Heather: To be honest, I'm surprised that Allison and I hadn't discovered each other before this time. We are petals from the same flower (or maybe electricity from the same lightning bolt): our high level of energy, passion and creativity led to an immediate friendship. My colleague, Terry Whalin, acquired the God Allows U-turns books for kids and youth for Cook. He told me that Allison was looking for a writer and he knew that I had expertise in that area. Would I be interested in helping out? Meanwhile, Allison's agent was recommending to her that she work with me. The rest is history.

Eva: Okay...we're looking at a cute little family of "doggies." You've called them "The Barkleys," which I think is just way too cute. And you're looking at the Fruit of the Spirit...Laughter and Love, Jingles and Joy, and Picnics and Peace. How did the two of you work together on this project?

Heather: Ha! That was fun. When I first proposed to Allison that we make these characters animals, she thought I was crazy. I'm not sure if it was my power of persuasion ("But, Ali, think of all your favorite children's books. All the characters are animals!") or some gentle prodding from her husband that finally got her to agree to it. When she did, she promptly named them the Barkleys. I love it! Allison also came up with the plan of introducing the U-turns concept by teaching the Fruit of the Spirit. I, then, had the challenge of pulling this off in a fun and interactive way. Riddles in limerick seemed the perfect solution.

Eva: Hey, Heather...I happen to know that author & speaker came up with the name "The Barkleys" while she, Ali, and I were rooming together at Expo in Indianapolis, so there's even one more great mind thinking alike here! Okay...Heather, who did the illustrations for the books?

Heather: My hero: Matt Whitlock. I had worked with him on some other books and knew that he could complete this team. He is a former Disney illustrator with a wacky sense of humor. He's the one who brought the Barkley's to life.

Eva:  Heather, you know Matt's my hero too! Allison, I know that all Faith Kidz (Cook's children's line) books have a special feature at the end. Can you tell me a bit more about the parental guides at the back of the books?

Allison:  I have a special place in my heart for young parents. I was 16 when I gave birth to my son and I was clueless about how to instill spiritual building blocks in my son's life. These guides give instruction to parents to encourage their children to make U-Turns toward the Fruit of the Spirit, toward Love, Joy and Peace. They do this through exercises that encourage Sight, Sound and Touch lessons. Sure, some parents may know to do this automatically, but for many parents, these are building blocks for them as well.

Eva: Allison and Heather, this question is for the two of you. I have a granddaughter who lives nearby, spends the night quite often, and I read to her all the time. She loves these books! She has actually memorized Picnics and Peace! Why do you think it's so important that we read to children and what ministry do you envision with them?

Heather: Jesus often spoke in parables without offering an interpretation. In that way he spoke to those whose hearts were open to hear His message. Storybooks do the same thing: kids can take in the message of the book as much as their maturity will allow. But storybooks aren't just about lessons. They are about storytelling. What better gift is there to give a kid than a cozy lap and a great book?

Allison:  Reading to children opens a door for them to experience a different way of life. Our focus is so limited as kids; we feel the world is exactly like that which we live in from day to day. It's good for kids to see that other people live differently, make different choices, even a little doggie family. This is especially important when a child lives in a troubled home, perhaps with challenging situations and issues that make it difficult to grow up with love, peace and joy. They need to see the choices available to them.