and a lot of grace and inspiration as well. The Radical Book for Kids won the ECPA Christian Book Award in 2018, and its sequel The Really Radical Book for Kids was published in 2023.

I had the opportunity to correspond with Champ Thornton about his books, how a diagnosis can change someone’s priorities, and how to make the best paper airplane ever.

What led you to write The Radical Book for Kids and The Really Radical Book for Kids, and where did you come up with all the ideas?

My wife and I have three children, all currently under the age of 18. So, for almost two decades, the next generation has regularly been on my mind and heart. I want my kids to grow up to know God, trust him, love him, and serve him with all of their lives. The two Radical Books were an attempt to point toward that goal.

In the background of this desire is that in 2003, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder. When you’re 29 years old, you think you’re fairly invincible. Yet in his mercy, God brought into my life a daily reminder of my mortality. God has used this diagnosis to raise my awareness of the importance of passing along the good news of Christ to the next generation.

God has used my diagnosis to raise my awareness of the importance of passing along the good news of Christ to the next generation.

In 2013 I was fascinated with various books for kids that included “everything a boy/girl should know or do.” Yet all of these were secular in content and approach. I wanted to write a fun and informative book for kids that introduced a wide range of topics. A starter-kit for the Christian life.

So I started by making a list of all the things (about God, the Bible, theology, life, etc.) that I’d want my kids to know about or know how to do. And if other kids wanted to read along, that’d be an added bonus! Then I emailed over a dozen friends in ministry, asking them what they’d include on their short list of things for kids to know or do. Initially, over 100 topics made the list, but we eventually landed on the 67 mini-chapters that make up The Radical Book for Kids. (The Really Radical Book for Kids contains 41 mini-chapters; some topics, like “The Great Escape” and “Radical Food,” were on the original list while others, like “Superhero Heresies” and “Battles of the Bible,” were brand-new.)

In the introduction to The Really Radical Book, you mention that your own kids were elementary-aged when you wrote the first book and were middle- and high-school-aged when you wrote the second book. Did those age changes create overall thematic differences between The Radical Book and The Really Radical Book?

I wrote the two Radical Books for Kids in hopes that readers might learn about the faith and have fun at the same time. This made sense to me, because God is the least boring being in the universe. There’s more than enough in the Trinity and creation to captivate and delight young readers. So, as I wrote, I tried to make each of the mini-chapters both accurate and accessible, both educational and engaging.

After finishing the manuscript for the sequel, it turned out that each of the chapters was generally a bit longer than in the original, so some readers may find that after they’ve taken time to finish the first book, now that they’re a bit older, an age-appropriate sequel awaits.

When my wife or I take our kids with us to shop at Costco, they love the samples available at the end of every other aisle. The wholesale shopping club managers are not setting out samples solely to spread goodwill among their customers. Instead, they want people to try a sample, love it, and take home an entire case of the real thing.

There are other books that help kids read the Bible or learn about God. I am thrilled that there are such wonderful books out there today. But I want to do something very different: I don’t want to merely fill minds; I want to spark curiosity. I wrote this book to be a starter kit for the Christian faith—a smorgasbord of samples.

So, while these two books are not exhaustive, I hope they make readers think, make them curious, and make them excited to keep learning and growing in their faith. I hope young readers, having tested a sample, in later years will want to go back for more of the real thing.

Our family particularly likes the biographical chapters that tell the stories of men and women who have served the Lord in various ways. Some of the people featured include C. S. Lewis, Eric Liddell, and Hannah More. How did you pick which people to highlight? What were you looking for in your selections, and what are you hoping kids will take away from the lives of the people you selected?

In the first Radical Book I wanted to select some men and women who were famous and influential in church history, like Augustine, Martin Luther, Amy Carmichael. I also wanted to feature men and women who might not be as well known to some readers, like Hannah Faust or Charles Simeon. I hoped that readers would get to know these people and realize that God uses all sorts of individuals, famous or otherwise.

I don’t want to merely fill minds; I want to spark curiosity. I wrote this book to be a starter kit for the Christian faith—a smorgasbord of samples.

In the second Radical Book, I chose men and women from all over the world. Eric Liddell came from China, Lemuel Haynes from colonial America, Pandita Ramabai from India, and Hannah More from England. I hoped that the stories of these lives would throw open windows to see more of what God was doing all across the globe—from all backgrounds and cultures.

In both books, I wanted all these biographical chapters to also open rooms for later exploration. I wanted their stories to crack open doorways and provide glimpses into the lives of faithful men and women through church history, whether Athanasius, Lottie Moon, John Bunyan, or C. S. Lewis.

Each of these individuals were real people, with real flaws and real struggles. They lived the lives God had given them. In this way, each reader shares so much in common with all of these famous people. God has for each reader—whatever their background, their culture, their gender, or their level of strength or influence—a course to complete. Just like each of these men and women, every one of us has a race to run, and we have a faithful God who gives us strength each step of the way.

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