Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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A playful yet profound take on the phrase “I contain multitudes”
A little girl admires her nana’s wooden nesting dolls that sit side by side on the windowsill. They all look exactly the same: pink cheeks, frilly aprons, and big smiles—except for the tiniest doll, which is small and unpainted and looks like a raw peanut. The girl thinks the matching smiles of all the other dolls don’t feel quite right. After all, she has many different faces and feelings inside of her, and the dolls should too!
Starting with the peanut, the girl draws new expressions on all the dolls’ faces, from toothy grins to grimaces. But when Nana sees what her granddaughter has done, she’s furious and says the dolls are ruined. The girl disagrees. “If those dolls were me,” she says, “no two would be alike.” When Nana considers what her granddaughter is telling her, she slowly begins to understand. With a hug, and a warning to ask before embarking on any more art projects, Nana proudly returns the dolls to their spot.
This bright, uplifting story about honoring and acknowledging emotions also touches on communication skills, creative self-expression, and conflict resolution. Written with humor and honesty, it reminds readers that, just like nesting dolls, there’s more to us than meets the eye.
Written by Laura Alary, illustrated by Salini Perera, published by Owlkids Books
Publication Date: October 15, 2023
Available now for preorder
When a child finds clues that others have lived in her house before her, she begins to wonder about them, and about those who will come after her. The more she wonders, the more her sense of home expands, stretching to include an entire planet.
With her thoughtful approach and her unique ability to make big concepts engaging and personal to children, Laura Alary invites readers along for the ride, zooming through time and space to the outer reaches of our solar system for a new perspective on the planet we share. The child marvels: How can something so big seem so small? But also: How can something so small seem so big? Overwhelmed by the mess that humans have left behind, in the end she realizes that there is only one thing to do: start where she is.
In spare and simple words, Here: The Dot We Call Home helps children begin to think of themselves as both descendants and ancestors, and to comprehend that people of every place and time share one home, and the task of looking after it.
Order from Paraclete Press or Amazon or your favourite local bookseller.
A discussion guide is available as a free download from Paraclete Press.
“This is a book I wish every child everywhere could have read to them when they’re young, then read to themselves when they’re older, and then read to their children when they’re much older. The book your child, grandchild, or student needs is HERE!” —Brian D. McLaren, author of Corey and the Seventh Story
“In Here: The Dot We Call Home, Laura Alary reminds us that home is the daily spaces we inhabit, the history we are a part of, and the universe that holds us. In this book, she beautifully weaves humanity into relationship with the creatures around us and the Earth herself, reminding us that while we can’t fix all the problems we encounter, we can be present to the life we’ve been given. That is enough. I’m so grateful for this book and what it will teach kids and adults alike about how to practice kinship and belonging.” —Kaitlin Curtice, award-winning author of Native
“Laura Alary’s The Dot We Call Home, teaches children to be co-sustainers in a real place, right where they are. What could be more important, loving, or more human than that?” —Randy Woodley, author of Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth
“Alary’s book draws us into the intimacy of our immediate home and then expands us out into ever widening circles to our biggest home—deep time and deep space. What a terrific message for children to learn…and feel!” —Jennifer Morgan, President of Deeptime Network
“Creation care starts at home as Laura Alary shows in this beautiful, delightful, and heartwarming book.” —Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Professor of Theology and author of Invisible
“Amidst climate catastrophe, how do we lovingly prepare kids for all that is to come? Perhaps the first step is to invite children to fall intimately in love with the place that nourishes their bodies. And to remember that we are part of a story that has gone on before us and will continue after we are gone. Laura Alary invites us into this beautiful work through the eyes of one child offering joy, memory, and imagination about our place on this planet.” —Lydia Wylie-Kellerman, editor of The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World
“A perfect book for anyone who cares about the Earth and children! Laura Alary offers a vision of hope at a time when many kids feel powerless. With lyrical writing and beautiful pictures, The Dot We Call Home invites people to find love and possibility.” —Amelia Richardson Dress, author of The Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times
“How can a young child come to understand their place between the microcosm of quarks and the macrocosm of vast space? How can they begin knitting together the complex relationships between the present moment, their ancestors’ lives, and future generations? These are enormous questions, and Laura Alary — who has a background in theology and biblical studies — does not hesitate to approach them. She offers clarity and gentleness suited to five-to-ten years olds’ sensitivity about where they belong in the grand scheme of things.” —Patricia Campbell Carlson, Spirituality and Practice (Read the full review here)
Perfect for fans of STEM, this inspiring picture book biography tells the extraordinary story of pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchell.
