Champ Thornton is associate pastor at Ogletown Baptist Church in Newark, Delaware. He has pastored in South Carolina and served as director of SOMA, a ministry training school in Columbus, Ohio. Before arriving in Newark, Thornton lived most of his life in the Carolinas. After seminary, he pastored at Grace Bible Church near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is host of “In the Word, On the Go,” a ten-minute podcast for families and is the author of several books, including The Radical Book for Kids, Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation, Radically Different: A Student’s Guide to Community, Why Do We Say Good Night, and Wonders of His Love: Finding Jesus in Isaiah. He is the co-author of The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles. Thornton enjoys hanging out with his family and friends, drinking coffee, listening to music, doing genealogical research, and reading theology, biographies, and fiction. Thornton and his wife, Robben, have three children.
Andrew David Naselli, PhD, is associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and one of the pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is the author of several books, including 40 Questions about Biblical Theology and The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer Riddles.
FF: How did the two of you come together to write this book, The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer Riddles? Why write a book focused on serpents?
A few years ago, Andy Naselli contacted our publisher about producing a simplified, kid-friendly version of an excellent book for adults that he had written—a biblical theology of serpents and dragons. So Andy and New Growth reached out to me and graciously asked if I’d collaborate on how to turn Andy’s summary material into a children’s book. We explored various formats and potential age groups and eventually settled on an adventure story for middle-grade readers. So as I wrote chapters for the story, Andy read through the manuscript several times (once he even read it out loud with his family) and he offered many helpful suggestions and edits all along the way.
FF: Can you tell us more about your young characters, Emmet and Nomi? Do the brother and sister have much in common, and how do they get along?
As readers will soon discover, Emmet and Nomi are brother and sister, but they’re also very different from one another. Emmet likes things to be orderly and done a certain way, while Nomi is more of a free spirit. Nomi is in touch with the emotions of people and situations around her, but she can be messy, which can annoy Emmet sometimes. Although Emmet is cautious and tries to do what is right, sometimes he takes it too far and drives Nomi a little crazy.
In fact, their tendencies match their names. Both Emmet’s and Nomi’s names come from Hebrew words found in the Bible. Emmet comes from the Hebrew word for truth, while Nomi’s comes from the Hebrew word for beauty. And like most siblings, although Emmet and Nomi get on each other’s nerves, they get along with each other okay—most of the time.
FF: The adventure begins when the kids find a Tólfandlit. What is exactly is that, and do such objects really exist?
The word Tólfandlit is Icelandic, and in that language means twelve faces or twelve sides. In the story, it’s the name for an ancient Roman artifact made from bronze. About the size of a golf ball, a Tólfandlit is actually not round, but is a dodecahedron, a twelve-sided object. In the story, there’s a lot of mystery about what a Tólfandlit is and what it does.
In real life, these twelve-sided objects really do exist, and they are also shrouded in mystery. They’re ancient Roman artifacts from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, and although no one really knows what they were used for, there are lots of theories. You can search online for “Roman dodecahedron” to learn more and come to your own conclusion. Or you can read The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles and see what they were really used for (or maybe I just made it up).
FF: Your book includes time travel, which a lot of children’s books do, but what makes the time travel in your book different?
The main characters in the story travel back in time—but not in the way you might expect. If they did go back in time—as with most time travel books or movies—there’s the possibility, in this kind of story, that the characters could mess up the past (or disrupt the space-time continuum, or whatever). But in The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, the main characters are able to explore the past without going back in time or messing anything up. How that happens is part of the uniqueness of the plot of the book, so I won’t give it away.
FF: Emmet and Nomi are transported to biblical times. What are some of the events they witness and some of the people they see? How does the trip back in time change them?
Before their adventure’s over, Emmet and Nomi cross paths with many people from the Bible. They get to meet David (as in David and Goliath) as well as the first humans, Adam and Eve. They also get to be near, but not actually meet both Moses and Jesus. But no matter where they go, Emmet and Nomi face enemies like they never have before. And that means that all along the way, Emmet and Nomi are figuring out how God wants them to deal with those enemies.
