Mauli Junior Bonner, a member of the famous singing group, The Bonner Family, and his wife Chantel have written and published a new children’s picture book. The book, which is illustrated by Morgan Bissant, is called A Child of God. It was written to help answer some of the questions that their children —Ari (4) and Geo (7)—have when they recognize people in books and movies that do not look like them.
The message of the book is that we are all part of one big diverse family of God. According to the description on Amazon, the book “conveys a comforting, faith-filled message from a Black father and mother to their children who see visual representations of their faith, but question what it means when they don’t see their skin color, their physical features, or their gender portrayed.”
BYUstore.com proclaims, “Along with the children in the story, your own little ones will think about the ways our skin color, gender, and physical features are all different, as well as the things that bind us all together.”
In a scene from the book, two children are looking at a mural of angels, and one asks, “What about the angels, will they stop and stare? When they see that I may not have their same color hair?”
Mauli explained that a similar scene took place in his young son’s life. He told LDS Living, “Being a person of color who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there isn’t much representation of people that look like our families [in artwork], and so my son was asking questions about the pictures: ‘Where are the Brown angels, Dad?’ ‘Are there Brown angels?’”
He continued, “We have to find ways to teach our children that when they don’t see someone that looks like them, we are still one family. We are all like our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our Brother, and God is [everyone’s] Father.”
Music has always been a big part of Mauli’s life. His love for singing began when he himself was just a child. Today, he is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and helps develop and record well-known pop singers, such as Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, and Kesha. His wife, Chantel, is a mental health clinician and holds a master’s of marriage and family therapy from the University of Southern California. She works to provide trauma-informed therapy to children in the foster care system. Morgan Bissant, the creator of the art in the book, is an illustrator based in New Orleans who specializes in characters with varied skin tones.
Mauli and Chantel’s talents meshed harmoniously as they worked on the book together. Mauli said, “It was really awesome to go through this with my wife and connect my lyrical experience with her educational background. As I focused on the rhythm and patterns, she was able to address the diversity and communication skills needed to begin these types of conversations.”
Chantel told LDS Living, “Children can begin to feel marginalized when they don’t frequently see themselves represented. I think children in dominant cultures also need diverse material so they can see that there are other races and cultures that share in their childhood experiences. It allows them to live a more inclusive upbringing by seeing these images.”
LDS Living reports that a key part of the book comes after the story—a page entirely focused on discussion topics created in partnership with Let’s Talk Sis, an Instagram account run by Latter-day Saint sisters Alexis Janique Bradley and Chanté Stutznegger. The page provides resources for important conversations about race, diversity, and connection.
Mauli felt that it was a good idea to bring the sisters on to help facilitate any possible educational discussions. He commented, “Kids are kids, and I think it’s one thing to write a book, but it’s another to have parents or teachers facilitate conversations with the little ones.”
Mauli and Chantel plan to write more books in the future. Presently, they are involved in a variety of other projects, including their nonprofit foundation, Lift Up Voices, which hosts music workshops and group mentoring activities with youth in underserved areas. Another recent project that Mauli has worked on is writing the screenplay for and directing the new film, His Name Is Green Flake. The film has won numerous awards, including best film in festivals in Los Angeles, London, Venice, and many others.