Maria longed to travel beyond her small island of Nantucket. But she wasn’t sure how. Her father taught her to look to the stars for guidance. If you knew how to read them, he said, the stars could tell you where you were, and where you needed to go. They spent hours scanning the night sky together through a telescope on the roof. Maria learned how to use astronomers’ tools to measure and track time by the stars. But what could she do with her skills? Then, one day, she heard that a prize was being offered to the first person to find a new comet. Could this be the opportunity she was waiting for?
This absorbing picture book biography by Laura Alary tells the fascinating, though not well-known, story of a remarkable nineteenth-century woman scientist and women’s rights advocate. After winning that prize for discovering a comet, Maria Mitchell would go on to become the first professional female astronomer in the United States, first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of the first female college professors.
Beautifully illustrated with lovely textured artwork by Ellen Rooney, this is a well-told story with a teachable STEM component, supporting both science and social studies curriculums, that supports a growth mindset. It’s also a wonderful guide sure to inspire readers to find their own way in the world. It includes backmatter that further describes Maria’s impressive life and achievements.
Available from your favourite bookseller or through Amazon.
There are some excellent resources about Maria Mitchell for students and teachers available on the website of The Maria Mitchell Association.
School Library Journal (Starred Review)
Awards and Honours:
CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens 2022 (starred review)
Rise: A Feminist Booklist 2023 Honoree
The cooking of a healthy breakfast moves from parent-child bonding to an eloquent conversation about energy, the growth of plants, and the miraculous ways the sun’s light nourishes us all.
It began with the sun,
Who showers the earth
With heat and light—
Tiny packets of energy.
How does a home-cooked breakfast give a little girl the energy she needs for a brand-new day? In gently expressive language, her mother takes readers on a journey into the earth where sleepy seeds are tickled awake and grow into golden oats; into blueberry patches, where green leaves break apart water and air to build sweet sugar; and into a pasture where sun becomes grass, becomes cow, becomes milk.
Author Laura Alary’s free verse breaks big ideas into child-sized pieces, making Sun in My Tummy an accessible introduction to the concepts of matter and energy, and how the sun’s light becomes fuel for our bodies through the food we eat. Andrea Blinick’s mixed-media illustrations pair the cozy and homelike with the glowing and dramatic as she takes readers from the kitchen to the farm field and to the sky and back. A concluding Author’s Note shares further information about photosynthesis for young readers.
Available now through your favourite independent bookseller or Amazon.
A downloadable Teaching Guide is available from the Pajama Press website.
To learn more about the background to Sun in My Tummy, here is an interview from Open Book.
Reviews and Awards:
2023-2024 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee (K-3)
School Library Journal (starred review)
Quill and Quire (starred review) [Jan/Feb 2022 edition]
CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens 2022 (starred review)
CM: Canadian Review of Materials (Highly Recommended)
At the heart of Breathe lies a puzzle: How can Jesus go away, yet promise to be with us always? Can we trust someone who comes and goes so mysteriously?
In the style of Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter and Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas, Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost and the Growing Time explores the comings and goings of Jesus and the Spirit through retellings of the biblical stories of Ascension and Pentecost, interwoven with contemporary reflections from the point of view of a child.
Moving beyond long ago and far away events, Breathe guides children to wonder about and watch for the presence and work of the Spirit here and now, in practices of prayer and mindfulness, and through acts of justice, generosity, and the sweet taste of kindness.
In the end, the young narrator arrives as a satisfactory solution to the puzzle: the Spirit that was in Jesus is in us too. We are his body now, his way of being in the world. Whenever we choose the way of love, Jesus is there. Always.
Order your copy from Paraclete Press.
A downloadable activity guide is also available through Paraclete Press.
Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world.
Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas presents Advent as special time for waiting and watching—paying attention—to the ways God comes to us.
An invitation for children to wonder about the Lenten story.
A gentle exploration of how children might pray, and how adults can help them understand some of the mystery of prayer.
A story that explores what it is like to make choices that are different from the cultural norm.
A story about not holding on to things too tightly, and the surprises that can happen when we dare to let go.
Imagine a story big enough to include everyone.
A story about what we mean when we say something is true.
I recently learned that Sun in My Tummy has been nominated for a Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award.
This award is sponsored by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. Its purpose is “to promote the reading of quality books by young people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to promote teacher and librarian involvement in children’s and young adult literature, and to honor authors whose works have been recognized by the students of Pennsylvania.”
