Meet the authors and illustrators of our Pauline Kids editions. Sometimes quirky and always fun, these are the people whose passion inspires us to see things from a fresh and creative point of view.

Meet Sr. Grace Dateno
Meet Sr. Grace Dateno
Posted by paulinekids on September 05, 2013 09:22 Article Rating

Sr. Grace, you started on the other side of the desk: editing My Friend magazine and then adult books for Pauline Books and Media. How did you come to write the Gospel Time Trekkers fiction series for young readers?

I originally had the idea for this series when I was editor of My Friend magazine. I was reading a lot of easy-reader and middle grade fiction, and noticed that time travel was popular with kids, such as in the Magic Tree House series. It seemed to me that time travel would be a great way to combine an adventure story with stories of saints or biblical stories—to make the people and history more real to kids. While editor of the magazine, I worked with an author and illustrator on a time travel comic series, which was published serially in the magazine, and then in book form as Saints of Note. We didn’t use any biblical saints in the comic series because I already had (in 2003) the idea for a book series dealing with time travel to the time of Jesus, which I wanted to write. I didn’t get around to it, though, until 2009, when I did NaNoWriMo for the third time. NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is an online challenge to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in the month of November. I had heard about it from my sister Jennie, and we did it together. My 2009 NaNoWriMo novel was the first draft of the Gospel Time Trekkers, except for the fifth book, which was added during revision.

I hear you have 5 siblings and 22 nieces and nephews! How did your childhood and their childhoods now influence the writing of these books, which feature very loving siblings, Hannah, Caleb, and Noah?

Well, my siblings and I never had the chance to time travel when we were young! But there are a number of elements in the story inspired by my childhood. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing with my siblings, so I like writing (and reading) sibling stories.

Some of the things I provide explanation for in the book are things I was confused about as a kid. For example, I never understood why we say that Jesus rose on the “third day.” Counting from Good Friday, Easter Sunday was two days later, and it was so early on Sunday that it seemed more like one and a half days. So, in the books, I use the phrase “on the third day” and work the explanation into the story.

My nieces and nephews inspired me to keep on working on my manuscripts, because they’re all great readers and I wanted to provide them with some Catholic stories to read. My sister Jennie periodically nagged me to get the books finished before they all grew up.

Throughout the series, the main character, Caleb, grows in his relationship with Jesus through his adventures and reflections on what he sees and hears at Mass. What are three simple ways parents, teachers, and/or catechists can help their children grow in their relationships with Jesus? 

First of all, teach your children how to take advantage of moments for prayer that happen every day. Bedtime prayer and meal prayers are important. But also: thanking Jesus for the beauty of nature, saying a prayer when you hear sad news or hear a siren go by, saying “hello” to Jesus present in the tabernacle—even if you don’t have time to stop and go in, just say it as you drive by a church. Children can learn to lead these prayers themselves.

Secondly, help them to understand and participate in the liturgy. This is a gradual process, but as Caleb discovers, it’s possible to little by little understand the Mass and become closer to Jesus through it. This includes listening to the Scriptures and reflecting on them outside the liturgy also.

Lastly, work hard to grow in your own relationship with Jesus. We are never finished with this. He is always calling us closer and deeper! When your children see you taking moments for prayer through the day, participating in the liturgy, etc., it will do more for their faith than any lessons or instructions.

Shepherds to the Rescue, Braving the Storm, and Danger at Sea are just the first three books in the series. What can you tell us about the next three books? Please keep spoilers to a minimum

In the next three books, Caleb and his siblings continue their adventures, each time hoping to see Jesus. They travel to Capernaum, Jericho, and finally, Jerusalem. In The Mystery of the Missing Jars, they meet the daughter of Jairus and solve a “whodunit.” In Courageous Quest, they hear the stories of Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, and see some lives that are changed because of Zacchaeus’ conversion. In Discovery at Dawn, they team up with some local urchins whom they meet on the streets of Jerusalem at Passover time. I’m really excited about the whole series, but I think maybe the last two books are the best. At least, they made my editor both laugh and cry!

Each book in the series ends with an appendix titled Where Is It in the Bible? Can you tell us about that, and why you included it?

Where Is It in the Bible? contains the actual scriptural text for the stories included in the book. For example, in Danger at Sea, the text of Mark 9:33–37, Matthew 14:34–36, and Mark 4:35–42 is given, with brief introductions for each one. The first two texts deal with the stories in the time travel part of the book, and the last one is what Caleb hears at Mass in the last chapter. I know that when I was a kid, I would have skipped this section, at least the first time I read the book, so I figure most kids will do the same. But it’s possible that on a second reading, they might take a look at it. So, I wanted to include it for the readers who would be curious about the Bible stories behind the story, as well for parents and teachers.

Actually, all the stories in the series—whether in the time travel segments (with few exceptions), or the present-day liturgy segments—correspond with the readings for Year B of the liturgical year.

The first three books in the Gospel Time Trekkers series are available in multiple formats here!


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