by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—Fear used to paralyze Jeannette Kielp.
The Sugar Grove children’s author said she spent many nights, while her husband was traveling, barring her door and sleeping with the lights on. She quit her high school basketball team because she was afraid peers were judging her skills. And she put off becoming a writer because she was afraid of failure.
Overcoming those fears, which she said she did by learning to trust in Jesus, was the inspiration for her first children’s book, “Bigger than the Bogie Man,” which she self-published last fall.
The book, which can be purchased on Amazon and from Barnes & Noble’s website, tells the story of a young boy who is terrified of the bogie man, but who eventually puts on the armor of God and hunts for the monster, dispelling his fears.
“He goes looking for the bogie man because he is tired of being in chains, because God doesn’t want us to have any fears,” Kielp said. “He’s worked up this courage, and the bogie man’s not going to be getting him, so he’s going after his enemy. He brings God in and puts his armor on, and that armor is his faith that God is going to help him overcome.”
Kielp, who is now working on a sequel, said that her goal is to help children learn to trust in God and be free from fear. She closed her home daycare business, which she had been running for 24 years, last week so that she could begin to focus full-time on her writing.
Her years working with children in daycare reinforced her idea for her book, she said, recounting her experience with a girl who had nightmares.
“This one little girl in my daycare said, ‘there’s something big and dark that comes after me in my dream, and it gets me, and I wake up and have to go in my mom’s room because I can’t go back to sleep.’ And I told her, ‘the next time you dream that, you say, ‘go away, I don’t believe in you! Jesus help me!’’ She did that, and she came back to me and said, ‘It’s gone!’ And I said to her, ‘You conquered it!’”
That’s the kind of experience she hopes to help more children have.
“I want to get out there in classrooms and read my story and talk to kids about fears,” Kielp said. “It will keep them from having so much fun in their lives. My fears just kept me from doing so much. Satan comes in and tells you lies to say, ‘You’re stupid, you’re dumb, no one loves you,’ and that’s why I’m writing these books.”
The story initially began as a poem, but when she brought it to a meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which met at the Barnes and Noble in Geneva, she got feedback saying that it would make a great children’s book.
Just starting to attend the monthly meetings was a challenge for Kielp, who said that when she went to her first one, she was scared to be there.
“I was looking at all these thousands of books and thinking, ‘Man, what am I up against?’ Janet Riehecky (another local author) came in and said, ‘Hot off the presses! Books number 96 and 97!’ I said out loud, ‘Oh my God, I am in the wrong place.’ And Janet said to me, ‘No, we all start with book number one.’”
That moment was a breakthrough for Kielp, who said Riehecky inspired her to come back and keep working on her book, then attended Kielp’s book launch party in March.
Though she shopped the book around to traditional publishers, she eventually decided to self-publish through Xulon Publishing, which helped her find an illustrator—Gary Sanchez in Reno, Nev.—and gave her some advice on designing a cover.
Marketing the book is up to Kielp, however, so to get the word out, she has been contacting bookstores and asking them to shelve it. She attended events at the Elburn Town and Country Public Library this summer, where she did readings and passed out bookmarks with information about how to purchase the book, and will speak to a Girl Scout troop in St. Charles in November.
Now that her daycare business is closed, she plans to accompany her husband on business trips throughout the Midwest, going to bookstores and schools in each area to get her book on more shelves.
She is working on a sequel, based on her own experiences, where a boy listens to his parents fight and has to learn to overcome that fear.
“My daughter told me awhile back, ‘You know mom, when there was tension’—and when we moved to Sugar Grove from West Chicago (17 years ago), there was tension—‘I just crawled under the kitchen table with my blanket.’ When she told me that, I thought, ‘Oh my God, how scary that is for a little kid.’”
Though she is still developing the new story, she said she envisions it being about a boy who comes out of his room while his parents are fighting, and his older brothers start picking on him.
“God’s going to help the little boy conquer the fears inside his house,” Kielp said.
She said she envisions a third book being about a boy conquering fears outside his door, in his neighborhood.
“I’m not sure if the character is the same in all three. I’m putting pieces together for the second and third ones now, and as far as I know, it’ll be the same character, but you never know,” she said. “Maybe we’ll go into a friend’s house of fears. The fears in one house are different from the fears in another. So I’m not sure if I want to change the character or how I want to do that. But right now, it’s just tackling more about the enemy. Satan comes out to steal and destroy. If he can cripple a kid, he wins. I want kids to look at my stories and feel hope.”