There are many well-known religious publishing brands, both denominational and for-profit. Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are some of the best-known among the for-profits. Zondervan’s sister imprint HarperOne continues a long tradition of religious publishing at the old Harper & Row.
Of the strong denominational publishing brands are Abingdon Press and Cokesbury (United Methodist), Seabury Books (Episcopal), Lifeway (Southern Baptist) and Westminster John Knox (Presbyterian USA). Of course there are many others, but these are some of the best-known. And Lifeway isn’t just publishing, but also runs camps.
The Lutheran religious publishing brand Concordia has a children’s imprint Arch Books, the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. The books became ubiquitous at every denomination of church in the 1950s and 1960s, and are seen in church lobbies and Sunday school classrooms and nurseries.
There were a number of notable things that made the Arch book stand out as a church related children’s book. First, they were hip with their graphics. The artwork was good, and it was current without being trendy. Today, you can look at one of the covers or artwork and it looks fresh, not terribly dated.
The other part of what makes the series great is the way it tells stories. The words used are appropriate for the early reader in the kindergarten through second grade. The stories move along quickly, and the colors in the illustrations are cleverly thought out. Pictured above is The Rich Fool, with copyright date of 1964. The edition was priced at 35 cents in 1969. It tells the story of Luke 12:16-21. Another favorite is The Silly Skyscraper, which tells the story of the Tower of Babel. It has been redone for current audiences, and is less exuberant, and called The Tower of Babel.
Other books in the series included The Braggy King of Babylon, Jon and the Little Lost Lamb, Little Benjamin and the First Christmas, Simeon’s Secret, God, I’ve Gotta Talk to You, The Walls Came Tumbling Down, The Happiest Search, The Strange Young Man in the Desert, and The Feast That Almost Flopped.
The logo is memorable, a riff on the then-new Arch of St. Louis. Today, the series is as popular as ever; last Sunday I saw a few in the pew in front of me that a parent had brought into church.