African Book Series Brings Character Lessons to Life
Amy Singleton, 40, AGWM missionary to children and youth in rural Zambia, created a series of 15 children’s books depicting animal characters overcoming difficult life situations. The books have enhanced her ministry in the villages.
“I thought it would be encouraging to have a book to say to kids, ‘You’re not alone in your struggle; it also happened to this character,’” says Singleton. “‘This character overcame and you can overcome, too.’”
Singleton grew up attending Christian Life Center AG in Ft. Lauderdale and New Life Assembly of God in Lehigh, both in Florida, and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeastern University and a master’s degree in leadership from Southwestern University. Before becoming a missionary, she taught in public schools and served as an outreach leader to poor neighborhoods at Christian Life Center.
Writing and illustrating children’s books was the furthest thing from her mind.
“I never dreamed of being an author,” she says. “I wasn’t even good in English during school.”
In Zambia, she befriended an elderly woman with whom she would sit by a lake as the woman recounted fun tales she had dreamed up in her youth. Soon, Singleton found her own imagination ripe with stories, and two desires converged.
First, she wanted to use the stories and their animal characters to convey useful life lessons to her own nieces and nephew who lived thousands of miles away from her home in Zambia.
But at the time she also worked with an organization to reach young people with the gospel, and to provide high school graduates with business skills, trade skills, and computer skills. A number of the kids had gone through traumatic experiences during a period of internal strife in their country.
“These kids told me horrific stories of parents who had died and they had nowhere to live,” she recalls. “One kid had lived on the streets for more than a year. It was devastating. A lot of my stories are about friends or family, or kids I’ve seen that have suffered hardships and overcome.”
Inspired to do something more, Singleton taught herself to use layout and illustration software on an iPad and began publishing stories such as Jenny the Giraffe Gets Her Smile Back and Wendy the Wonderful Warthog under the publishing imprint of Limba Books. (Limba is a local word meaning “to be strong or encouraged.”)
Each book presents a biblical principle. For example, she connects the tale of Freddy the Fearful Frog to Daniel in the lions’ den, and what it’s like to be overcome by fear. The lesson: “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.”
The books are available worldwide via Amazon in languages including English, Spanish, Italian, and German, and she also prints them in Africa in a local Zambian language.
When Singleton reads her books to groups of kids at places such as the community school, kids of all ages come to listen.
“You can hear a pin drop, even when I read the stories to 15-year-olds,” she says. “They are so engaged. Here in Zambia, they don’t have a lot of kids’ books in a local language, and definitely not in the rural areas.”
Mindy Hines, wife of Southern Africa Area Director Lance Hines, calls Singleton “one of the most endearing people you will ever meet.”
“Wherever you go with Amy, people rush to greet her because she makes everyone feel seen and valued,” Hines says. “I believe God has given Amy timely and relevant messages for children. Her stories speak to real-world issues and courageously address challenging topics kids are facing today.”
Singleton creates free coloring worksheets, dot-to-dots, and games to accompany each book. To enhance the experience, she maintains a vibrant YouTube channel full of videos she has taken at a popular African game park — including videos of her reading books in front of exotic creatures in the wild.
“It’s nice to expose kids to these animals in the wild, to have a giraffe behind me, or an elephant or a rhino,” she says.
Sometimes the animals don’t cooperate, as when an elephant started walking toward her and her husband, Marco, during the taping of a read-along video for Roxy the Resentful Rhino.
“You have to be careful and know the signs so you don’t get hurt,” Amy says.
She and Marco continue to partner closely with local AG churches, especially in the rural areas — and the book ideas keep flowing.
“Sometimes I wake up at night with an idea and go write it all out,” Singleton says. “If these books can bring a little bit of hope to kids that face adversity, that’s powerful and that’s enough for me.”