Champ Thornton, PhD, is an acquisitions editor at Crossway. He and his wife, Robben, live in Newark, Delaware and enjoy being parents to three energetic teenage children. He’s the author of numerous books for kids and families, including The Radical Book for Kids, The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, and Why Do We Say Thank You? Learning to Be Grateful.
In this interview, Champ talks about his latest book, The Really Radical Book for Kids.
FF: Fans of The Radical Book for Kids have been waiting for a sequel for six years now. It takes a lot of work to write a book like this, doesn’t it? Did it take a lot of research to write some of the chapters?
The first book came out in 2016, and within the first year, the publisher asked about a sequel. At that time and for the next few years, I couldn’t imagine writing another The Radical Book for Kids. I loved it, but writing it was quite a project! But by 2018, I started thinking about it and even wrote a possible introduction.
As to research, I wrote some chapters for The Really Radical Book for Kids in 2019, more in 2020, even more in 2021, and wrapped up the last few chapters as recently as 2022. Some of these chapters (e.g., “How Does Prayer Work?” or “Exploring the Book of Romans”) were easy to write. That’s because I’d been thinking about and studying these topics for years. (And at least one chapter was super easy! The “Humor in the Bible” chapter lists tons of jokes that my dad helped me gather—he’s always got a good joke!) But other chapters took lots of work. The biography chapters took hours of research and writing, for example. And for some of them (including the ones on Hannah More and Eric Liddell), I read an entire book about each of their lives before I wrote their chapters. I love taking complex topics and introducing them to young readers in fun ways!
FF: For those not familiar with The Radical Book for Kids, please introduce us to it and the sequel, The Really Radical Book for Kids.
Sometimes I jokingly say that after going to seminary and being a pastor and a dad, these books are the result of emptying the junk drawer of my brain. I think we’re getting near the bottom of that drawer.
This book, like the first The Radical Book, is a buffet of all sorts of different kinds of truth (and fun!) about Christianity, so there’s no one single message. Instead, this book covers topics such as: how to become a Christian, how to read the Bible and understand its various books (like Genesis, Proverbs, Psalms, Mark, and Romans), learning about people in church history who gave their lives for Christ, reasons why it’s sensible to believe in God and his Word, theological truth for living wisely and bravely as Christians in difficult times, and finding your identity in Christ and your place in this massive world. Plus, there are chapters with fun facts, hilarious jokes, hands-on crafts to explore, and of course, making your own secret code.
FF: Can you tell us more about the design and format of the book? What ages were these books written for?
The design of this book is just so engaging! As with the original, designer Scot MacDonald has done an incredible job! There are real-life pics, hand-drawn sketches, charts and graphs, and hysterical illustrations. Kids, ages 8 and up will love the artwork that’s packed with fun!
FF: As a dad, how did your own kids inspire the book? Did they offer any ideas for content?
Third grade was my only year in the Cub Scouts. My only memorable achievement was accidentally breaking my den mother’s lamp. I don’t remember much else. But I do recall the handbook, an illustrated guide to a world of fun and new things: tying knots, trying games, making friends, and learning various facts—all aimed at nurturing good citizens. Thirty-five years later, I am a parent to three teenagers, who, thankfully, aren’t quite as skilled at breaking things. I want my kids and all kids to have a fun way to learn about living the Christian life. I want the next generation—including my kids—to be confident in the trustworthiness of Scripture, to be captivated by the wonder and beauty of our God, and to be curious to know Him, His Word, and His world better.
That is, I want this book to deepen trust in God, to stir readers to treasure him above everything else, and to be thirsty to know more. I want the next generation—and I don’t exclude myself! —to grow in depending on God, delighting in him, and digging in to know him better.
There are some “everything a boy/girl should know or do” books out there, but they are all secular in content and approach. This is a Christianized/Gospelized version of this same kind of book: it’s a starter kit for what I would want my own three kids to know about God, the Word He has written, and the world He has created.
FF: Why is a book such as The Really Radical Book for Kids so vital for young readers to grow in knowledge and faith?
As Christian parents we want our children to know Jesus Christ as their Rescuer. Nothing could be more important. Yet the Bible doesn’t teach that God is just Redeemer. He’s also Creator. This is why we tell our children about the blessings of salvation. And we also teach them to enjoy the pleasure God designed in creation: ice cream, starry nights, hiking, hide-and-seek, etc.
I hope that this book will bring together these two important realities: God as Savior and God as Creator. These chapters are packed with fun and serious facts, stories from history, and lots of information about the stunning world God has made to show who He is and for us to enjoy. My book also invites kids into the realities, not just of God’s world, but also of His Word. Young readers will learn about the Bible, about Jesus, about theology, about unchanging truth. I hope that parents will love how their kids enjoy learning and loving the goodness of God in both creation and redemption.
FF: Sparking curiosity in children was one of your major goals in writing this book. Tell us more about that. What do you hope young readers gain from reading The Really Radical Book for Kids?
I hope it not only makes kids more aware of various aspects of their faith but that it also makes them curious to learn even more. It’s kind of like when I take my children to a store that offers samples of various products, in hopes that they’ll want to buy the full-sized items. I hope that this book is a smorgasbord of samples that make kids want to know and grow more in their Christian life.
It’s also like an assorted packet of seeds—about the Lord, the Word, the Gospel, and more—that I hope will be sown in the hearts of young readers. Seeds that I hope the Lord will cause to grow up into full-grown and fruitful life in years to come.
