Where Are the Gutsy Girls? {Book Club + Give Away}

Greetings Velvet Ashes Book clubbers! My name is Amy Sullivan, and I am honored to lead the discussion on this week’s book.

Today we start my picture book, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World: Book One: Gladys AylwardIt is $2.99 on Kindle or it can be found on Amazon (both domestically or internationally), The Book Depository (free world wide delivery), Barnes and Noble or a variety of online bookstores.

Throughout the post, there are questions in italics relating to the book. Some questions are for you (mom, grandma, aunt, mentor) and some are for the gutsy kiddo you may be reading the book with.


The Story Behind the Gutsy Girls Series

A year ago, I looked at my daughters’ bookshelf and noticed it resembled a TV listing.

Of course we owned the classics, but our bookshelf contained a disproportionate amount of books on premade princesses, talking ponies, multiple fairies, a girl who liked to dress-up named Nancy, and let’s not forget the ever popular shopping bag and friends with bulging eyes (now, that’s just strange).

We owned children’s Bibles and a handful of Christian reads, but as I stared at the shelf, I noticed we were missing picture books about strong Christian women.

Where were the stories of the women who loved God in big ways? Where were the stories of women who served God by serving others? Who risked their lives? Who traveled the world? Who stood up for their beliefs?

Sure, there were loads of biographies, chapter books, and middle grade readers on women living cross culturally, but if my youngest daughter could follow the plotline of a Disney movie, why wasn’t I giving her literature with substance?

Enter Gutsy Girls. It’s the first in a series of picture books for girls ages 4-10.


Can you list some of your favorite picture books highlighting TCK/TCP? What kinds of books do the young readers in your life prefer? What were some of your favorite childhood reads?


And on with the Discussion!

Although Gutsy Girls is an illustrated children’s book, Gladys Aylward was a real person. One of the first things that struck me as I researched Gladys is that although she knew there was a need to serve the people of China, she didn’t see herself as the person who should meet that need.

Instead, Gladys told friends they should go to China, and when her friends weren’t interested, Gladys told her brother he should go. I can certainly relate to feeling as if I am not qualified for God’s plans.

Throughout her journey, Gladys was met with people who deemed her unqualified. She couldn’t speak the language. She was too old. The girl was even a missionary school flunkie! And yet, Gladys stayed focused on God’s plan.

What other women throughout history (or from your personal life or you!) can you think of whom God asked to do something completely out of the ordinary? What was this extraordinary task? For our young readers, how do you think God talks to people and lets them know His desires? What kind of roadblocks and negative comments have you faced as a TCP/TCK?

On Fitting In

As a child, we moved constantly. In 9th grade, I started my tenth school. I became accustomed to making new friends, but transitions were always easier for me when I was met with friendly faces. Alas, that wasn’t always the case for me, and I am guessing you can relate.

In sixth grade, I received a pair of pink, Reebok high-tops for Christmas. Yes, the coveted Reeboks!

Then during Christmas break, we moved from our tiny town into a city several states away. I remember kids relentlessly making fun of my new shoes and how hurt and confused I was by the experience. In my new school, Keds were the rage, bulky tennis shoes with two skinny, Velcro straps were not. In an attempt to fit in, I bought a cheap pair of white tennis shoes and colored a blue rectangle on each heel.

My fake Keds didn’t make me feel better, and they certainly didn’t help me fit in.

The part of Gladys’ story that always makes me cringe is when the people of China throw mud at Gladys. It’s one thing to feel unwanted. It’s an entirely different thing to have flying clumps of dirt headed for your face.

As a TCP/TCK what are some practical ways you deal with times when you feel as if you don’t belong? What about our young readers?

: : :

Well, book clubbers, I don’t want to be the person who gets invited over and overstays her welcome, so I must go. But a couple of quick things:

If you would like to delve further into Gutsy Girls and Gladys’ story with your young reader, be sure to check out these educational resources. The enrichment packet is my favorite, and it includes free Bible, geography, math, and writing activities. {I, Amy Young, interrupt this post with a shout out to these resources! If you’re teaching or leading Sunday School you will thank Amy.}

Also, since we are friends now, I am going to tell you a kid-friendly writing contest on living bravely for God will be announced at the beginning of March via my site, AND March also marks the time when drawing videos which are lead by the illustrator of Gutsy Girls will be available via my site as well.

