After the publication of IF I HAD LONG, LONG HAIR, I sold another picture book to Abingdon–NAT THE BRAT. The book made it to galley stage, and then the publisher decided to pull the plug on their general market picture book line . . . and so not only did NAT never make it to press, but LONG HAIR would never be reprinted.
Well . . . that’s the way the business sometimes works. I learned the hard facts early in the game.
And so I started looking for another book to write. Now–I really dislike didacticism in any book, including children’s books, and a lot of Christian children’s books are not my style at all. And then I remembered the old story about three trees–I’d heard it in a song and heard it told verbally in a much longer format.
So I changed it in several ways and put it into picture book format, then began sending it out. As Providence would have it, I sent it to Lion Publishing, a British publisher with offices in the U.S., whose goal was to provide “spiritual stories for secular people.”
Perfect. After all, the story is centered around Jesus but never even uses his name. (Because of that, I’ve been able to read the story in places where more overt religious books would not have been welcomed).
The book was published and began to sell steadily. Most children’s books go OP rather quickly, but The Tale of Three Trees has staying power. It’s been translated into more than twenty languages and has literally gone around the world. I’ve received so many letters and cards from people who’ve been touched by this simple story.
I think of it as a God-thing. I didn’t originate the tale (and freely admit this in the foreword), I
simply retold it in pared-down language. I love Tim Yonke’s art, and the fact that Jesus looks like a linebacker when he’s carrying the cross. No cartoon images here, but beautiful realism.
This may be the book that long outlives me. And for that, all the glory belongs to Jesus.


  1. Ane Mulligan

    And I used the old tale (with my own added reparte between the story-tellers) to write a script for use in the chruch. It’s been used in a prison ministry in the midwest for a couple of years, resulting in many lives changed. God is so good to allow us a part in changing lives by our words.

    By the way, I have my New Year’s mastiff story on my blog at

  2. Carrie K.

    My children and I have enjoyed this one together many times.

  3. eileen

    Hmmm, and He does have plans for us which unveil with HIS timing. Amazing.

    Wonder who that little boy was who chose your book? Not Chip McG.?? LOL

  4. Catherine

    My kids love this book (and still do). My redhead who you met (at St. Pete’s library) started reading your novels in the last 2 years and now she has the rest of the family reading your books and loving them.
    I agree that 3 trees is here to stay.

  5. Kristy Dykes

    Great post.

    “I’ve received so many letters and cards from people who’ve been touched by this simple story.”

    How rewarding for a writer!

  6. Suzanne Schaffer

    I also love this book. It is one of my all time faves. Thanks so much for telling the background of it!

  7. Shauna

    I read a lot of Christmas- and holiday-related books to my daughter last month, and this one is my favorite. Even though I’ve read it many times before, I still can’t make it all the way through without crying. It’s such a beautiful story.

  8. Missy

    This book was given to me as a gift just a month after I accepted Christ. My daughter was 6 months old at the time and every year since we’ve read this story together as a family on Christmas Eve. My daughter is now 15 and she has 3 younger brothers who enjoy the story with her 🙂


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