An interview with Catholic author Jean Schoonover Egolf, author/illustrator of the Molly McBride series
By Lori Ann Watson
Have you ever wondered wished you could find funny, engaging books to foster religious vocations in your students? Look no further than the Molly McBride series, by author/illustrator Jean Schoonover-Egolf.
Jean was kind enough to grant us a quick interview, even while she was in a whirlwind of activity as her newest book was released. Read on to learn a little about this talented, energetic author and her main character, Molly McBride.
Molly is a kindergartener who already understands that she has a vocation to religious life. What inspired you to write about her?
The main character comes from a watercolor portrait of one of my daughters wearing her little purple habit I sewed for her. I actually made one for each of my daughters; they loved playing “convent” when they were little! But Molly is really an amalgam of both of my daughters; she has characteristics of both of them.
What is the most important message for you to communicate to your audience through your books about Molly?
I want kids to know about religious vocations. One of the many life-changing conversations I’ve had with Mother Margaret Mary [of the Children of Mary, an order near us] was about the vocations of women. (We all see a man’s religious vocation at each Mass.) She said most every little Catholic girl is quite familiar with the vocation of married life and motherhood; she has only to look at her own family. But these days so very few little girls get any exposure to the religious life; they may not even know about it! There was a time in history when every large Catholic family delighted in raising up at least one priest and one nun.
Mother Margaret Mary once said to me, “How will kids learn about religious vocations if no one ever talks to them about it?” Then it hit me: I will. I will tell them! And I can think of no better way to teach children than through stories.
Are characters and events in your Molly series based on real characters and events? The Children of Mary are real. They are a new order that we met back when they were just one Mother, one Sister, and a novice living on a farm in Ohio. They’ve grown so much! They have served communities in inner city Columbus, Cincinnati, and even Ireland. Their website is www.childrenofmary.net.
The third book in the series, Molly Mc Bride and the Party Invitation: A Story About the Virtue of Charity, was just released in February. Can you give us a little window into what happens with Molly in this one?
Party Invitation is a tale of true love, which is charity. Recall that the second book, Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper, sees Molly starting kindergarten and dealing with fears about leaving Mom, making new friends, and having to wear a uniform. This next story continues the kindergarten scenario, with the same teacher, classmates (including Molly’s friend Dominic, who wants to be a priest), and, of course, Father Matt. This time, Molly and Dominic learn about the meaning of charity. It examines school bullying through a unique lens, “loving thy enemy” as taught in the Gospel of Matthew.
Do you give school presentations?
I love to talk to school children about religious vocations. Sometimes I am the first adult to ever ask them, “Have you ever thought about becoming a priest or sister when you grow up?” Our rural and remote Catholic schools may not have any sisters living nearby, and it is completely possible for kids to go 12 years of Catholic school these days without ever meeting a religious sister. That makes me so sad! I grew up absolutely loving when my aunts, Franciscan nuns, came to visit. They were such a big influence on my faith.
Besides planting the seeds of religious vocations in Catholic school kids, I also talk about the Real Presence, especially to First Communion classes. (The first Molly McBride book is a First Communion story). We also discuss using your gifts and your faith in future careers (such as writing and illustrating). The ones who’ve read my bio also know that I am a retired physician, and sometimes I field some medical questions, or I tell the crazy tale of how I went from being a busy internist to a busy children’s book author. The best way to contact me for a presentation is by emailing Jeanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is the best place to buy your Molly books?
Lori Ann Watson teaches, homeschools, blogs about Catholicism, and almost never gets caught up on laundry. She writes from North Central Florida.