PUBLISHING: A NEW 'INSPIRATION'

With a nod to God, next month Simon & Schuster will become the first mainstream publisher to launch its own religion imprint for children. Little Simon Inspirations, the new faith-based line, will go up against Zonderkidz and Tommy Nelson, established Christian publishers that now dominate the thriving religious kid's lit market.

Inspirations is an answer to a Christian market that is becoming more mainstream, says Robin Corey, publisher of S&S's novelty, media and teen publishing division. "[The audience for these books] is not what we have always thought of as the traditional Christian market," she says. "It's Joe Everybody. When a tsunami hits, you want to be reassuring to your kids." The new line, which includes 13 titles this year, will skip Bible stories and focus instead on books like Karen Hill's upcoming "Finding the Golden Ruler," which teach Christian values without delving into specific doctrine.

Which is not to say that the line lacks church cred--all Little Simon Inspirations titles come with the endorsement of Max Lucado, an influential San Antonio, Texas, preacher who's written the popular adult titles "Next Door Savior" and "It's Not About Me." "He's our seal of approval," says Corey. "The people who want these books know Max Lucado." It's Corey's prayer that they'll soon know Little Simon Inspirations, too.