God’s Wildest Wonderment of All
“The theme of this particular title is the magnificent image of God that we bear as human beings.”
I recently had the opportunity to learn from esteemed Catholic author Paul Thigpen, about his new book God’s Wildest Wonderment of All (TAN Books). This book was illustrated by John Folley, who was also the illustrator for another TAN title, Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals: A Hypothetical Alphabetical by Matthew Mehan, which was released only in 2018. I strongly recommend both of these titles (you can see my Register interview of Dr. Mehan here) and I thank Dr. Thigpen for his responses during this interview regarding his stunningly 53rd book!
What is the origin of God’s Wildest Wonderment of All?
I wrote the text of it 35 years ago as a Christmas gift for my daughter, who was then a toddler. The little handmade book I created with the verse included my own quite amateurish illustrations. Though I never had it published then, I kept the text all these years.
When TAN Books began publishing works for children, I decided it was time to submit the text for publication. And when I saw the beautiful artwork that John Folley had created for another TAN children’s book, I knew he would be perfect as the illustrator. As a bonus, John was a pleasure to work with! His illustrations are delightful — their vivid energy and sly whimsicalness are the very qualities I want to convey through the rollicking text.
What inspired you to write a children’s book?
Though most of my books are written for adults, my very first book, published in 1986, was also for kids. This title is actually my fifth published work for a young audience, though the others are now out of print. (TAN Books is resurrecting some of those for a new generation of children.) I have two sources of inspiration for my children’s books: my own childhood experience and the experiences of my two children when they were young. This particular book was inspired by my daughter’s first visit to the zoo — the San Diego Zoo, which is world class! She was much younger when she visited than the little boy in the story, but her sense of wonder that day, and the memories it awakened in me of my countless questions about animals when I myself was young, led to the writing of the verse. Amazingly, though John Folley and I had never met face to face when he created the illustrations, and he had never seen any photos of me from childhood, the little boy in the story looks just like I once did. So I sent John an old photo of myself at that age wearing a bowtie, just like the child wears in the book. Seems providential!
What are your hopes for those children — and adults! — who read God’s Wildest Wonderment of All?
All the books I’ve written have Christian themes. The theme of this particular title is the magnificent image of God that we bear as human beings. Since it’s for a rather young audience, I don’t use those terms, of course. But the fast-moving verse, in a setting full of natural wonders, allows the child in the story to tell how he came to see himself (and others) in a whole new way as “God’s wildest wonderment of all.” He also learns more about God’s vast creativity and wisdom as displayed in the animals. Just for fun, the book includes whimsical references to Noah’s ark, both in the text and in the illustrations. That’s certainly a natural association for a child to make when he’s touring a zoo!
In what ways can your book draw souls to Christ?
Our secular culture has largely lost the awareness that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. Because our unique dignity is based on that reality, we have lost as well our sense of human dignity. Such a loss, I believe, contributes to a variety of our most pressing social and moral ills: abortion, human trafficking, pornography and the growing suicide rate, to name a few. I hope in some small way to help those who read this book discover, or rediscover, their dignity and value, unparalleled among the creatures of earth, as beings made in the image of God. I also hope it will encourage them to value the other earthly creatures they encounter as having their own special place in God’s plan for our world. These other creatures deserve our respect and their own measure of wonder as reflections of their Creator’s wisdom, power and creativity. If young readers can catch a glimpse of God’s grace given to us in our creation, perhaps they can eventually appreciate more deeply God’s grace given in our redemption in Christ.
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As a lifelong wildlife enthusiast and defender of human life in particular across the spectrum, especially beginning with the unborn, I truly value what Dr. Thigpen has done with this treasure of a children’s book. I urge parents, grandparents, and others to get a copy for the youth in their life. This book would make an excellent Christmas gift, particularly during this challenging era in which an awareness of the unique place of human life in God’s creation is increasingly imperiled around the globe.
- paul thigpen