By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Local author Glenys Nellist’s latest children’s book, “’Twas the Morning of Easter” is featured in an outdoor story walk through April 11, encircling First United Methodist Church, 22124 Garrison.
Her husband, the Rev. David Nellist, is pastor of the church.
The book, richly illustrated by Russian artist Elena Selivanova, tells the Easter narrative of Christ’s resurrection, following the familiar rhythm and rhyme of Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas — more commonly known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Nellist said her Easter book is the second in a series of three, with the first being, “’Twas the Evening of Christmas,” written in 2017, which tells of Jesus’ birth.
“I just took the Clement C. Moore classic and rewrote it to be about Jesus instead of Santa,” she said. “It was just fun to take his rhythm and rhyme and try to rewrite it.”
Nellist said her editor suggested she follow up with a book about Easter, which she was delighted to do.
“It tells the story of the resurrection through the eyes of Mary Magdalen,” she said. “It’s a great way to highlight the role of women in the Bible, because they are often not portrayed as extensively as that.”
Nellist said she followed the Gospel of John and the way he told the resurrection story.
She said that while creating the rhymes is fun for her, choosing the vocabulary best understood by children is more difficult.
“It was a challenge to convey the message in a way that will speak to children’s hearts,” she said. “What excited me about writing this story was I actually began it after the death of Jesus, so it begins where the two guards are dozing outside the tomb.
“You can’t get to the resurrection without the death, but a lot of parents don’t want their children exposed to the violence of the cross, and they want to choose when to talk about the nails or the crown of thorns – things like that.”
Nellist said her story begins after the cross, and she was encouraged that she could present the resurrection story in a way in which parents would not be hesitant to read it to their children.
She said her publisher found “the perfect illustrator” in Selivanova, who illustrated the other books in the series.
“Her illustrations are so evocative and rich,” Nellist said. “That is another great reason why this story book appeals to children, because there is so much to see in her beautiful illustrations.”
She said the illustrations are also geographically and historically correct to the extent possible.
“For example, Jesus is not portrayed as a white man with blue eyes – thank goodness,” Nellist said. “He is very much the Middle Eastern, with brown skin, brown eyes and dark hair, that Jesus was.”
She said illustrations reflecting Jerusalem, which she has visited several times, are also quite accurate.
“The upper room, for example, which Elena portrayed is exactly like the upper room that we were in,” Nellist said. “The little streets in Jerusalem, the marketplace, and the people, with fruits and donkeys in the street, is very realistic.”
The pages of her book, laminated and mounted on wooden signs throughout the church grounds for the story walk, have questions along the bottom border to spark conversation between parents and their children.
“I wanted to ask questions, and a lot of them begin with, ‘I wonder,’” she said. “‘I wonder how Mary is feeling in this picture,’ or ‘I wonder if you would have been brave enough to go into the cave.’”
Nellist said those topics encourage children to wonder and put themselves into the story.
She said an outdoor story walk itself is a safe way to encourage literacy during the pandemic, and “’Twas the Morning of Easter” has rich illustrations and the right amount of text to make it suitable for a story walk.
Nellist said her third book in the series, “’Twas the Season of Advent,” will be available in October.
For more information about Nellist and all of her books, as well as links to purchase them, go to glenysnellist.com.