Saturday, December 16, 2023

Review and Giveaway: Once Upon a Bedtime in a Faraway Land

UPDATE--The winner of Once Upon a Bedtime is Kaitlin Weaver who entered the giveaway on Instagram.
THANK YOU to everyone for sharing your fascinating stories!

If you're an Anabaptist and a creator, you've probably wondered if you have what it takes to succeed outside your cultural bubble.

We have been hindered, I think, by an unspoken belief that we're not good enough.

When I was a little girl in a little Amish school, the teacher [my dad] reminded me at times not to get too full of myself when schoolwork came easily for me and I finished my arithmetic long before Robert Byler did, because if I went to public school, oh my. . . I would very soon find out that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I fancied myself.

Then we moved to Minnesota when I was ten, and I actually had to go to public school. On about the third day, Mrs. Locher had us go up to the chalkboard, four at a time, and work out a math problem. I think she was assessing our skills.

She gave us a 3-digit multiplication problem. I worked it through as I had been taught, one step at a time, three layers under the line, add it up, done.

I looked around. I was the only one who had done the problem. The others didn’t know how.

That was my first clue that maybe my dad was wrong about Amish kids not being as smart as kids in public school.

He isn’t the only one. At times I still run into this subtle message that we need to stay in our own “circles” because we’re not good enough to operate among all those fancy, educated Englisch, or we have nothing to offer them, or they wouldn't be interested in what we produce.

Inspired by Roaring Lambs, by Robert Briner, I feel strongly about pursuing the sort of excellence that can influence not only people inside the Anabaptist or Christian community, but those outside it as well. We have a lot to offer, and I'm always gratified when a creator is good enough to do well both inside and outside of the Anabaptist bubble.

Which brings us to Margie Yoder. I first saw her artwork when her Christmas silhouette panorama showed up on Instagram. And she was offering a free download!

It was incredible, I thought: detailed, creative, precise, and just pretty. I poked around her site. She wasn’t a professional artist or graphic designer, but an Anabaptist mom and missionary who offered Christmas artwork easily as beautiful as anything Out There.

Full disclosure: shades of my dad, I had a moment of disbelief that a Mennonite lady actually produced this Christmas scene. A good lesson for me, honestly. Of course a Mennonite was that good!

Margie is offering this to YOU!
Email her at for a free download.

On her site, I found that Margie is an illustrator. I loved her style, so I asked her to do the cover and inside drawings for my book, Coming Home to Roost. I'm happy to say she caught exactly the vibe I was looking for and more besides.

Since then, I’ve recommended her to numerous other writers looking for an illustrator.

This shows the universality of Margie's work.
My grandmas were white and very Amish, but they also knew what a fly swatter was for.

I don’t know if Laura Rohrer Showalter is a writer who saw my recommendation, but I’m happy to say that she and Margie have collaborated on a new children’s book that is simply delightful.

In Once Upon a Bedtime, a little boy imagines sleeping in homes and beds around the world. Written in rhyme-and-rhythm poetry, the book takes you and your child to Canada, Kenya, and many other places. In each  heartwarming scene, you’ll find the same little stuffie and slippers tucked into the picture.

There's a heartwarming authenticity to Margie's pictures.
She lived in Kenya. This is how Kenyan homes looked and felt when we were there 20 years ago.

Laura Showalter's writing is smooth and gently cadenced, with the accented syllables naturally falling into the right place with normal pronunciation. I appreciate that a lot.

I hope this book gets picked up by lots of bookstores both Mennonite and Englisch, because it deserves to be out there and available.

And I hope you get a copy and read it to the children in your life.

To order copies or to contact the author:

To contact the illustrator:

ALSO: A giveaway—

I have an extra copy of Once Upon a Bedtime to give away. To enter, comment on my blog or on Facebook and/or Instagram. One entry/comment per platform. 

Include your name and an exotic or unusual place you’ve slept, from Grandma’s musty couch to a sleeping bag under the stars in Alaska to an uncomfortable seat on an international flight. Pull up the memory and tell us about it.

Winners will be chosen on Wednesday, December 20.

Then follow this author's and artist’s example and go do excellent work.