Children’s Story Gaining Support to Take Flight

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

LuluBook CoverThe tale of a young African girl's trek to get clean water is whimsically told and illustrated in the forthcoming book "Lulu and the Long Walk."

"What I love about this story is that it allows parents to engage with their child on a serious topic in a lighthearted way," explained Joel Schoon-Tanis, the Holland-based artist who did the colorful pictures in the 32-page book.

The underlying topic is the lack of clean water in rural Africa. That circumstance forces many residents to travel long distances each day for a basic need that we take for granted.

It's a subject close to the heart of story author Dan Haseltine, the lead singer of the faith-based, pop-rock band Jars of Clay who is also a prime mover behind the non-profit Blood Water Mission. It's an organization which works with partners in Africa on water, hygiene and health programs.

"It's a book which hits both of our passions," said Schoon-Tanis, 50. "Dan has a long history on water issues in Africa. And I've traveled there many times and have a love of that continent's animals and people."


In the story, Lulu sets out to get water and encounters several friendly animals along the way. The animals want her to stop and play with them, but she tells them she still has a long journey ahead.

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"And on her return trip they help her get the water back to her home," Schoon-Tanis said.

The bright and lively tale provides an opening for adults to introduce children to a life challenge encountered by people in several parts of the world.

The creative pair has turned to to raise funds to publish the hardcover book, for which the preliminary work is already complete. Their goal is $25,000 in the online campaign that runs until Oct. 22.

The tandem originally had a book contract with a Christian publisher, David C. Cook. But during the writing and design process, the publisher changed focus to concentrate only on kids Bible stories. The project rights were returned to its creators and they were left to consider other options.

"The Kickstarter funds are actually only for overheard of printing and shipping," said Schoon-Tanis. "The benefit to us is if we reach our goal we'll have books free and clear that we can sell and distribute."

The book's price point will be $20, and if their funding level is achieved, the book will be available on line and at several retail locations.  (As a premium for a $25 kickstarter donation, the authors will send you a copy of the completed book).


Schoon-Tanis first met Haseltine and his band at a mid-1990s concert. As fellow artists with a faith perspective, they quickly hit it off and have maintained a close friendship ever since. "I've been to three of the four (band) guys weddings and gone on vacations with them and things like that," he said.

Several years ago two of the players visited Schoon-Tanis's church in Holland to witness the baptism of his daughter. And the band was an occasional guest on his children's TV/video program "Come On Over."

Ten years ago Schoon-Tanis and Haseltine combined forces on a children's book, "The One, the Only Magnificent Me!" (Mackinac Island Press). "We've always wanted to do another one," said the artist.


Typical of many artists, Schoon-Tanis remains busy on multiple projects. His recent Art Prize exhibit at Crossroads Church in Grand Rapids did not win any vote or juror awards but did result in a sale to a Boston art collector. Last year he illustrated two other books, including "At God's Table," commissioned by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and authored by Institute director John Witvliet. The illustrator is working on another book for them on the Psalms.

Recently he led some students and staff at Western Theological Seminary in Holland in painting a mural on a bare interior seminary building wall..

Meanwhile, the Hope College graduate is optimistic that "Lulu and the Long Walk" will reach its fundraising goal by the Oct. 22 deadline. With just eight days remaining it was two-thirds of the way. (In the Kickstarter model, none of the funds are released unless the entire goal is achieved).

The artist was working his Facebook page last week, drumming up support, "Dreaming of what can be. Join the dream," he posted.
Author Information
Author: Terry DeBoer

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