Lastly, watch for sisters, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom in the summer of 2016.

And now, on to the comments!



Amy has kindly offered two paperback, hold-in-your hands copies to two of you anywhere in the world!  Answer one of her questions and you’ll be entered in a drawing. Winners will be chosen by next book club. Speaking of which, we are starting our spring book What Women Fear by Angie Smith. We’ll look at the introduction next week. This book has something for everyone and I look forward to how it will shape and grow us this spring!

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Beth Everett February 22, 2016

    Amy, your book about Gladys Aylward is beautiful! I just downloaded and read the kindle version and can’t wait to read it with my kids. And how timely reading this post, your book and website are! My kids and I are in the middle of reading a different book about Gladys Aylward and just this morning we read about the time she had mud thrown at her! Your book is going to be a wonderful addition to our exploring her life! And what a great resource on your website! Can’t wait to use it!  Can you tell I’m just a little excited! 🙂

    The little people in my life are avid readers. They are especially enthused when they/we read stories about people who live in other countries. In our homeschool journey we are enjoying several books about characters who are based in other countries, which I am just thrilled about. We were excited to start a book about Gladys Aylward because both of my kids were born in China. Even the city Gladys was originally heading for (Tientsin, now Tianjin) was our home until last summer. My daughter has asked a few times if the story is real – and I love being able to say “yes!” My favorite books growing up were about real people who lived in other cultures. Books like these gave me a desire from very young to want to learn about the world and the people in it.

    Thank you for your contribution to the world of cross-cultural literature for children! Can’t wait to hear about the other books in your series!

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 22, 2016


      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share about all of your connections to Gladys! Wow!

      A couple of weeks ago, I did a school visit and at the end of the visit, a teacher asked if she could share something with our group. It was a copy of The Little Woman signed by Gladys herself. She signed her name in both English and Chinese. Anyway, the teacher said years and years ago, she saw Gladys speak at a small church in TN. It was fun to hear from someone who had actually met her and was able to give us some new (and unknown to me!) stories about Gladys.

      What book are you and your kiddos reading about Gladys now? There are so many good ones!

      Hey, quick question I meant to put this in the post: Is there anyone who comes to mind when you think of our future line-up of Gutsy Girls? Our next book on Corrie and Betsie ten Boom is finished, and we have a scientist coming up for book three, but the illustrator and I are tossing around all kinds of ideas for books four and five.

      It was nice to e-meet you, Beth!

      1. Beth Everett February 23, 2016

        We are reading “Gladys Aylward – The Adventure of a Lifetime” by Janet and Geoff Benge. It’s from the Christian Heros: Then & Now series.

        1. Amy L. Sullivan February 23, 2016

          Ahhh, yes! I have read that one and several others from that series.

  2. Elizabeth February 23, 2016

    Oh you’re speaking to my heart here, Amy Sullivan! I had some traumatic moves as a child too, and had trouble fitting in. TCK stuff can be yucky 🙁

    But books can be friends who rescue us 🙂 Some of my favorite reads as a child were Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” and C.S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair,” for their strong (female) leads. Also Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne stories — strong female lead there again — hadn’t put all this together till just now. And I really loved “Jane of Lantern Hill” which brings up topics of love and belonging. Apparently all my fave’s had strong female leads and grappled with issues of belonging.

    As for a book I’d love to be written, please write about Empress Theodora! We just studied Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora and how they co-reigned 1500 years ago. My kids were so excited to read about a relationship full of equality, but we didn’t have a ton of details either. Justinian respected Theodora so much that he rarely made decisions without consulting her. We need a book about Theodora!

    And Amy Young — the fear book looks good. I’ve heard Angie speak on fear just a teensy bit. I may have to buy and read this one, even though I’m short on time lately!

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 23, 2016


      I love what you said about books being able to rescue us. I think that’s why I fell in love with books. My long ago favorite was Dicey’s Song. I saw so much of myself in Dicey. It made me feel not so alone, and it turned my into a reader for life.