They’ll see firsthand that God’s people will face enemies in this world, and they’ll be reminded that God’s people overcome evil through Jesus. They fight sin and temptation, and by relying on Jesus’s death and by following his example, they overcome evil by serving and laying down their own lives.
FF: What are some of the theological concepts incorporated into the story? Why are these concepts so important for kids of this age?
The wonderful theological summary that Andy originally wrote, the seed from which this book grew, is included at the end of the book in the form of a reader’s guide. It’s basically a tiny theology of serpents and dragons in the Bible.
Here are some of those theological truths that also come to the surface as the story unfolds:
• Throughout the Bible, Satan, like a Snake, tries to trick God’s people.
• Throughout the Bible, Satan, like a Dragon, tries to destroy God’s people.
• At the end of the Bible, Satan like a Dragon, continues to rage, but Jesus wins.
• Christians should also beware of and fight against Satan’s lies and schemes, always depending on the power of Christ.
So not only do I try to explain these truths directly throughout the story, but I hope that they also emerge in more subtle ways through the plot and characters as well. For example, it’s one thing to be told that Satan deceives, but it’s another to feel just how innocent and appealing his lies can sound. Fiction gives the opportunity to both tell and show, and by doing so, hopefully to help engage readers not only on the level of the mind, but also in the heart.
FF: Tell us more about the reader’s guide included at the end of the book.
After kids finish the story about Emmet and Nomi, there are a few more pages to go. This reader’s guide is the theological summary for kids that Andy wrote at the beginning of this project. It’s a short theology of snakes and dragons in the Bible. The same lessons that Emmet and Nomi discover during their adventures, are stated plainly in the reader’s guide. The reader’s guide is a way to reinforce—through more direct teaching—the truths that the entire book aims to convey.
FF: Beyond a fun and exciting story, what is the message you hope young readers walk away with from reading The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles?
The message in the story tells how God is defeating the enemy of God’s people, an enemy that appears in Genesis 3 and experiences final defeat at the end of the book of Revelation. The message in a sentence is that, by following and relying on Jesus’s death for us, we also overcome evil by laying down our power in order to serve others.
I want kids to enjoy the adventure story and to absorb the theological and life message of the book, but we also hope that by placing the story’s characters into biblical events, readers will see the Bible with new eyes! In The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, Emmet and Nomi go adventuring through the Bible. It’s our hope that readers do the same: encounter the story of Scripture up close and personal, latching onto life-changing truths they’ll never forget.
We hope they experience the Bible—far from being a boring book full of instructions—as telling an exciting story. I hope they’ll be captivated with the true story of how God is rescuing a people for himself, defeating their enemies, and setting everything right.
FF: Is The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles a standalone story, or are there plans for a series? Any teases about what we might expect in the future if the series does continue?
The cover of The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles says that this book is part of The Kámbur Chronicles Series (readers will discover what the word Kámbur is all about). There are at least six total books potentially envisioned as part of an entire series. But who knows how future books will all unfold?
The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles
The Kámbur Chronicles Series #1
Champ Thornton and Andrew David Naselli
New Growth Press
Genres: Middle Grade Kids, Suspense, Action/Adventure
Release Date: February 14, 2022
Fleeing a neighborhood bully, a brother and sister stumble into an ancient quest and now they must escape far more powerful enemies. This exciting story engages young readers as they follow Nomi and Emmet as they go adventuring through the Bible—unlocking secret riddles and following the path of the Serpent Slayer. As readers journey through time and place with Nomi and Emmet, they’ll see how God conquers evil, slays the Serpent, and rescues his people.
The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles will engage young readers while the Bible comes alive in their hearts and minds. Far from being a dry, dusty book of instructions, the Bible tells the most stunning story—of true love, a lost loved one, a fearsome enemy, and a costly rescue. Young readers will encounter the story of Scripture up close and personal along with life-changing truths they’ll never forget.
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