Mary Ann Kinsinger on an Amish upbringing + Life with Lily 3-book giveaway

Mary Ann Kinsinger grew up Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  Mary Ann has teamed with Suzanne Woods Fisher on a series of children’s books, the first of which is called Life with Lily.  The four-book series is based in part on her Amish childhood.

I’m not the target market for this series, but it looks like a wholesome and fun read if you have children.  Given the popularity of Amish-themed books with adults, I’ve wondered why there weren’t more aimed towards that age range (or maybe there are, and I’ve just missed them).

I thought this might be a nice chance to ask Mary Ann a little bit about her Amish upbringing, and Suzanne about how this collaboration came to be.  The interview below hits on those topics and a few others.

A few thoughts on Amish children

The topic of Amish children is one that evokes extremes.  Amish children are portrayed or seen, often enough, as impeccably-behaved angels living idyllic lives.  On the other end of the spectrum we’ve seen former Amish sharing their difficult upbringings, challenging the idea that an Amish childhood is by definition peaceful and plum.   Practices typical to Amish also run against current trends.  Spanking, common in Amish homes, evokes a lot of criticism today, certainly more than it would have one or two generations back.

I think the rosy impression of the Amish upbringing is more common.  I definitely had that early on (probably still do, somewhat).  What most sticks out from book-selling days were the numerous times when Amish children would sit around the table, wide-eyed and silent, as I would run through a book demo and speak with the parents.  Interruptions were few or nil.  English homes I visited were often different in that regard.  However I realize that the volume level of children over a 20-minute period is a pretty thin basis upon which to draw sweeping conclusions.

Later I saw that kids will be kids, and of course every family is different.  I will say that, on balance, I think that if you’re born Amish you probably have a better chance to be exposed to an upbuilding environment than the average non-Amish child does.  You’re at least more likely to have both parents in the home.

Life with Lily giveaway

Life With Lily Kinsinger FisherWe also have a 3-book Life with Lily giveaway for Amish America readers.  To enter, just leave a comment on this post.  I will select 3 names at random and post the winners in a week’s time.  Now on to the interview, and thanks to Suzanne and Mary Ann for taking the time.

Amish America: Mary Ann, can you share a little on your background and upbringing?

Mary Ann Kinsinger: I was born and raised Old Order Amish. My parents moved from a small Amish community in New York to Somerset County when I was only a few weeks shy of my 8th birthday.

Every Amish church has their own set of rules and guidelines they go by so you always expect to make changes when moving. Moving to Somerset required a lot of changes for our family. All our clothes needed to be changed. Dresses had to have their pleats sewed and ironed a certain way, apron belts had to be a certain width, shirts had to have no more than seven buttons total counting the ones on the sleeves and collar, shawls that were worn by women during cold weather were folded in a triangle shape instead of rectangle like most other Amish churches, our prayer coverings were made differently and the bonnets to wear over the coverings when ever we left home were made with narrow slats tucked inside fabric which made that they could be folded.

All the clothing changes didn’t really faze me at that age. There were bigger changes that I noticed a lot more. In Somerset County, we attended church in a meeting house instead of homes and there were no fellowship meals served afterwards. I really missed that special church peanut butter.

Another change occurred when my Dad bought a little tractor to use around our farmette. Somerset Amish use tractors for farming for everything—except planting corn for which they still use horses.

A change I didn’t like was that refrigerators weren’t permitted to be kept in kitchens. For a long while, our refrigerator was out on the front porch. We all rejoiced when Dad built an addition to the house and the refrigerator was moved inside to a pantry.

How does an Amish upbringing compare with a non-Amish one?

Mary Ann: I can only speak from my own experience of growing up in an Amish family and how it compared to some of my friends who weren’t Amish. I think we both felt a little sorry for each other. They felt sorry for me because they thought I was “deprived” of most modern conveniences. I couldn’t watch TV or listen to music. But I felt sorry for them! How awful life would be to have to wear shoes every single day, to not be free to run and explore the countryside, or to experience the joys of working with my parents. As a child, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that one friend was not allowed to help her mother prepare meals. And she had hardly any chores!

Basically, it all depends on what kind of non-Amish families I would choose to do my comparison.  Some of my best friends came from a non-plain background and as far as I could tell, the only differences that caught my attention was that they addressed everyone as Mr. and Mrs. and they spoke freely about more spiritual things.

I have noticed how in some families everyone seems to focus on their own thing—hobbies or interests or television or computers—instead of being more family-oriented like the Amish.

I’ve heard non-Amish, briefly encountering well-mannered Amish kids, describe them as “perfect angels” and in similarly glowing terms. What do you think of that description?

Mary Ann: Children are children where ever you go. How well-mannered they happen to be is much more of a reflection of the parenting they have received than whether or not they are Amish.

