Editor: We are excited to share an interview with Eleazar and Rebekah Ruiz, writers of Golly's Folly. Described as:
“Everything is meaningless”, King Solomon writes in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Inspired by this message, Golly’s Folly is a thrilling, adventurous story, dispelling the notion that things can satisfy.
The vibrant illustrations will carry your child along on Golly’s rollercoaster attempt to fulfill his desires with stuff. Share this much needed story about what truly matters, perfect for reading aloud.
GCD: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
ER: I grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the states in 2008. Bekah and I met at Bible College in 2010 and got married a year later.
For most of my life, I thought I was called to youth ministry. An uncle of mine is a pastor of a Spanish-speaking church in San Jose, so pastoral ministry was a part of my family, I swore it would be a part of my life. I grew up in the church. My worldview shaped my plans for the future. When I found out youth ministry wasn’t for me, it was a huge blow, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I had been doing graphic design on the side for other people and some churches. As I began to seek other options outside of youth ministry, I recognized God had gifted me as a designer and not a pastor. Since then I’ve been using those gifts for God’s glory. I work for Faithlife (the makers of Logos Bible Software) as a full-time senior designer. And previously worked as the Art Director at Mars Hill Church.
Currently, I wear multiple hats: graphic designer, illustrator, publisher, and writer. I’m passionate about incorporating God’s Word into all that I do.
BR: I am a little mixture: spent 12 years in Texas and 12 years in Portland with a small stint in California. And now we both reside in Seattle and love the Northwest. I studied Elementary Education and was a substitute teacher before enrolling in Bible College. I quickly became employed at the Bible College as a Librarian and taught a class to college kids (that was a change in audience)!
GCD: What’s your current church and ministry within it?
BR: Sound City Bible Church in Seattle is our home and we’re quite involved. I work in the children’s ministry.
ER: and I serve as one of the graphic designers.
GCD: Where did the concept for Golly’s Folly come from?
ER: It’s almost entirely autobiographical of myself. I am Golly.
It’s essentially my own struggle to answer the questions of identity: Who am I? What am I here for? In pursuing these questions I realized I was seeking these answers in the wrong places.
I thought, as a man, that if I reached a certain income level then I’d be fulfilled. Or if I landed a certain career I’d be satisfied. But as soon as I’d accomplish the goal it wouldn’t satisfy me. It was empty to me. I became frustrated, and thought, “I can’t be the only person struggling like this. There has to be another way to fill this void.”
One day I was on a plane and I decided to start writing a story about these experiences. From there I showed it to Bekah and then my brother, Rommel. Golly’s Folly is my heart poured out in color and presented to kids. It represents my own dissatisfaction with the vanity of life. But it is also true of all humanity who seeks fulfillment apart from God, it is the struggle of Ecclesiastes.
BR: The first draft seemed more like a chapter book. But things evolved from there and three years later, here we are.
GCD: Why did you decide to publish Golly’s Folly independently and start Patrol Books instead of seeking an established publisher?
ER: In the three-year process of working on Golly’s Folly we pursued a few options. We considered crowdfunding. I’ve worked for some publishers and know people in the industry and was encouraged by others to pursue self-publication. For my first book, I wanted to avoid the rollercoaster of having to talk to dozens of publishers.
Patrol books was birthed out of the desire to meet the following three goals in book publishing:
- To publish books that represented great theological truth with clarity.
- To publish books with great artistic work and design.
- To pay visual artists fairly and elevate them to equal recognition as authors.
Patrol books simply tries to combine biblical theology, beautiful visuals, and paying artists fairly. We’re a publisher created by artists and for artists to try and help those with a passion for this field and value them for their endeavors.
GCD: How did you come up with the name Patrol Books?
ER: Good question. I love the work of Massimo Vignelli who once said, “the life of a designer, is a life of fight against the ugliness.” He was an impressive and accomplished designer and died just about two years ago. He found meaning and purpose in making things beautiful—even though his worldview was not influenced by the Bible—he wanted to make things beautiful. His mission was to make things that people see every day the most beautiful things people would engage with.
I resonated a lot with that as someone in the Church, wanting to bring that sort of intentionality in work that would represent our God. I want to fight the ugly. I want to strive for things to be beautiful. It’s my passion.
Our tagline for Patrol Books is: powerful things are beautiful. The gospel is powerful, and presentations of it must reflect its beauty. Any presentation of God’s truth that is ugly is a misrepresentation of who God is. There’s nothing ugly in the Gospel so why should it be represented in a way that does not produce awe and wonder? We want to take that power and beauty of the gospel and produce awe in the hearts and minds of people. We desire to be vigilant about patrolling our products to make sure they are gorgeous and biblically faithful. We are unwilling to compromise beauty because the gospel is worthy of that beauty.
We seek to find ways to communicate life-changing stories of God’s redemptive work with beautiful imagery. We want our readers to be blown away by both the aesthetic and the content.
GCD: Who has influenced you most as an author?
ER: My middle name is “Hobbit”
GCD: (I pause, and laugh, unsure if this is a joke) Wait, seriously?
ER: [Laughing] Not seriously. But I can’t understate the influence Tolkien and Lewis have had on me. They were brilliant at telling biblical stories in a relevant and meaningful way while remaining original and creative.
BR: Dr. Seuss’s rhyme schemes are a huge influence on me as well.
