Laura Alary

Laura Alary

Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside

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The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell

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: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1525303481?pf_rd_r=AY597XC5RSD8AG8H3S3W&pf_rd_p=05326fd5-c43e-4948-99b1-a65b129fdd73&pd_rd_r=96e75d26-97d9-478b-9045-36928f1b70c2&pd_rd_w=2FnlK&pd_rd_wg=Igv2V&ref_=pd_gw_unk

The Maria Mitchell Association has some excellent resources about Maria Mitchell for students and teachers: https://www.mariamitchell.org/for-students-and-teachers

Sun in My Tummy

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: https://www.amazon.ca/Sun-My-Tummy-Laura-Alary/dp/1772782416/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=sun+in+my+tummy&qid=1625794233&sr=8-1

A downloadable Teaching Guide is available here: https://pajamapress.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/SunInMyTummyTeachingGuide-1.pdf

Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time

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 ChristmasBreathe: 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.

What Grew in Larry’s Garden

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the wonders of the world.

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Read. Wonder. Listen. Stories from the Bible for Young Readers

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“Every person who tells these stories does it in a slightly different way. And every person who reads these stories hears something a bit different. So even though these stories are very old, they are also always new.”

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Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas

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.

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Make Room Cover

Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter

An invitation for children to wonder about the Lenten story.

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How Do I Pray for Grandpa?

A gentle exploration of how children might pray, and how adults can help them understand some of the mystery of prayer.

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Victor’s Pink Pyjamas

A story that explores what it is like to make choices that are different from the cultural norm.

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Jesse’s Surprise Gift

A story about not holding on to things too tightly, and the surprises that can happen when we dare to let go.

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Mira and the Big Story

Imagine a story big enough to include everyone.

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Is That Story True?

A story about what we mean when we say something is true.

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Holy Shenanigans Podcast: Episode 88

May 9, 2022

We’re up to Holy Shenanigans!

Join me and Pastor Tara Lamont Eastman as we talk Sun in My Tummy, stories, bookmobiles, and love.

When Tara invited me to be her guest and posed three and a half questions about love, I wasn’t quite sure how the threads of my books were going to connect to the theme. But just as the elements of breakfast in Sun in My Tummy all lead back to the sun, so the varied tendrils of our conversation ultimately brought us back to love.

I was particularly moved by the breakfast story Tara tells in her opening words.

You can hear that story and the rest of our conversation here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1347916/10579400

Talking Sun in My Tummy and More with Open Book

May 5, 2022

Open Book celebrates Ontario’s literary scene, with special focus on books and events produced by Ontario’s independent, Canadian-owned publishers. In their own words, “Open Book is committed to showcasing the outstanding range and quality of contemporary Canadian writing and invites readers from Canada and around the world to connect with Ontario’s vibrant book culture.”

What an honour for me to have a chance to talk with Open Book about my latest picture book, Sun in My Tummy, and some of the ideas and inspiration behind it. I also got a chance to share a bit about my own writing process, some of my favourite picture books, and what I think makes for a great kids’ book.

I am really grateful to Open Book for this opportunity and for all they do to lift up the work of Ontario writers, artists, and publishers.

You can read the whole interview here: https://open-book.ca/News/Our-World-is-an-Amazing-Place-Laura-Alary-on-Her-New-Kids-Book-Exploring-Photosynthesis-Food-Connection

Sun in My Tummy: A Conversation With Andrea Blinick and Erin Alladin

May 2, 2022

In lieu of an in-person launch, my collaborators Andrea Blinick (illustrator) and Erin Alladin (editor) and I met virtually to talk about the background to our book Sun in My Tummy.

It was good to have a chance to share a bit of the story behind the story, including reminiscing about a terrific grade six field trip which still fills me with excitement! And I loved peeking behind the scenes as Andrea developed the main character and played with different effects of light and darkness.

Special thanks to my daughter Miriam for doing the video editing. I was terrified that the recording would not work, but I managed to download it successfully, and Miriam stitched the bits and pieces together better than I ever could have. I have learned a lot about technology over the past couple of years, but if you need something done quickly, ask a teenager!