Some of the most well-mannered children I have ever met had no connections to the Amish at all. And I have already experienced having some Amish children visiting at our house and being enough of a terror that made me vow to never invite them back. Most Amish children fit somewhere between those two examples.

How “Amish” are you raising your own children?

Mary Ann: We are not focused on trying to raise our children on anything other than being Christ-centered. A few things we have retained from when we were Amish that we are teaching our children is observing Sunday as a day of rest with preparations beginning on Saturdays to make that we don’t have much to do on a Sunday. Like preparing food, laying out the clothes we will be wearing, and making sure that the house is in order so we won’t have any cleaning chores to do on Sundays. We still believe in the core values of the Amish culture. Family, faith, forgiveness.

Have you seen the new television show on TLC, called “Breaking Amish,” and what is your opinion of it?

Mary Ann: I have seen it. To sum it up in one word: “Fake!”  Their reactions to things when they reached NYC reminded me of when my brothers and I were still little children. We used to enjoy a game where we pretended we were pioneers and visited our house and acted in awe over every little thing. Amish are not nearly as challenged in the outside world as those cast members tried to pretend.

The cast members had all left the Amish years ago. They’re pretending to be leaving now to go experience the English world. There were so many scenes that proved how scripted everything was. Here’s a few examples: There was a scene in Ohio when Jeremiah was talking about how the bishop’s wife was watching him. Then they showed her and she was wearing Lancaster clothes.

The boys didn’t have Amish haircuts at the beginning of the show. When the girls let their hair down, you could see their hair had already been cut. Amish women have long, long hair.

I don’t think that show portrays how it is to be Amish in any sense, or even how it is to leave the Amish. When all is said and done, they’re just actors playing scenes.

How did you get the idea for this series and the two of you come to collaborate?

Suzanne Woods Fisher: Life with Lily is the first in the ‘Adventures of Lily Lapp’ series for children, ages 8-12. Mary Ann recently left the Amish church—a painful separation for her family—and started a blog to capture her happy memories for her children. Very shortly, her blog ( was receiving 30,000 hits a month. And then…the New York Times noted it in an article.

In the meantime, Mary Ann and I had developed a friendship through my own books about the Old Order Amish. She asked me to collaborate with her, so we pitched a series proposal to my publisher, Revell, who happily accepted.

How is writing for children different than writing for adults?

Suzanne:  For this age group, we created each chapter to have its own story arc because that’s how children read. There is an overriding story arc, but it’s not quite the same as an adult novel—with building suspense that reaches a crescendo. Also, the vocabulary is aimed for 8-12 year olds. My editor even has a software program that checks reading level of vocabulary. Happily, we passed!

What do you hope readers take away from the Lily books?

Suzanne: Here’s what drew me to collaborating with Mary Ann: her memories reflect a warm, happy Amish childhood with fully dimensional characters. Nothing saccharine, nothing severe. The Amish are part of America—a unique culture living right in the midst of a busy, modern world…and thriving.

The ‘Lily’ series invites readers to peek in the window of a delightful Amish family. I think there are many layers to enjoy about the Lily stories—the top layer is getting to know a funny little girl. But there are deeper layers, such as seeing how Lily’s wise parents handled difficult situations (wait until you meet Teacher Katie. Hooboy!).

By the way—we want to invite your readers to check out the interactive website for children that our publisher, Revell, created to complement the ‘Lily’ series: Coloring pages can be downloaded, Mama’s recipes are shared, there are games and crossword puzzles, and readers can ask Lily a question. Hope you’ll all drop by!

Thanks, Erik, for letting us visit your blog. And thanks, readers, for your interest in Life with Lily.

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    1. Jen

      Amish Books

      I can’t wait to read the books!

    2. Amy

      Big fan of both authors! Wonderful idea!

    3. Juanita Cook

      Life with Lily Book

      Would love to get this book for my little Grand daughter. Want to introduce her to the wonderful word of the great Amish fiction books.

    4. Mary Ellsworth

      Great interview!

      Loved the information in the interview. The Lily series sounds like something even this grandma could enjoy reading ~ very informative. Would love to win the books for my grandchildren (and myself) to enjoy. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, for writing these books for our pre-teens and for the opportunity to enter the contest. Praying God’s blessings on you.

    5. Donna Harmon

      Life with Lily

      I can’t wait to purchase copies of this book for my niece & cousins!!! Would love to win a copy…

    6. mary ellen ashenfelder

      Life with Lily giveaway

      Very interesting interview. Wonderful giveaway. Please accept my entry to win the Life with Lily book. Thank you 🙂

    7. Dana Spille

      Life with Lily

      Would love to win a copy of your book Please .I love to read AMISH books !!!!!! Thank you fer the contest and a chance to win .Blessings ,Dana Wilkerson Spille

    8. Amy C


      I look forward for my daughter to read this book.

