Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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In a little less than a month my new book with take its first breaths.
Reviews are starting to appear for Breathe and today I am happy to share one from a long-time friend. Gary Hansen is a church historian, teacher, writer, and also a dad, so he knows about kids and picture books as well as theology.
Gary blogs about theology, spirituality, community, and ministry in a thoughtful and accessible way. I continually learn new things from him and am grateful that he has taken time to read and comment on my book.
To read Gary’s review of Breathe and explore his blog further, click here:https://garynealhansen.com/breathe-a-childs-guide-to-ascension-pentecost-and-the-growing-time-a-new-book-by-laura-alary/?fbclid=IwAR1yDo-ghrct62GiIBXRjjt9hDsFFlOwXUslnVleDyyvd_FZ_g6BLAKPaBA
I was absolutely delighted to learn this week that What Grew in Larry’s Garden has been shortlisted for the 2021 IODE Jean Throop Book Award!
We are fortunate to have so many fine authors and illustrators in Ontario. It really is an honour to be part of that community, and to see Larry’s Garden among this list of nominees.
To learn more about the award and to see a list of past winners, click here: https://www.iodeontario.ca/iode-jean-throop-book.html
“What Grew in Larry’s Garden is a truly charming read that proves amazing things can grow in both our gardens and our lives when tended with human kindness and patience.”
Good reviews are like a nourishing rain. They refresh weary writers!
This one, from The Canadian Review of Materials (CM Magazine), was a welcome treat in my inbox today. CM Magazine is an online publication written by teachers, teacher-librarians, public librarians, and university professors who have special interest and expertise in children’s literature–in other words, people who know their stuff! A positive review from someone who works with and understands children is particularly gratifying.
Amy Westbury teaches grade 6 and 7 at Abbey Lane Public School in Oakville, Ontario. I am grateful to her for taking the time to read and review What Grew in Larry’s Garden. You can read the full review here: https://www.cmreviews.ca/node/2083
Last year I wrote a short guide for those preparing to accompany children on the journey through Lent. Somehow I neglected to share it on my website, so I am adding it this year. It is still as relevant as ever–perhaps even more so as many of us are looking for ways to observe this season at home.
Walk This Way: A Lenten Resource for Families is a collection of simple reflections, wondering questions, and suggestions for different forms of prayer, all based on one of my favourite things–picture books!
The guide is available as a free downloadable PDF from The Presbyterian Church in Canada. You can find it here: https://presbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/Walk_This_Way_Lenten_Resource-1.pdf
Going in circles is not generally considered a good thing. It suggests aimlessness—a kind of frantic spinning that goes nowhere. But some circles are purposeful.
My dad and I made this wooden puzzle ages ago. For years I used it to tell children the story of the liturgical year. We would take out the pieces, talk about what each special day meant, then see if we could put the whole thing back together, marveling at how we could keep travelling through those same days over and over, but find new things in them each time.
Tomorrow we follow the curve into the season of Lent.
For many years, that smudge of ash that marked the beginning of this season spoke to me of separation—the death that will one day divide me from all that is familiar and beloved.
But this year the ashes are whispering messages of belonging and oneness: the elements I share with the material world, the Mystery from which we all emerge and within which we live and breathe, and “the stars that blaze in our bones and the galaxies that spiral inside the smudge we bear.” (Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace)
We are all connected.
I have written three books which are meant to accompany children on their journey around the circle of the church year. Make Room is for Lent and Easter, Look! is for Advent and Christmas. In April they will be joined by their companion, Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time (Paraclete Press). I hope you will join me around the circle.
Here is a link to to learn more about or preorder Breathe: https://paracletepress.com/products/breathe
Today my thoughts are a colourful jumble.
I have spent some time reading over drafts of stories, editing those that have promise, sifting through books of handwritten notes, researching potential publishers, crafting cover letters, and contemplating how to promote books old and new.
My upcoming publications include a picture book biography of the astronomer Maria Mitchell, a book about Pentecost, a poetic introduction to photosynthesis and food webs, and a based-on-a-true-story tale set during WWI. In short, there is a lot of variety, and while it is all worthwhile and exciting, my thoughts and plans seem to be all over the place.
When I take a step back and ask myself whether there is any consistency in the chaos, I notice certain themes: attentiveness, mindfulness, compassion, awe, wonder, connection.
When I first started writing for children I chose to tell stories based on what interested me. But more recently I have been asking myself: What kinds of stories do we need to hear? I have a feeling this question will bring some focus to the jumble–but hopefully not make it any less colourful.
Over the summer I was interviewed by Pieta Woolley, who was researching the history and development of children’s bibles for Broadview Magazine. She wanted to talk about Read, Wonder, Listen: Stories from the Bible for Young Readers, the collection of bible stories I wrote for Wood Lake Books.
We had a fairly lengthy conversation about the process of selecting and retelling stories–both acts of interpretation–and the motivation that lay behind it.
While only a tiny portion of that conversation is reflected in the published article, it was valuable to me to reflect more intentionally on why I chose to tell (or not to tell) particularly stories, what principles guided my interpretation, and what I hoped my work might offer to children.
Here is a snippet: “In her introduction, [Alary] summarizes high-level biblical interpretation and invites children to approach scripture in a sophisticated way. ‘The fact that people in the Bible disagree about things tells us that we can still be the people of God even if we do not think the same way about everything,’ she writes. ‘What matters is learning to ask good questions, to listen carefully, to think deeply, and — as Jesus taught and showed us — to love one another.’
To read the whole article, click here: https://broadview.org/childrens-bibles/