How was the book created?
Our story has a number of characters, tragedy, revelation, and actually hasn't yet come to an end.
Please enjoy the story as it unfolds below.
Let me introduce you to Mike & Becky's two daughters, Sophie & Ruby, and let's hear what they have to say about their friend Abbi.
It was a couple of years after Mike had written the story that we started to dream of turning it into a book that could help any child through tragedy.
But how do you get a book published?
I remembered meeting Susie Poole, twenty years earlier, at an event showcasing Christian Arts at the Sale Salvation Army Church near Manchester. I was helping on a stall, promoting the work Mike and Becky Peacock were doing, as they toured primary schools with their Rhema Theatre Company. Susie had a stall nearby and had written children's books and started a publishing company with her husband.
I sent her an email to ask for advice, hoping that Susie would publish our new book. She was unable to do this, but did point us toward Malcolm & Sarah (see later) and we are so thankful for all her help & encouragement.
SUSIE POOLE is an author & publisher of gorgeous children’s books. Liz bought her favourite one “Christmas Journey” for her own children and used many of the other books in the church preschool group.
Because of the pandemic, they met on a Susie couldn’t have been more supportive in the idea of
"The Party in Heaven" and advised Tim & Liz.
Susie took a break from all things to do with writing, illustrating and publishing books, but her earlier books are still available online and are of such high quality that are highly recommended for your bookshelves.
Since the COVID pandemic Susie has returned to writing and drawing and has brought out a brand new children’s book recently.
Visit her site here
Once we'd made the decision to publish then we needed some help! First we contacted a member of our family, Abigail Banks.
Abigail is known to our family as Abby and is married to Callum, who is one of (our) Abbi’s many cousins. Abby and Callum are tattoo artists and have a studio in Yorkshire. Abbi attended their wedding in December 2016, which was the same month she learnt that the leukaemia she’d had 7 years before, had returned. We love that Abigail was able to join The Party in Heaven team.
The illustrator needed to make the lovely story visually accessible on the pages. She produced beautiful pictures that help to tell the story
We are proud & delighted that Abby has blessed us so much with the illustrations.
Becky Peacock (Mike's wife) worked with Abby as Art Director, because she is used to helping bring Mike's stories to life.
REBECCA PEACOCK has worked together with husband Mike for over twenty years. She's designed and painted sets for their theatre productions and films, sourced and sewn costumes and props and generally ensured the visuals matched Mike’s characters and settings. More recently she’s worked with him on producing more digital materials and she teaches violin to the pupils at a local school. She worked very closely with Abby in developing the characters and ensuring the layouts on each page depicted the different time zones and settings. We hope you agree that together they have produced something special and beautiful.
And then, of course, we needed a publisher. Susie Poole had pointed us in the direction of Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace, who have a Christian publishing company. I was trying to work out how The Party in Heaven could be laid out in a way and using a font for the text that made it as easy as possible for children with dyslexia to read. Sarah was recommended by other writers because of her expertise in dyslexia. The partnership was a natural fit for our book project and timing couldn’t have been more perfect (see later!).
Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing was formed in 2015. They are an independent publisher and home of the Malcolm Down Publishing, Sarah Grace Publishing, and Grace and Down publishing imprints. They publish a variety of genre’s mainly, but not exclusively, from authors who have a Christian background. They also provide a range of author services to enable unpublished writers to bring their books to the same markets that we serve through our traditional business.
During this time, I was challenged in my own understanding of heaven - it had become unravelled by a talk, but not replaced with something helpful that explained anything of what happened to people when they die on earth.
I was pointed to a book called “All About Heaven” written by David Oliver, who had lost his son to a terminal illness the same year that Abbi went to heaven. His fabulous book helped to reconstruct my intellectual understanding of heaven and I recommend David’s book to you.
David has worked with evangelical charismatic and traditional churches and organisations including Focus On The Family, Spring Harvest, LICC, Billy Graham Association, Care For The Family, New Frontiers, Vineyard, New Wine. He has written 14 books including the seminal workplace ministry title Work Prison Or Place of Destiny.
Following the recent death of his 38 year old son from an unforgiving, short, and brutally painful fight with cancer David discovered that there were almost no books written about present heaven the destination for christians at death. After months of careful research "All About Heaven" answers questions like: What about those who have ‘passed on’ well before this, where are they now? What does heaven look like? What will occupy us there?
"All About Heaven" is published by Malcolm Down.
Abbi wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until she was going to college. She had Irlens Syndrome for which her optician provided her with blue lens glasses to help her reading. These improved her reading time by 33%! So it was little surprise that it had always been he favourite colour.