    9. Life with Lily Book Giveaway

      What a great interview! My granddaughter would love to read this book.

    10. Teresa Sheroke


      Really would love to read this book! Love both authors!

    11. Erin

      I am an avid reader of Amish fiction and my children always ask me questions about what I’m currently reading. My daughter, 7 years old, would really enjoy her own set of Amish fiction!

    12. Irene Busbee

      amish life

      Can’t wait to read about life with Lily. Love reading about how adult amish live, and think it will be very interesting to read the childrens stories now.

    13. Michelle Anderson

      Life with Lily giveaway

      I would love to be able to give these to my grandchildren in Costa Rica. I believe it would be a blessing. so weather I win I think I will buy them at the store.

    14. Terra W

      I love Mary’s blog and would love to read her first book! Thanks for a chance to enter!

    15. Sara Rudolph

      Life With Lily :-)

      I love reading her blog and would be thrilled to share her books !

    16. Lisa Korell

      3 Book give away

      I enjoy all your books. And look forward to reading these. Thank you.

    17. Ruth


      Love to read Life with Lily 3 books thank for letting me entry your contest,Mary Ann

    18. Virginia Rush

      give away

      loved this interview, and we should all be Christ centered!!!!!!!!!!

    19. Jamie Simmons

      book giveaway

      Would love to be entered to win!! Can’t wait to read them:)

    20. Melissa H

      Perfect for Elizabeth!

      No matter what, I HAVE to get my hands on thoses books for my oldest child, Elizabeth. She’s read a number of other Amish based books, and has taken a huge interest in their way of life. I’m even more excited to see that the books are geared for kids 8-12, she’s smack dab in the middle of that age group.

    21. Barb

      Suzanne is on my short list of favorite authors, so I look forward to seeing this newest endeavor.

      1. Life with Lily

        Waving to you, Barb! Thanks for your kind words! Warmly, Suzanne

    22. Mandy C.

      Great interview!

      I have been following A Joyful Chaos for a couple years now- it’s the only blog I look at every day to make sure I don’t miss an update. I can’t wait to take a peek at these new stories!

    23. Alice Mary

      Can't wait to "meet" Lily!

      Yes, Erik, there are kids’ books revolving around Amish characters—I’ve read and enjoyed some. It’s fun to read about the Amish from a child’s perspective (working in the Youth Services Dept. of my library, I MAY be biased!)Please enter my name in the contest!

      I intend to start my own “Amish kids'” book collection, including Life with Lily…my granddaughter won’t be 18 mos. old forever! I look forward to sharing them with her some day.

      Alice Mary

      1. Definitely Alice Mary–I have seen a few but it seems like there are many more titles for adults, at least the ones I see news about.

        I read a random chapter of the book, and am happy to say I checked out at the 8-12 year-old vocab level 🙂 I think there is some nice humor here, and what I’ve read had some of the feel of what Mary Ann writes on her blog.

    24. Nancee

      Happy to see Amish stories for children

      I’m so happy to see that some Amish books are being written for children. I have collected a few for my little granddaughter, and I really look forward to this series. She’s too young to enjoy them now, but when she’s older and able to read well I will give them to her. I hope that she develops a love for the Amish way of life that I have. Thanks for offering this information and the interview! I enjoyed it!

    25. Karen Gervais

      Interesting interview. Would love to win and read Life with Lily then give it to my younger nieces.

    26. Thanks for this great giveaway! Please enter me!

    27. Margaret

      Loved the article, and want to get the books for my niece. She will love them! Thanks, Erik!

    28. Life with Lily

      Would love to win this book and read it to my nephews and other family members. Thanks for the offer!

    29. LeeAnn

      I loved the interview and learning more about Mary Ann.
      I would love to win these books to add to my collection of Amish books and to have them handy when I have grandchildren. What a treat it would be to share something like this with them!

    30. I’m almost finished with Life with Lily and I’m truly enjoying it! I don’t have little ones around and wasn’t sure I’d enjoy reading an entire book aimed at that age group, even though I love the writing of both Suzanne and Mary Ann. I was so happy to find that reading it, no matter what age, was as enjoyable as I had hoped. I’d love to win a copy because it’s going on my gift-giving list this holiday season. Can’t wait for book #2. Congrats to the authors!!

      1. Life with Lily

        Hi Beth!
        You’re one of the first to have read the book! So happy to hear that you enjoyed it, even as an adult. I’m hoping that will be the case for all four books! It has a universal appeal. Thanks for your encouraging post! Warmly, Suzanne

    31. Sara Mandal-Joy

      How delightful...