FF: How much Bible and church background do kids need to have to get the most out of the book? Is The Really Radical Book for Kids a good tool to introduce children to the Bible?
Kids don’t need to know anything about the Bible to read The Really Radical Book for Kids. I tried to write in a way that’s easy to understand, and that explains all sorts of things along the way. What’s been so surprising to me since the original book came out is how much adults and parents enjoy it too. I’ve heard time after time statements like, “I learned so much reading this book!” And that comment actually echoes my own heart. Both books are in many ways reflections of things that I’ve learned over the years.
As an author, pastor, and especially as a dad, I have had to work at taking God’s truth and packaging it for younger hearts and minds. There are certain truths—about what God is like, how prayer works, how to read the Bible, etc.—that God has used to change my life. And when it comes to truth in my life, I like to keep things simple—it’s easier for me to remember that way. If God’s truth isn’t portable for us, if it doesn’t sink down deep and become part of us, then it’s not going to change us as the Lord intended. I hope these books serve the truth so that readers young and old can take them to heart and make them their own!
FF: What would you consider one of the most important chapters in the book to be?
I’m not sure I can pick just one, but toward the top of the list is the chapter called “The Great Divide.” Using the geographic imagery of continental divides, this chapter aims to identify what I think is the single most important issue in the church today. This issue is the “dividing line” between men and women who profess to follow Jesus. What’s the divide? How someone views the Word of God. This chapter identifies two different types of people, each one holding a different view of Scripture. Here’s how the book lays it out:
Person #1: This person reads God’s Word, but they will disagree with the Bible. They stand over the Word. They might say about Scripture: “I don’t like this part” or “This part needs to change.”
Person #2: This person reads God’s Word, but they will let the Bible disagree with them. They stand under the Word. They will allow Scripture to say to them: “I don’t like this part” or “This part needs to change.”
It’s OK and even healthy for Christians to have legitimate disagreements about what the Bible teaches, as long as they are arriving at those conclusions by submitting to Scripture, being “under the Word of God,” not “over” it. I hope that this book, and this chapter in particular, will help readers (young and old) submit to the authority of the Word of God and the God of the Word.
FF: There are chapters that will appeal to kids who enjoy science, history, geography, and even math. What was your favorite subject in school, and do your favorite chapters line up with that subject?
Actually, I was a terrible student in middle and high school! I was bad at English, math, science, and a foreign language (I took German). Not only did I get bad grades, but I didn’t like these subjects either. I suppose history was OK, but the rest was a dumpster fire. So, it’s kind of cool that there are “history” chapters in this book—the four biography chapters. But over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy science and English more. I enjoyed doing chapters that touch on scientific facts, ancient history, and the way language works. (But I’m still pretty awful at math.)
FF: What are some of the fun, hands-on activities included in The Really Radical Book for Kids?
Kids can learn to make a paper airplane—that is shaped like a ring. (I learned to do this in middle school, and not only does it look crazy, but it flies amazingly too!) There’s also a recipe for biscuits using a mystery ingredient, instructions for making Japanese paper art (origami), directions for drawing a 3D object, and guidelines for playing a new game with family and friends.
FF: Why is it important for kids to learn about other Christians from history and their stories of faith?
As I wrote in The Radical Book for Kids, “Originally ‘radical’ meant ‘going to the root’ of something. So—if you dare—this book will take you deep into the ancient roots and origins of our faith. . .. If a tree has a good root system, it can stand strong through the wildest storms. So, in this book, you’ll learn about following Jesus and standing for him in the storms of life. You’ll also meet men and women who learned to trust Jesus and stand for him even when everything seemed against them. How did they do it? Radical faith.”
FF: The book was written for kids to read through on their own, but how can parents encourage their kids to talk about what they read? How can these discussions lead to making conversations about faith a part of daily life in the home?
The Really Radical Book for Kids is not an exhaustive source or the definitive account of anything. Instead, it’s intended to be a starter kit for the Christian life, introducing kids to a wide variety of truths about the Christian faith (e.g., the Bible, theology, church history, apologetics, Christian living, etc.) in a way that’s age-appropriate, challenging, engaging, and fun.
Moms and dads could ask their kids about what they’re enjoying—what’s funny, what’s surprising, what’s cool, what’s new and interesting? There’s fodder for conversations on virtually every page!
Not only that, but it’s a book that parents can also use the book with their families together during devotional time Some chapters are short enough to read aloud in one sitting; while others are longer and can be read in several parts.
The Really Radical Book for Kids
More Truth. More Fun
Illustrator: Scot McDonald
New Growth Press
Release Date: March 2, 2023
The Really Radical Book for Kids continues the exciting dive into the roots of the Christian faith started in The Radical Book for Kids. More Bible exploration, more history, more secret codes, and more faith-filled direction for how to live as a believer in the here and now.
Short chapters on a variety of topics will grab the interest of readers of all ages, from 8 to 80! Kids will learn about ancient kings, hilarious humor, legendary battles, and fierce snakes and dragons. They’ll discover unusual food to make, secret codes to break, fun crafts to try, and strange planes to fly. They’ll also uncover exciting ways to read the Bible, factual reasons to believe, stunning truths about God, and incredible examples of “radical” men and women who have gone before them and trusted Jesus in challenging times.
Buy The Really Radical Book for Kids from Amazon HERE!