Sarah Grace's blue butterfly represents the desire to make reading more accessible to people who are gifted with dyslexia. We want to thank Sarah for the gift and privilege of using her Grace font as we hope and pray it will “do what it says on the tin”!
Sarah Grace has developed a brand new font that has been specifically designed to be more easily read by dyslexia thinkers.
This font is called “Grace” and "The Party in Heaven" is the first children’s book to have this font in it.
Sarah, as one of the art directors, made suggestions to make some subtle changes to the illustrations that made more room for the writing on the pages in ways that simplified them. At first it felt like we lost detail that made it more beautiful, but we trusted her voice and made the changes in the interest of fulfilling the brief to make it more accessible. We are delighted with the outcome.
Tim bought me a Vincent Van Gough painting by numbers kit of a vase of sunflowers, which was Abbi’s favourite flower. I really enjoyed painting over several weeks and one day whilst I was painting and praying about the conflict in Ukraine, I thought God was leading me to make The Party in Heaven available in Ukrainian!
These bilingual books are hoped to “tenderly minister to broken hearts” recognising the loss that many children will have experienced as they left behind families and friends to seek sanctuary in the U.K.
We are now able to offer a pack of two books, one in English and the other in Ukrainian, for you to give to children in their primary schools and churches, hospitals and hospices or other settings where English and Ukrainian children are living and learning together. We’d love you to buy them and gift them to anywhere you know there are Ukrainian children and their friends and families. Alternatively please get in touch via our ‘contact us’ link if you’d be able to sponsor a pack for us to bless children with and we’ll let you know where we send them and who benefits from your generosity.
That's all for now folks!
But there's much more to the story that I'm hoping to add over time, so please keep coming back to the website.
The story came to me the night that Abbi died…
I remember distinctly standing in the kitchen wondering how I could process this heart-breaking news with my two girls who were 6 and 8 years old at the time…
Did God not hear our prayers?
And what does the passing of a loved one mean for those in the Christian faith?
That’s when Lazarus popped into my mind…
Someone who was close to Jesus, who was dearly loved, who was fervently prayed for – and yet who passed on anyway…
The first that struck me was that Jesus understands – he understands loss and what it means to grieve. He weeps too…
The second thing is that we can deeply desire for something to happen, but sometimes it just isn’t part of the bigger picture – a picture that we may not understand or be able to see fully at the moment, but nonetheless it is there…
Thirdly, and most importantly, the passing of a loved one is not the end of the story…
As Christians we believe that the end of one chapter is simply the beginning of another one…
Whilst loved ones may be gone from our lives, they are never truly gone – and the Christian hope is that we will meet again…
And what is death?
I believe it is the Salvation Army who use the wonderful phrase ‘promoted to glory’. Death is going to be with Jesus forever.
And what does that look like?
Too often we see cliched images of bored-looking angels with harps sitting on clouds and wishing they were back on earth again…
I believe nothing could be further from the truth…
Heaven is God’s home – how can it be anything less than amazing? The God who created colour and laughter and music… the God of beauty who creates the most spectacular sunsets and naturally stunning sights on earth… the God of endless love… the God of endless joy… the God of endless imagination…
I believe Heaven is the most extraordinary place anyone could ever imagine…
So, whilst we feel loss at the moment…
One day we will feel joy, as we meet again in the most amazing place of all…
It’s not the end of the story.
Abbi passed away from leukaemia when I was around 8 or 9 years old.
Me and my younger sister back then didn’t understand the concept of death, and that’s what encouraged my dad to write this book.
Sometimes I still think about Abbi, even though I have only very vague memories of her now.
I do remember her being beautiful and one of the kindest people I know. I have a memory of her coming round to my house with a gift for me and my sister. It was a purple bracelet with gold sewn though it. I still have that bracelet. It could have been any bracelet that she gave to me, but this one was different. It represented the situation I was in. The purple represented darkness and the gold thread through it reminded me that there’s always a line of gold waiting to be followed. No matter what.
I hope this book will help children like me who go through experiences like this, to show
them that no one really dies but people are literally in a better place, where no one can feel
pain or get hurt.
Abbi was my Godmother. I remember when she had cancer. I was only young but I have
some vivd memories about going to visit her in hospital.
I remember her wearing loads of different wigs and looking like a different person each time I
saw her. I also remember being sort of scared when I saw her without hair and attached to
all these different machines.
I remember her 21st birthday party! I remember that she was really kind and really pretty and
that she loved God. I remember being told that when she passed that she would be so much
happier and so much healthier in the beautiful place called heaven. And I remember thinking
I was sort of glad that she would be free from all the medical machines and pain and so she
could be in this wonderful place where she would be happier and always with me.
Every year at Christmas I put the ornament that Abbi gave me up on our Christmas tree and