      I haven’t even heard of Jane of Lantern Hill. Therefore, I must check it out, AND I’ve also never heard of Empress Theodora., but hello, I love the sound of her. Thanks so much for the suggestion, and thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Cristina M February 23, 2016

    Amy, your book looks beautiful and I’m super excited about this series. I have a signed copy of Gladys Awyard’s biography ‘The Small Woman’ by Alan Burgess. Not sure how it got to me but I treasure it! One of my favourite books on belonging and identity is ‘The Endless Steppe’ by Esther Hauzig. I read it as a teen many times and have now passed it on to my girls.  I would love to see more written on women that worked in the Middle East and North Africa. There are so many untold stories that we need to tell the world about.

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 23, 2016

      Cristina, Thanks for your excitement and kind words about our series, Gutsy Girls! I haven’t read The Endless Steppe, but I’m always looking for books which are good enough for a reread and books that can be passed along to my girls. It’s interesting that you mention the Middle East and North Africa. To be honest, there are only a couple women who come to mind when I think of that part of the world…an obvious indication that I need to hunt up some more stories. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

  4. T February 23, 2016

    Super fun, Amy + Amy!  For future female leads, I’d suggest Lilias Trotter and her female friends who worked in Alg. and Tun., also possibly Perpetua and Felicitus who were martyred with their discipleship group in Carthage in the coliseum.  Though Perpetua did have some crazy dreams, so that is a tough point there.  One of her journals is available.  For Lilias, I’ve heard that Miriam Rockness, one of her biographers, is super sweet about sharing info and resources with others.  (but these are some stories that have been told, to adults at least…discovering others might be part of the fun!)

    1. Beth Everett February 23, 2016

      I thought of Perpetua and Felicitus too! And I love the other suggestions from Elizabeth and Cristina.

      Amy S – I think you could be writing for this series for a long time! 🙂

    2. Amy L. Sullivan February 23, 2016

      T, Thank you, thank you for all of the great suggestions on women to look into for future Gutsy Girls, and thanks for the heads-up on Miriam Rockness, a biographer who is willing to share info would be such a fantastic resource!

  5. Beth Everett February 23, 2016

    So, I just had to pop back in to share something else. We just read another two chapters in our assigned reading this morning – and I also shared your book, Amy – with the kids, which they loved.  While they were listening to my reading aloud to them, they decided they wanted to draw a picture of Gladys Aylward. Thought it would be fun to share. Inspiration is high this morning! 🙂

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 23, 2016


      These drawings made my night! I can’t wait to share them with the illustrator! Thank you for sharing.

    2. Beverly Ann Wines February 26, 2016

      Hi Beth,

      I am Beverly, the proud illustrator of Gutsy Girls. Amy told me about theses fantastic drawings!

      Thank you so much for sharing the drawings!!  There is nothing more precious to me then the expression of a child’s thoughts, feelings and interpretation through drawing.  Great work!!

      1. Beth Everett February 27, 2016

        Thanks for sharing that Beverly! We’ll look forward to seeing more of your artwork in the future! 🙂

  6. Tia Becky February 23, 2016

    Two of my favorite books growing up were ‘Nobody’s Girl’ and ‘Nobody’s Boy’.  Anyone recognize them?  They were old books that my mom had.  Also a book called ‘Not Quite a Miracle’ or ‘Almost a Miracle’ that was about an autistic child that was helped.  I would love to find the book again.

  7. Jilida February 23, 2016

    Hi Amy,

    I love this idea! I used to nanny in the U.S., and one of my major activities was bringing books with me from the library. I would have loved to see something like this. What’s more, I did a paper on Gladys Aylward for grad school and have taken comfort from her life and her journey, so I heartily approve of your topic!

    Quick piece of feedback, though: I spent three years in Japan and one of the first pieces of etiquette they taught us was not to leave our chopsticks vertical in our rice. When I saw the second picture on your post I cringed just a little out of reflex. A quick google search led me to believe the same etiquette is true in China. That said, I can think of a dozen reasons the illustration is fine: maybe it is a new etiquette rule in east Asia, or maybe at the Inn of the Fifth Happiness they deliberately flaunted that rule, or maybe Aylward was in a region of the country where that practice is acceptable! It is very possible there is nothing wrong with the illustration, but I was wondering if you had researched the cultural customs.

