Interview with Shelly Roark about her book, Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo:
Congratulations on writing this book, “Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo” for children!
Let’s talk about it …
Alexis: What inspired this story?
Shelly: My daughter, Gracie, was the inspiration for Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo. She has always loved animals . . . and is just a tad headstrong and persistent. Bless her! We’ve never seen an animal that she didn’t ask to take home. Our home has been blessed with a hamster, cat and two dogs, but it isn’t enough. Gracie literally wants a house packed with critters!
I remember one day after saying ‘no’ for the thousandth time to a new pet, I said, “Gracie Lou you won’t be happy ‘til you have a zoo!” The phrase stuck in my head and I decided it was a great way to share a lesson on patience and trusting God’s timing.
I’ve often told Gracie that God created her for a purpose and that she would see her dreams come true in His timing. Gracie is a teen now and plans on becoming a veterinarian. So, the book concludes with a look into the future possibilities when you trust in God.
Alexis: When you were a child, did you want your own zoo just like Gracie Lou?
Shelly: I’ve always loved the zoo. Our local zoo was one of my favorite family outings as a child. We always visited the local zoo on our family vacations as well. As an adult, I continued to take my own children throughout their young years. However, I must admit that I’m not really an animal person. That’s why Gracie heard “no” so many times! I admire people who are animal people and was always fascinated by zookeepers who were never hesitant or unafraid among wild animals.
Alexis: Gracie Lou is the star of this story. Describe her personality. Share her dreams. Has she always had such a heart for animals?
Shelly: Gracie Lou is a headstrong gal with a soft, gooey inside—her tremendous love for animals. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it! However, she needs a little lesson in the value of patience and trusting God for her future. She also needs to understand that a “no” from Mom and Dad isn’t the end of the world!
Alexis: What does Gracie want to be when she grows up? Why?
Shelly: Gracie Lou most definitely wants to be a veterinarian or something that allows her to care for and love on animals of all sizes and shapes.
Alexis: How long has Gracie had her pet turtle, George, and why does she want him to have friends?
Shelly: George is Gracie Lou’s sidekick. He’s really the only pet that her parents feel can be kept in their small apartment. George loves Gracie Lou and she loves George!
Alexis: Why won’t Gracie’s parents allow her to have more pets?
Shelly: Gracie Lou and her parents live in the city in a small apartment. Her parents don’t think there is enough room for her to have any other pet but George.
Alexis: How does the real-life lesson of learning how to trust God’s plan, apply to this story?
Shelly: In the story, you see that Gracie Lou’s dream and passion for animals will be fulfilled when she discovers God’s plan for her life as an adult. She becomes a veterinarian. Our current circumstances are not the end of our story. God has a great plan for your life and you can often glimpse it when you consider your passions and talents. However, you must be patient and understand that you still have a lot of growing to do before you get there. God loves you and will guide you.
Alexis: What is one of the faith lessons that Gracie learns in this story and how does it help her in life?
Shelly: Gracie learns the importance of patience and trusting God. She learns that we don’t always get what we want immediately and that’s OK. It’s not the end of the story.
Alexis: What role does your real-life faith in God play in your storytelling?
Shelly: I’m a simple girl and love simple faith lessons. Childlike faith is a very powerful thing! I’m so blessed when God turns the light bulb on during real-life interactions that allow me to explain principles of faith from Scripture to children. I’m blessed and strengthened with these simple stories that God speaks into my heart!
I also think stories are such a great way to explain eternal concepts. Jesus used parables so effectively. My favorite parts of Scripture are the stories! I still get new inspiration from biblical stories no matter how many times I read them.
Alexis: What message from this story do you hope resonates with the children who read it?
Shelly: My hope is that God will use this story to give parents the opportunity to discuss faith with their children. There are a few different aspects of faith and life in the story that might open the door to a deeper discussion between parents and children—patience, obedience, trust, God’s plan and purpose.
Alexis: What life lessons have you learned about faith in God and trusting His plan over your own?
Shelly: Gracie Lou’s passion is animals. Mine has always been writing and storytelling.
I’ve seen how God has worked throughout my life to grow and nurture that talent and desire for his purposes. I went to college to earn a degree in journalism and worked for a decade in the newspaper business. God then opened the door to work for ministries using the skills I had gained through my early career.
Now, I am blessed to tell the real-life stories of people whose lives have been transformed through different ministries across the country. I’ve told the stories of ministries that provide Bibles to those who have no Scripture in their own heart language. I’ve been able to shine a light on the plight of orphans and victims of tragedy.
The stories God has given me to share has even saved the lives of preborn babies. I’ve been blessed for more than 20 years to write these inspiring stories and raise funds for the ministries that make all these efforts possible. Today, I write for Focus on the Family. God knows the future and we can trust him to shape and mold our talents and passions for his purposes.
Alexis: Thanks for the interview!
Award-winning author Shelly Roark has been writing professionally for almost 30 years—from early years as a newspaper reporter to ghost writer for ministries and non-profits. Today, she is a senior copywriter for Focus on the Family.
Her debut children’s picture book—The Bubble Who Would Not POP!—received four national awards, including Gold in IBPA’s 2018 Benjamin Franklin/Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book (Children’s/YA) and the 2018 Silver Medal Illumination Book Award. Shelly’s second children’s book, Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo, received the 2020 Silver Medal Illumination Book Award.
Shelly and her husband Geoff live in Texas with their three teens.
Blurb for Shelly’s book:
What kid wouldn't want her own personal zoo?
Gracie Lou wants nothing more for her pet turtle, George, than for him to have friends. But Mom and Dad insist that their city apartment is too small to house a monkey, or a duck, or a giraffe, or an elephant. They say she needs to be patient and trust in God's plan, except Gracie Lou's not sure she can wait that long.
After a wild night spent with a houseful of rowdy zoo animals give her a lesson in the value of patience and God's perfect timing, Gracie Lou learns that God has a great plan for her . . . if she can just wait for it!
Written by Shelly Roark, award-winning author of The Bubble Who Would Not POP!, Gracie Lou Wants A Zoo is a delightful message of God's love for all of His children, especially those who have ever wondered about His plan for them.
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