There is something particularly gratifying about being included in a list of nominees selected by young readers. I am also super chuffed to be nominated alongside Pajama Press authors Michelle Kadarusman and Colleen Nelson–and my co-creator, illustrator Andrea Blinick.
You can see the full list of nominees here.
For many years a regular part of summer was taking my children to our local branch of the Toronto Public Library and signing up for the TD Summer Reading Club. They all enjoyed reading anyway, but the prizes (more books!) were a really fun incentive and not a year went by when I didn’t feel grateful for this gift to kids and communities across the country.
This year I was absolutely thrilled to discover that Sun in My Tummy (Pajama Press) has been selected as a Top Recommended Read! It brings me joy to think of children across the country encountering my book through their public libraries, and maybe having a bit of fun pondering how their favourite summer snacks connect them to soil, clouds, air, trees–and the sun!
And if that wasn’t enough, one afternoon I received a message from a friend who works at a library in Coldwater, letting me know that I have a second book on the list. The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell (Kids Can Press) is also a 2023 Top Recommended Read!
I’m so happy that both books are going to be part of this summer tradition that means so much to so many children.
Here: The Dot We Call Home (Paraclete Press) is a little book about some very big ideas, including climate crisis, what it means to be both a descendant and an ancestor, and our place in the cosmos. When Patricia Campbell Carlson reviewed the book for Spirituality and Practice, she acknowledged the scope of the book and the ways it seeks to open “a wider envelope for belonging.”
I felt that the review truly captured the essence of the story and felt honoured that an organization whose work I respect greatly had taken the time to read and feature my book.
Today, that sense of honour increased when I learned that Here has been selected as one of the Spirituality and Practice Best Spiritual Books of 2022.
“These are the titles that have most impressed and inspired us during the year,” explain the editors. “Since we only review books that we want to recommend to you for your spiritual journey, this selection actually represents the best of the best. Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions and spiritual paths, these books explore the quest for meaning and purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation and activism. We congratulate the authors and publishers of these exceptional contributions to today’s spiritual renaissance.”
You can find the full list here.
Rise: A Feminist Book Project has been promoting quality feminist literature since 2002 as part of the Feminist Task Force and Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.
Every year, the project compiles a list of “well-written and well-illustrated” books which “celebrate girls and women as a vibrant, vital force in the world.” It is important to the committee that the books selected focus on protagonists who consciously call out and work to eliminate sexism and other systemic prejudices, empowering and striving for the rights of others.
I am thrilled that The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell (written by me, illustrated by Ellen Rooney, and published by Kids Can Press) has been selected for the 2023 list.
One of the things that drew me to Maria Mitchell was how her sharp wit and critical thinking skills were bound together with generosity of spirit and a keen social conscience. She sought not only her own advancement, but that of her students and others who faced unjust limits on their growth and freedom.
As a professor and advocate for the higher education of women, she pushed back and spoke out against unreasonable rules and restrictions imposed on women. But she also challenged women themselves to set their expectations higher, and helped her students realize they were capable of more than they sometimes allowed themselves to imagine.
I’m grateful to Rise for helping make her story—and this book—more widely known.
You can see the full list of 2023 honorees here.
I try to keep on top of reviews of my books. I also try to keep on top of other Canadian books being published–and Helen Kubiw’s CanLit for Little Canadians blog is one of the best ways to do that.
However, somehow I completely missed this review when it came out in May. I found it today and decided to share to here because it is so thoughtful and thorough in its description of what I sought to do in this book. For example:
“Too many children and adults have a disconnect between what they eat and where it came from. They either don’t know about milk cows and grains and fruit and how they are raised or cultivated or harvested or cannot see the connection between farms and how the food gets into the stores from which we often buy. By associating the sun of our environment with the warmth in our belly from hearty food, Laura Alary relates science concepts like photosynthesis, energy and life cycles with the familiar events like waking in the morning, having breakfast, and growing. Connecting the familiar with the unfamiliar is always an important means to forge learning.”
You can read the full review here.
It was a real pleasure to chat with Valerie Ellis of Our Everyday Parables.
Writing books is a fairly solitary pursuit, but promoting them is certainly not. Without the hospitality and enthusiasm of bloggers and educators and instagrammers, it would be much more difficult to reach the people who might be interested in my work.
Valerie invited me specifically to talk about my latest book, Here: The Dot We Call Home, and a seasonal favourite, Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas. But we also talked about my journey to becoming an author, what the season of Advent is all about, the significance of being both descendants and ancestors, and more.
You can watch and listen to our conversation here.
For more ideas, resources, and book recommendations, check out https://oureverydayparables.com/