      I have a special needs adult son who reads at that level, and who enjoys relating with our Amish neighbors. He will love these books. I’m thinking Christmas… Sara

    32. Judy J

      This is a great interview and I’m so looking forward to reading these books. I have been very interested in Amish life and have read many novels and anything I can get my hands on – visit the Amish areas in Wisconsin often. Several of my granddaughters have also become interested in the Amish so we visit together and share comments. I know they will also be interested in these books, even though they are older – in the very near future they will want to share them with their children as well. Thanks for supplying us with great information.

    33. Amy Laura

      Loving Mary Ann

      I enjoy reading Mary Ann’s blog, and am excited to purchase her book for my first grade classroom. I’ve got some high readers that will enjoy it. Of course, a free one would be even better!

    34. Annmarie

      I was so pleased to read your post today. I began reading Mary Ann’s blog a while back and from there became Facebook friends with her. Would love to win the book giveaway. I have 1 daughter who truly is an old soul and would love to read these books. As your blog Erik..

      1. Thank Annmarie, and thanks of course to Mary Ann and Suzanne for taking the time to share here.

    35. Connie Kiers

      Life With Lily

      They might be children’s books, but I myself would love to read this set of books….and I live the cover of book 1

      1. Connie Kiers

        oops I LOVE the cover of Book 1

    36. Susan F

      informative interview

      Your interview was fascinating! I’m curious about all the clothing differences that you found in your move. Were these differences simply to identify each group or were there Biblical, historical or regional reasons for these differences? I appreciate your comments about Breaking Amish; this program is truly cringe-worthy! I enjoyed Out of Order much more.

      1. Susan F, I was never present at the writing of a “ordnungs brief”/list of rules so I don’t know how they decide on the hows and whys of the way their clothes will be made and worn. Sorry I can’t be of more help in answering your question.

    37. Lily

      My daughter is 10, but truth be told, I’d like to read these books myself.

    38. Bob Koehler

      Life with Lily

      I hope to have a chance to read your books to my grandchildren.

    39. Carolyn B

      First where are the fathers and grandpas who also should be entering this contest on behalf of granddaughters?

      I’m a grown woman who enjoys children’s literature too. Anything Amish is anticipated with great joy.

      Erik, please enter me in the contest too.

      Thanks so much for the interview and the possibility of getting to read these books sometime soon. If I don’t win, I’m hitting up my local children’s dept in the public library.

    40. Cheryl Baranski

      Would love to win Life with Lily.
      THat way I could read it and share it with a friend’s daughters.

    41. jeannette quigley doenges

      Mary Ann Kinsinger on an Amish upbringing

      I love the rest of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books, so therefore, I just know this will be a fantastic addition to the rest of Suzanne’s family stories. I think the collaboration on the cover of the book turned out wonderful.

      I am anxious to see the writing style of Mary Ann incorporated with. Suzann ‘s style.

      I hope the contest is still in effect on Life with Lily 3-book giveaway, if not at least I found another format on amish life with Amish America. Thank you berg much.

    42. Tia Johnson

      Would love to give these books to my nieces. I love Amish fiction. Great interview too.

    43. Cindy Elliott

      Would love to win this book by two wonderful authors! Thank you for the chance to win. Blessings on your new release ladies.

    44. Marilyn from NY

      Comment on Mary Ann Kinsinger on an Amish Upbringing

      I enjoy reading Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books. In fact, I just got her book The Haven from the library today. Even though I am an adult, I would love to read her book, The Lily. In fact I would love to read the whole series.

    45. Anne Hendrix

      Amish literature for children

      The children’s books sound delightful, and I want to read them. My first exposure to the the Amish culture was a book I read in elementary school in the ’70’s. It was called “Plain Girl”. That began my fascination with the Amish. I wish I could find that book now.


      Here in our home, my wife, my two daughters, and myself are voracious readers. We like any book that is about plain family living. It is so good to read any book without profane language throughout the story.
      Thanks to all who write, publish, and distribute this type
      of book.

    47. Connie

      Would love to read this. Please enter me in your giveaway!


    48. Richard from Amish Stories

      I dont believe I have read any books relating to the Amish since I was very young, so let me just cut to the chase here and say I wouldn’t mind giving Suzanne’s book a look.

      Richard from

    49. Jackie Szadkowski


      I enjoyed this interview. I have always found the Amish life interesting and enjoy reading what I can to understand their lifestyle. Thank you for this opportunity to allow me to learn some more about the Amish, this time directly from Mary Ann, a former member of The Old Order Amish.

    50. Kathy Rowe

      Life with Lily

      Please enter me in the three book giveaway. Sounds like a great set of books. Love Amish fiction. There are many good Amish fiction writers out there.
      As usual, a great interview, Erik!