Here is the link to our conversation. I enjoyed it and I hope you do too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwOMI-fAaMM

Coming this fall! Here: The Dot We Call Home

April 27, 2022

I will have lots more to share about this book over the next few months. For now, I will just say that I am delighted to be teaming up once again with Cathrin Peterslund on Here: The Dot We Call Home (Paraclete Press, 2022).

Here: The Dot We Call Home is a simple and enchanting book that invites children to see themselves as both descendants and ancestors, and caretakers of our beautiful planet. 

This is my home. I live here. But I am not the first… 

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. 

Publication date is September 6, 2022 but you can pre-order the book now: https://paracletepress.com/products/here-the-dot-we-call-home?_pos=2&_sid=48229208a&_ss=r

Sun’s Up! Happy Book Birthday!

April 25, 2022

Happy Book Birthday to Sun in My Tummy!

This lyrical introduction to photosynthesis is also a book about mindfulness (and mindful eating), gratitude, and the intricate interconnectedness of the natural world.

It is beautifully illustrated by Andrea Blinick and published by Pajama Press. The publisher has created a free downloadable teaching guide to make the book more user-friendly for teachers. You can find that on the Pajama Press website here: https://pajamapress.ca/resource/sun_in_my_tummy_teaching_guides/

And to bring some warmth to your morning, here is our Sun in My Tummy playlist!

On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4wZCL8AZd5oS9fTV0j1nbS?si=f1966649f4dd4160

On Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/ca/playlist/here-comes-the-sun/pl.u-ZmblVYmh099LKmr

Writing for Your Life: A Conversation with Brian Allain

April 9, 2022

One of the joys of writing is the people you meet.

Over a year ago I was getting ready for the launch of my (then) new book, Breathe, and was thinking about who might consider writing a endorsement for it. At the time I had just discovered that one of my favourite writers, Brian McLaren, had written a children’s book called Corey and the Seventh Story. This made me think that he might be sympathetic to my own aims of writing thoughtful books for children. Asking people to read and endorse your work can be a bit scary, but I decided it was worth a try. To my delight, Brian not only wrote a beautiful endorsement for Breathe, he also mentioned my book Mira and the Big Story on his blog. Those acts of generosity make a big difference to writers like me who are trying to get their work out there.

Another thing Brian did was introduce me to another Brian–Brian Allain, who is the creative force behind Writing for Your Life, an organization that helps support and promote writers of “books with substance and soul.” When Brian invited me to join him in conversation about my path to publication, and my two newest books (Sun in My Tummy and The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything) I was delighted. For me, words always come more easily when I write than when I speak, but Brian made me feel so welcome and relaxed I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him.

You can listen to our conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js4aZJylhSo

To learn more about Writing for Your Life: https://writingforyourlife.com

Quill and Quire Review: Sun in My Tummy

March 29, 2022

I find it both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking when reviews of a new book begin to come in. So you can imagine the delight I felt when I learned that Sun in My Tummy had received a starred review from Quill and Quire!

After describing Sun in My Tummy as a “radiant picture-book homage to our nearest star and main source of energy on earth” the review goes on:

“Unfolding at a leisurely pace, this kitchen table conversation covers a lot of ground, which includes plant life cycles, food webs, and photosynthesis. The rhythmic second-person narration is immediately immersive and full of relatable, child-friendly comparisons: “Not long ago, these oats were a field of swaying grasses. Before that, seeds, snuggled deep in the dark earth, like you in your blankets. What woke them? The sun!”

Scientific concepts are presented in easy-to-understand, lyrical language. Nature is full of surprises, and the chemical process that plants use to transform carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into sugar – which in turn fuels life – is described with beguiling awe and infectious enthusiasm: “Food from thin air!” As the hungry little girl tucks into her bowl of oatmeal and blueberries, delicious prompts like “Is that the taste of sunlight?” encourage inspection, reflection, and sensory engagement.”

You can read the whole thing here: https://quillandquire.com/review/sun-in-my-tummy/