One of my favorite things to do is talk to children about the true story behind The Marvelous Mud House! First, I want to know what they learned from the story. I love to hear their responses like “be content with what you have and help others” and “people are more important than stuff” and “God always hears our prayers.” Then it’s question time! Here are some of the most asked/interesting questions children have asked me after hearing this whimsically told true story:
Is The Marvelous Mud House a true story?
Yes! The Marvelous Mud house is based on our family trip to Kenya in 2013! While we were there we met Mama George and her family! We were so impressed by her and the people of Kenya! Even though they lived simply, their lives radiated such joy! When we returned home, we decided that our lives needed to change! We wanted that joy and simplicity, found not in things, but found in being content and sharing with others. Our children really did work and save in order to send money for George to attend high school. When we sent word to Mama George that we wanted to help George go to school, we learned the incredible fact that she had been pointing her son to the Lord to trust him for provision for school! George actually was in the middle of studying for a big test to get into high school, but he kept asking his mom, “why should I even study, we don’t have the money for high school?” and Mama George kept telling him to work hard and trust God to provide! I was so excited to hear this, that I couldn’t sleep one night, and so I got up and wrote the first draft of The Marvelous Mud House!
How much does school in Kenya cost?
The great thing is that the government has tried to make primary (elementary) education in Kenya free! But there also fees for books and supplies and uniforms that still sometimes keep kids from being able to attend school. Secondary education (high school) is not free to students in Kenya, and this is where we helped George. We have 5 children, and so they split equally the $500 a year for George to attend high school. They have supported George for the last 4 years, and he graduated from high school in November!
Did the trip to Kenya really affect your children’s hearts the way the story says?
Our children are much more content with what they have and more aware of the needs of the world after our trip to Kenya. After our trip, they began saving and working to help George attend school. They busily started babysitting, raking leaves, mowing lawns, running lemonade stands, and even saving their birthday money to help George! Our boys are currently 10, 12, and 14, so I have to say they are still normal kids. They still occasionally ask for a Lego set they see at the store! But if they want something, they know they have to work and pay for it themselves. While they work to send George to school, they also put money back in their own savings accounts for the things that they want. My own heart was impacted too! Being in Kenya helped me realize that we have a lot to learn from these beautiful cultures, and that my willingness to live more simply and content can allow me to give more to the needs I see around me.
Did Mama George really sing the song in the story?
I was so inspired by the prayers of Mama George and her faith in trusting God to provide for her son, that I wrote the song to signify the heart of this beautiful woman. There was a lot of singing in Kenya wherever we went. My first morning there, when I woke up, I thought I heard music. I went outside early before anyone else in the house was up. I sat there for over an hour listening to the most joyous singing drifting towards me from somewhere in the valley. It turned out to be children singing at the boarding school before church on Sunday!
Why is George’s mom named “Mama George”
An interesting tradition in Kenya is that when a woman has her first child, the people around her start calling her the name of her first child with “mama” before it! So, my firstborn is named Anna, and in Kenya people would call me “Mama Anna!”
Did you draw the pictures in the story?
While I would love to take credit for the artwork because it is so beautiful, I do not. My publisher found and hired an amazing artist, Alida Massari, to do the artwork for The Marvelous Mud House. Isn’t it beautiful?!
How long did it take you to write the book?
I wrote the original first draft of the story one night when I couldn’t sleep. It was a lot shorter. I sent it to all kind of friends to get their feedback, and I rewrote and rewrote the story over the course of about a year. I probably wrote 10-15 versions of the story before I felt it was ready to try and share with a publisher. If you want to be a writer, follower your English teacher’s advice and “revise! revise! revise!”
What animals did you see in Kenya?
We saw LOTS of animals! Mostly, we saw zebras, camels, goats, elephants, and giraffes. There was a very mischievous baboon who tried to get into our car to get our food! Our driver had to shoo him away! We also got to hold chameleons, which was really fun and cute! We went to an elephant orphanage where we saw elephants drinking out of big baby bottles.
Where can I get a copy of The Marvelous Mud House?
I’m so glad you’d like to have a copy! The book is available at lifeway.com! It is also available on Amazon, Walmart, and almost anywhere books are sold online right now! I love to do book readings at churches, libraries, and schools, so if you come to one of my book readings, you can also purchase one directly from me and have it signed at the same time! If you would like me to come to your church or school, I’d love to set that up! Email me to set up a reading soon at firstname.lastname@example.org!