GCD: Rebekah, tell us how your teaching background has affected the creation of Golly’s Folly.
BR: It was fun to be the voice of the target audience. Because I know elementary aged kids, I wanted to keep those from public schools, private schools, and churches in mind. We carefully thought out how to reach this age group and audience. What are their likes, dislikes, development stages, life struggles, what would make them laugh, what would capture their attention?
GCD: So you've stated the influence Lewis and Tolkien have had on you, am I understanding correctly that, similar to them, you're trying to teach gospel themes without direct use of 'God' or 'Jesus' name?
ER: When I read Narnia, for example, I see how Lewis used objects like “candy” and characters like the “lion” and the “beaver” in order to appeal to a young audience that, unfortunately, wouldn’t be engaged any other way. Taking it even further, Jesus did the same when teaching the crowds about the complicated themes of the kingdom of God. Jesus used metaphors in order to reach his audience. I believe, we have the freedom to do the same.
GCD: What sorts of challenges did you face in working together as a collaborative unit?
ER: One of the challenges was trimming out a tremendous amount of content in order to make it understandable for the attention span of a four-year-old. We cut out about ninety percent of the original content in order to condense it down to just one point that kids can take home. Bekah was fighting for less, I was fighting for more. (laughing)
BR: One of the benefits of working with family is that we were able to play off of each other’s strengths. However, there was also a lot of pushback until we felt like we really brought our best to the table.
ER: Bekah was a huge blessing in that she helped give voice to the age group of children we wanted to represent. She put up guardrails to help make sure none of the art was too dark or mature for young children. At times Rommel and I would present some themes—which are truths few children’s book try to tackle—in a darker way than would be appropriate for the age group we wanted to reach.
BR: I would ask, “What would a seven-year-old think if he or she saw this illustration?” “Do you think it could be too dark for them?” “Do you think they can grasp the weight of this theme?” From there we worked to condense the book to one point kids could take home.
GCD: So what is that one point you want kids to take away from Golly’s Folly?
BR: The majority of the story is spent on Golly’s rollercoaster of seeking. At the end, he repents of his folly and returns to his father because he recognizes ultimate fulfillment is found in him. The point is to teach kids to seek God above all else.
ER: Golly is made to be a character worth laughing at. But it is also tragic that all humans will chase after things that ultimately don’t satisfy. So we attempted to tell it in a funny way, but the truth is actually quite sad. When we are separated from God we do crazy and stupid stuff. As Ecclesiastes puts it, “madness resides in the hearts of the children of men.”
Note: [At this point Rebekah insists on reading me one of their favorite lines from the book, which we think is also worth sharing.]
When it came to the crown, he’d gladly wait
The stuff, the facts, the fun, might feel great,
But the love of the father made him happy inside
And he had lessons to learn at the father’s side.
GCD: What role do you think Golly’s Folly will play in making disciples of the next generation?
ER: I think we’ve found a way to communicate a part of the Bible that few have tried to teach to children. Adults are often aware of life’s vanity, but we can’t overlook the need that kids have to hear that their hearts will seek meaning in things other than God.
I’m not naive enough to think our book will spare them going through it, but we hope it will give them a foundation from which they can more easily recognize it when it happens. Their subconscious might retain the truths taught in the book for a later day when it happens to them. We look forward to teaching our own kids someday, should God give them to us.
BR: We wanted to write a book that dealt with some heavier themes that aren’t commonly shared in children’s books. We think it is a good age for kids to learn these themes and we think they can handle the subject matter.
ER: I think we were able to tell the stories that children will resonate with. Golly is tempted by pleasure, wisdom, and possessions, the same things that are dealt with in Ecclesiastes. At one point we wrestled with the question, “how could you communicate pleasure to a child without being rated R?”
GCD: The kids want to know, who would win in a fight: Pikachu or Dora the Explorer?
ER: [Without missing a beat] Pikachu.
BR: [Turning to Eleazar] I’m not sure, Eleazar, Dora has some sass…
GCD: If you were able to share a meal with one writer/theologian, living or dead, who would it be?
BR: The Apostle Paul
GCD: What’s next for you two and Patrol Books?
ER: You’re the first to hear it, but our intention for Golly’s Folly has always been to make it a series of books. We’ve already got the outline for the second book completed. As for Patrol, we’re mostly focused on making it a sustainable business so that we can bring more great books with beautiful aesthetic to people. My dream is to bring the best illustrators with the best theologians to write books together. I want to bring the best of these two worlds to fill your bookshelves.
— Eleazar Ruiz was born and raised in the Dominican Republic where he discovered his love for creative arts and vibrant colors.In addition to creative arts, Eleazar has deep interest in theology so in 2010 he attended Bible College to pursue a Bachelors in Theological Studies.
He has seven years of experience working simultaneously in the worlds of freelance, in-house teams & design firms. In his professional career he has done anything from leading design teams to being the only in-house designer. That includes art directing for a group of 14 churches with an online audience of millions, a publishing company, and a record label.
Rebekah Ruiz studied Elementary Education at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She spent half of her life in Dallas, Texas and half in Portland, Oregon and has spent her career in various academic settings such as elementary schools, colleges and a library.
She loves the sun, all things silly and teaching a bright-eyed learner! Bekah’s ideal Saturday would involve a lot of coffee and friends.
Eleazar and his wife Rebekah met at Bible College in 2010. He and Rebekah currently reside in greater Seattle, Washington.