DACULA, Ga. (BP)–Janice Harrison doesn’t claim to have the gift of prophecy.
But the Atlanta-area church librarian predicts that the final two installments of the children’s fictional series “Left Behind: The Kids” will disappear quickly from bookshelves everywhere.
Akin to the best-selling adult novels written by Southern Baptist Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: The Kids follows four teens through the same apocalyptic events described in the adult series based on the prophecies of the Book of Revelation.
Released this fall by Tyndale House Publishers, book 39, “The Road to War,” and book 40, “Triumphant Return,” conclude this adventure-packed fictional version of the biblical rapture and tribulation experienced by those left behind after the sudden disappearance of millions of Christians.
Having sold more than 11 million copies since the series was launched in 1998, Left Behind: The Kids, written primarily for readers ages 10 to 14, has become the most successful adaptation of an adult Christian fiction series into a juvenile format.
Harrison, of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., added the final two books of the Left Behind children’s series to the church library circulation in mid-November; however, the books had already been reserved on a waiting list weeks in advance.
“They won’t be on the shelf for a while,” she said.
A survey of children, parents and grandparents at the Atlanta-area Hebron Baptist Church revealed readers of all ages find the apocalyptic children’s series both entertaining and enlightening.
“Most of the stuff I read in them, I want to know if it’s true,” said 10-year-old Erica Winn of Hoschton, Ga. “And so I try to look it up in the Bible, and most of the time it’s in there.”
Having read 36 of the 40 books in the children’s series, Winn said the stories have expanded her view of the world and challenged her to think more about eternity.
“I like to read about adventure, and I like that they put [the characters] in places other than the United States,” Winn said. “It makes me wonder if some of my friends aren’t Christians. The Left Behind series just gives you a new perspective about what will happen in the future.”
Laura Winn, Erica’s mother, has read the 12-book adult series -– a regular on The New York Times best-seller list with 42 million books sold since that series debuted in 1995.
She said the compelling storyline captivates readers of all ages with a message that can change lives for eternity. “If I handed this to a non-Christian friend, then they’re going to get the Gospel,” Laura said. “It’s another way to get out the Good News. And I think it could be beneficial for children who are not excited about reading to get hooked on these books.”
But 14-year-old Katie Hubbell, also of Dacula, Ga., who has read 36 of the books during the past three years, warned that a storyline complete with natural disasters, murderous plots, persecution, and martyrdom is not your typical bedtime story.
“When you read Left Behind, you can imagine people going through that,” she said. “It’s put Revelation more in perspective…. I’ve learned not to read it before I go to bed. I do seem to pray for people more after I read the books.”
Theresa Guyette of Winder, Ga., said the series had a spiritual and scientific impact on her 10-year-old son, Brandon, who wanted to learn more about earthquakes while reading the entire series over the past two years.
“[Now] we do a lot of talking about the Bible,” Guyette said. “It upsets him, when he thinks about friends who are not saved.”
Ada Edwards, of Lawrenceville, Ga., started reading the Left Behind series three years ago with her then 13-year-old granddaughter, Kristyn. She has since read the entire adult series as well as through book 36 of the children’s series.
Edwards said she was impressed by how the teenage characters worked together for the cause of Christ. “They worried more about winning others to Christ than getting killed,” she said. “It shows how working as a team for Christ is better than going at it alone.”
Char Burke of Dacula said reading the Left Behind series with her 12-year-old daughter, Hope, has forged a special bond between mother and daughter.
“It’s brought on a lot of discussions about prophecy, and that’s a thrill,” Burke said. “I think it has painted a picture for Hope what it might be like if you were left behind.
“She’s read several of the books over,” Burke continued. “Sometimes that’s all she wanted for her birthday.”
For more information about the Left Behind series, visit www.leftbehind.com.