SINGAPORE Australian children's author Mark Macleod believes God is in the details, and his latest book hopes to encourage young, and older, souls to find spirituality in the simplest of things.
"God Is," published in May, is a non-denominational picture book that explores the spiritual aspect of everyday things and which Macleod says is aimed at everybody from school-aged children through to grown-ups.
"God is in the light of the moon and the stars that chart a shining course above the dark that never seems to end," reads one page, which, like the rest of the book, is illustrated by artist Kirrily Schell.
"For me, it's in the small, simple places that I have found God," Macleod, a devout Quaker Christian, told Reuters.
The lecturer, publisher and editor is also president of Australia's Children's Books Council, has three children, the eldest in her 30s, and lives outside Sydney.
His next projects include a children's book about Christmas and a duckling who does things differently.
Macleod recently spoke to Reuters about religion, writing and why we must listen to children:
Q: What inspired you to write a book about faith these days?
A: "One day, my eldest daughter just said to me casually 'Dad, I don't believe in God any more' and I was shocked! I thought there's this whole generation, Generation X, that despite their upbringing, did not believe in God. So I told her to look for God in other places, that is, if you don't find traditional services, or the Bible, or other holy books interesting, then look around you and you will find God. The idea for the book came quickly after that, and I hope this will make people think."
Q: How relevant do you think faith is to people today?
A: "When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, they used to say that in the future, science and technology will take over and there will be no more God. But that's not true. After we've got the car, the five-bedroom home, all the materialist trappings of having made it, people are starting to search for what else is there, especially with the economy the way it is. Some people are turned off by some of the concepts of God that we grew up with, like a God that punishes, or one that makes you feel guilt -- nobody needs that. What interests me is a God that nurtures."
Q: Was it difficult to distil such a complex, and emotive topic, into a children's book?
A: "The book pretty much wrote itself. Sometimes writers just get inspired, and I was lucky to find that inspiration coming from some source. I also haven't forgotten what it's like to be a child and I hope I never will."
Q: Did your own faith help?
A: "The book is pretty much a Quaker view of God, that there's something of God in every person or being, so we have to treat everybody equally, irrespective of gender or race or age."
Q: Do you think books still play a role in children's lives, with all the other high-tech entertainment options available?
A: "When the Internet came along, people said why would you ever want to publish a book again, but then we realized that we like the fact that books are slow, that we can control the pace, that we like the language and the music and the poetry, and also that we trust books because there's a fair bit of editing. I want my kids to have all it all -- the TV, the web, and the books -- and it's our role as parents and teachers to guide them."
Q: Any advice for children's authors?
A: "Listen to children as you would to an adult. Hear what they have to say, what's important to them, how they see the world. Tell a fantastic story first, and let the moral lessons follow, or else the kids will run a mile if you try and lecture and moralize them. And like me, hope that you never grow up."
(Editing by Alex Richardson)