The Ten Commandments is the newest installment in our beloved childrens’ FatCat series, illustrated by Natasha Kennedy and written by Harold L. Senkbeil. In The Ten Commandments, each commandment has a reflection on its meaning and illustrations from Jesus’ life. As you read each commandment, see how Jesus fulfilled God’s will for us and showed us how to love God and others. With a list of Scripture references and a guided family prayer, this FatCat book helps all God’s children memorize, understand, and love the Ten Commandments.
In our interview below, we sat down with Natasha Kennedy. Natasha Kennedy is a freelance illustrator and homeschooling mom from Seattle, Washington. She and her husband, Lindsay, have four children and three playful cats.
Press: What are the challenges of depicting The Ten Commandments with a focus on Jesus?
Natasha Kennedy: There are many challenges—haha! To begin with, the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament, so this means we had to get a little bit creative as we connected the commandments to Jesus’ life.
The Ten Commandments have often been taught moralistically, with a whole lot of “do this” and “don’t do this”. Without Jesus, the Ten Commandments can feel like a burden: doing things in order to please God. When Jesus came, he fulfilled the law in his short 33 years on the Earth. Because he lived out the law perfectly, we can be called “righteous” because Jesus was righteous. So, Jesus must be the example to us on how to live. The Ten Commandments aren’t a burden, they are promises.
Every time we try to live out the law like Jesus did, it helps us thrive more. So our focus in this book isn’t about trying to achieve righteousness to please God—Jesus already did that for us! This book is about how we as Christians thrive the most when we follow in Jesus’ example. The Ten Commandments are like ten promises: they give us the gift of thriving.
Lexham Press: How did you choose what scene to pair with the specific commandment?
Kennedy: The unique challenge with depicting Ten Commandments through the life of Jesus was trying to figure out how to best represent Jesus’ fulfillment of those commandments, and how the reader can tangibly reflect those same virtues. For example, how are we going to teach the reader how Jesus fulfilled the fifth commandment, in honoring father and mother? We chose the story with Jesus as a boy teaching at the temple. The reader is reminded about how Jesus not only honored his earthly parents, but also his Father in heaven.
There were many stories to choose from—naturally—since Jesus’ entire life fulfilled the law! So we chose the ones which might stand out easily to children, and especially where the illustration might connect with them.
Lexham Press: What inspirations inform the art style for the particular illustrations?
Kennedy: In terms of inspiration for specific pages, we always draw from scripture. I work with the team to round up passages, from old and new testaments, as well as pulling poetic imagery from the psalms, and then I start crafting and gesturing the page layout. For example, I will reference the commandment: “Do not commit adultery”. We used the wedding of Cana to illustrate the true form of how to honor God with our bodies. I placed the couple on the side, using bright colors to make their presence light up on the page. There is a holiness to marriage I wanted to emphasize. Then, there is Jesus on the left side, turning water into wine. A cluster of witnesses surround Jesus like an aura as the miracle is performed before the reader’s eyes. Blue turns to purple—like water and blood pouring from Jesus’ side. Jesus is smiling, and children react with excitement. Jesus transforms the ordinary water into the richness of wine, just as he transforms our acts of faith into righteousness.
Lexham Press: There are more animals in The Ten Commandments than in previous FatCat books. What was the thought process behind that choice?
Kennedy: In all honesty, there are more and more animals in each book, and there are two big reasons for that.
1) Kids love animals, and the more I add, the more they seem to love the page. After all, all creation is drawn to worship Jesus. So when he is on the page, I want the whole world—plants, animals, mountains—rejoicing with his presence.
2) Todd. Todd Hains is the series editor, and author to several of the FatCat books. And every time I send him artwork or gestures, nine times out of ten he will reply “moar animals!” Therefore, more and moar animals will join the page of each book. And who can complain? They are awesome!
Lexham Press: What is something only your friends would know about you?
Kennedy: I met my husband, Lindsay, in the UK when I was in college. He was one of the interns on staff at the time, and he graded a lot of the homework. I spotted that Aussie/Scottish bachelor and it was on; I was going to get his attention. He was an introvert, and almost never showed up at social events. So, I had to be clever. We had to take notes on a “survey through the Bible” class, with seven pages a week. Lindsay would collect everyone’s journals once a week and would make sure our notes were up to code. So, being a comic artist, I started a mini comic. Each page of notes ended with an artwork, telling the next part of the story. It starred Lindsay, beginning with him grading notebooks, and being confused as to who was writing him notes inside her homework. The story progressed, week by week, until Lindsay finally reached out to me about it. Naturally, we were married within a year.