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 24, 2016


      Thank you so much for reading and thank you for the feedback! I love it when people shoot straight. So, the illustrator and I did research chopsticks in China. We were told as long as the chopsticks weren’t standing straight up in the rice we were fine. However, after pouring over waaaay too many photos of chopsticks and bowls of rice last night, and investigating more, I see that despite the fact that we slanted our chopsticks, they are still free standing and therefore, they are still vertical! Well, since this stands for an offering to the dead, we certainly can’t have that! Um, no. Thanks for helping us spot the mistake. It is something we will work to correct.

  8. Spring February 23, 2016

    I am so excited about this book! We have learned about Gladys but it was an old school movie.. still good but an up to date book sounds excellent!  I am especially excited for my girls who are in their first year as TCK/Mk’s

    As a TCP/TCK what are some practical ways you deal with times when you feel as if you don’t belong?

    What sticks in my mind is my bike.. I have this bike that here is quite common, no hand breaks and too tall for me. I have to jam my foot down after breaking to stop the bike because I can’t break and stand at the same time.  (I am 4’11) Riding with kids is even more difficult.  Mostly I just try to laugh at this situation. Or imagine what others must have been thinking on my first few rides.  I guess basically I try to find the humor in the situation.

    When it involves my children feeling lost or left out, I really try to validate their feelings.  I know that there are simply some things I can’t fix for them, no matter how much I would like to.  I often cry with them.  It is more difficult when it involves my children disobeying and I have to remove the bad behavior from the way they are feeling

    What other women throughout history (or from your personal life or you!) can you think of whom God asked to do something completely out of the ordinary? What was this extraordinary task?  My mentor is near and dear to my heart she lived in Mexico for 3 years.  Her Husband knew Spanish before coming but she did not. She raised 4 boys and homeschoooled them there.  She also lost her last son back in the US 3 years later. I am thankful for the experience and encouragement she brings to me. 



  9. Debbie February 23, 2016

    Some picture books about a TCK are Rosemary Wells’ Yoko (followed by Yoko Learns to Read, Yoko Writes Her Name and a few others). Yoko is Japanese and each book introduces her classmates to some part of Yoko’s life that is new to them – her sushi lunch, the scratches that are her name. I’m sure there are others, but that was the first character to come to mind.

    My 7-year-old loves to read chapter books – Magic Tree House, Who Was biographies, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, and easier versions of some classics like Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables. I am grateful that her school has a library and that we have friends who share their books. We moved a lot of our books here to Honduras, and buy more every trip back, but we miss the huge selection from visiting the public library every week. I would love to introduce her to the women in your books!

    1. Amy L. Sullivan February 24, 2016

      Thanks for sharing about Rosemary Wells’ books. Off to google them! I am always looking to add new finds (especially books about girls from other cultures) to our reading.

      My youngest is really into the Magic Tree House Books right now, and I adore the Who Was biographies. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Debbie.

  10. Hadassah Doss February 23, 2016

    A great book for TCKs (written by a TCK) is “Swirly” by Sara Saunders.  In the book,  a little girl, having lived in three countries,(two besides her passport country), searches for where she belongs.  In the end, she discovers that she shares something very special with Jesus, they are both ‘swirly’, and what a difference that can make in her life.  I highly recommend it for global workers raising children cross-culturally!

    1. T February 24, 2016

      sounds fantastic!!  looking it up now!

  11. Felicity February 24, 2016

    These kind of stories are much needed! I can relate to your point that our library of books can so easily become imbalanced. I wish I had more meaty books like this for my children!

    Your question about what to do when we feel like we don’t belong…I feel this way almost constantly! But knowing that there is a better family, an eternal, healthy family into which I have been adopted. This is the only thing that brings me home and gives me the strength and confidence to move forward into this culture where I am constantly reminded that I do not belong. Without that more ultimate and most comforting sense of belonging in Gods family, I would have given up this life 100 times over in return for instant warm fuzzy feelings in my own culture.

    1. Felicity February 24, 2016

      * Brings me hope, not home 🙂

  12. Amy Young February 29, 2016

    Thank you all for participating! I just drew Beth’s name out of the “hat” and will put her in contact with Amy :).

    1. Beth Everett February 29, 2016

      Oh how fun! Thanks so much! 🙂

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