Singer/songwriter and mother of two JJ Heller gives language to everything a parent feels, hopes, and dreams for their child in her heartwarming read-aloud picture book Hand to Hold (WaterBrook). Illustrated by Alyssa Petersen and based on the lyrics of Heller’s beloved lullaby “Hand to Hold” (10 million streams and 835k YouTube views), this charming story is an opportunity for parents to bless their children and reassure them of their boundless love and God’s faithful presence.
Fans of Heller’s contemporary lullabies and other young families will love snuggling up together for this adorable bedtime read. As they close out their nighttime routines, little hearts will be anchored in the promise that their parents’ love will hold steady through every season of life.
JJ Heller is known for crafting hopeful and contemplative songs of peace for the child inside all of us. Her songs and lullabies are heard by millions of listeners every month, and she’s donated over 100,000 copies of her album I Dream of You to hospitals and families of young children. Heller lives in the Nashville area with her husband and two daughters.
FF: Congratulations on the release of Hand to Hold! What inspired you to turn one of your songs into a children’s book?
When I released the song “Hand to Hold” in the summer of 2018 I knew that it meant a lot to me personally, but I had NO idea how much it would resonate with other parents and children. It’s now been streamed nearly 10 million times on Spotify alone and it makes my heart so happy to know that it’s playing in cars and nurseries all over the world.
I honestly hadn’t even thought of turning it into a book but then one day I received an email from an editor from Waterbrook Multnomah asking if we’d be interested in partnering with them. As soon as she pitched the idea it seemed like a no-brainer! The lyrics of the song are incredibly tactile and descriptive so I could immediately picture the illustrations in my mind. I fell in love with the idea of parents reading this book to their children as part of their bedtime routine.
FF: You’ve said that one of the reasons you wrote this book is to give language to a parent’s love for their child. Why do you think it’s often hard for a parent to fully articulate the extent of their love? How has songwriting and authoring a book helped you do that personally?
As a parent, my heart is so full of love for my children that sometimes I find it hard to express. We’re so busy cooking for our kids, driving them around, washing their clothes, etc., that we don’t often have a whole lot of time to put our feelings into words. That’s why my husband Dave and I wanted to write a love song for our kids—to allow ourselves the time and space to sit down and think about our hopes and dreams for our children. What are the things we want for them? What’s important?
We turned those ideas into lyrics and melody that we could sing over our two little girls, and also to share with other parents who might also find it difficult to find the words. We all know how hard it is to think straight when bedtime finally rolls around and everyone is exhausted. It’s our prayer that this song and book will be an anchor to remind kids and parents how magical and wonderful childhood really is and that children are a gift from God himself.
FF: Woven through the book is the theme of wonder and how children often inspire their parents. How have your daughters inspired you to see the world through their eyes, and how is that depicted in the book?
A few years ago we took our two girls to an amazing theme park (you know the one I’m talking about). Dave and I were so excited for our children to experience the magic of life-size characters and top-notch rides. The day finally came and realized that Lucy and Nora didn’t want to do the same attractions, so we decided to split up. Nora went with Dave and Lucy stayed with me.
As soon as Dave and Nora walked away, I turned to Lucy and asked, “So what do you want to do? We could go on this ride, or that one or we could go see a show…” She looked at me and said, “Can we just play a hand-clap game?” I hope I didn’t roll my eyes in that moment, but I really wanted to!
I was so frustrated that we were in this really wonderful, expensive place and she wanted to do something that we could literally do anywhere. But as I thought about it later, I realized the beauty of that situation. We as adults sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we have schedule time to have fun, make memories and enjoy ourselves. In that moment, Lucy reminded me that joy is all around us. Our kids inherently know that we don’t have to wait for a special, curated moment to have a good time with each other.
FF: What do you hope parents and children take away from your book?
When it comes down to it, this book is simply a blessing to read over our children. We pray that our kids have eyes to see the beauty around them in whatever situation they find themselves. We pray that they will always be provided for, that they allow the Holy Spirit to guide them, and we pray they’ll always know that we as parents are cheering them on.
“May you never lose the wonder in your soul. May you always have a blanket for the cold. May the living light inside you be the compass as you go. May you always know you have my hand to hold.”
Hand to Hold
Release Date: July 20, 2021
ISBN-10 : 0593193253
ISBN-13 : 978-0593193259
This heartwarming picture book reassures children that a parent’s love never lets go—based on the poignant lyrics of JJ Heller’s beloved lullaby “Hand to Hold.”
“May the living light inside you be the compass as you go /
May you always know you have my hand to hold.”
With delightful illustrations and an engaging rhyme scheme, this book offers the promise of security and love every child’s heart longs to know. From skipping stones and counting stars to climbing trees and telling stories, every moment is wrapped snugly in the certain warmth of a parent’s presence and God’s blessing. With poignancy and joy, this bedtime read captures the unconditional love parents want their children to know but so often fail to express amid the chaos of daily life.
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