Cheryl Malandrinos is a children’s author and freelance editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, released by Guardian Angel Publishing, and A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing, under her pen name, C.C. Gevry. A digital version of A Christmas Kindness will be released in 2013.
Since 2007, Cheryl has been an online book publicist specializing in virtual book tours. She is a member of the SCBWI, a book reviewer, and blogger.
Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.
Share Your Message, but Don’t Beat Readers over the Head with It
By Cheryl C. Malandrinos
There are days I read light, funny books. But overall, my reading consists of message-driven fiction. It’s also what I tend to write. Little Shepherd and A Christmas Kindness—which was released under my pen name C.C. Gevry in 2012 and is being released in digital format this year under my real name—are such stories. Both hold a special message I hope young readers and their families will enjoy. That said, especially when writing for children, it’s important to subtly weave in the message so it doesn’t overpower the characters.
Obed from Little Shepherd is faced with a tough decision. Does he leave his flock alone and find the newborn King or does he stay in the field? His father thinks he should go with the others; but ultimately, Obed must decide if he will step out in faith. Though he remains anxious about the safety of his sheep, Obed discovers great faith reaps great rewards.
Could I have quoted Scripture and had the boy’s father pontificating on how he should listen to what the angels said without question? Sure. But that’s not what I wanted the reader to remember. My goal was to shape the Christmas story in such a way that a young person could relate to Obed’s anxiety and learn what he learns, while not being pulled away from the story.
When it came to A Christmas Kindness, I searched for a delicate way to encourage my children to think of others at a time of year when much of the focus is on what will be under their Christmas tree. God’s Word calls us to serve our fellow man, but that might not sound like an exciting, or fun, concept to a young person. The wonderful thing about kids, though, is that they have generous hearts. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told His disciples that unless they become like little children, they will never enter the kingdom of heaven. So I knew the key to this book was appealing to the generous, tender hearts of children.
Eight-year-old Robert is anxiously waiting to see Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve. He has his long wish list in his pocket and can’t wait to share it with the jolly old elf. While in line he meets Glenn. With holey sneakers, torn jeans, and a jacket whose sleeves don’t quite make it past his wrists, Glenn has only one wish: he wants Santa to put a picture of him and his younger brother, Nathan, sitting on Santa’s lap under the tree.
Robert is floored. Who asks for only one thing? And a picture? Glenn talks about how sick Nathan is; the numerous trips to the doctor and how his mom cries a lot. Suddenly, Robert’s long list doesn’t seem so important.
While the message of A Christmas Kindness is bolder than the one in Little Shepherd, overall, I feel readers will remember how Robert was touched by Glenn’s heartfelt Christmas wish and his desire to help a new friend.
The goal of message-driven fiction should be to empower, not preach.
Little Shepherd by Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Obed is in the hills outside Bethlehem when the angels appear to announce the Savior’s birth. Can he trust that the miracle of the first Christmas will keep his flock safe while he visits the newborn King?
Off in the distance, a wolf howled. Obed moved closer to his flock, scanning the hills for any sign of a pack that might race in and steal his sheep. His family depended upon the sheep for food and their wool for clothing. No sheep would be lost under his watch.
He shivered inside his cloak. While the days were getting warmer, the nights still chilled him. He walked over to the large fire blazing inside the pit. He rubbed his hands together and held them up to the fire to warm them.
Above him, the sky twinkled with millions of stars. Obed couldn’t remember a night so clear.
Suddenly, a bright light filled the sky.
Obed trembled. “Father, what is happening?”
2 Little Shepherd mugs (U.S. and Canada)