Art teacher illustrates three children’s books

by Claire Milligan

After 10 years of working for both Pella Christian High and Pella Christian Grade School, art teacher Joe Hoksbergen took a leap of faith. Quitting his job at PCGS, Hoksbergen set out with the intention of replacing that work with illustration. “It was a scary decision but my wife Katie and I poured a lot of prayer into it, and we knew God would provide,” said Hoksbergen. “We submitted my art portfolio to several different publishers and New Growth Press, and they responded that they had a project that might fit my style.”

And on Oct. 27, three brand new books, illustrated by Hoksbergen and written by Jocelyn Flender, were released: “Zoe’s Hiding Place,” “Jax’s Tail Twitches,” and “Buster’s Ears Trip Him Up.”

These books are a collaboration between New Growth Press and CCEF (Christian Counseling & Education Foundation), with the aim of helping counselors and parents as they serve kids. “Each book centers on an animal family with a real-life struggle,” commented Hoksbergen. “As the family works through the issue, they find that scripture provides the guidance they need.” Hoksbergen hopes these books will help parents equip and inspire their kids to follow God’s precepts. “Personally, I’m hoping this project opens doors to do more meaningful work like this,” he said.

Faith-formation, education, and drawing little weird creatures, are three of Hoksbergen’s passions. The books seemed to be exactly what he was looking for in paid work. “God’s hand was so clearly at work in this project. As I worked, I kept thinking, ‘Who am I that you would think of me?’,” said Hoksbergen. “I have dreamed of doing this type of work since second grade.”

Hoksbergen is passionate about inspiring students that want to go into creative careers. His best advice is to work hard, be kind to people, wholeheartedly invest in the gifts and passions God has given you, and to trust God to provide. But most importantly, ignore the false narrative of the starving artist. “It’s a lie the devil tells to keep people frozen,” said Hoksbergen. “Frozen people do not share robust visions of beauty and restoration with the world.”

The books read best with kids that are three to eight years old and by parents that love them. They are being sold locally at The Sanctuary in Pella and The Eagle’s Nest in Oskaloosa. They can also be purchased online through Amazon, Westminster Bookstore, or directly from New Growth Press.

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