Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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I began taking online courses from Spirituality & Practice years ago. Writers like Cynthia Bourgeault turned my comfortable ideas inside out and upside down; Jane Vennard transformed my understanding of prayer; Maggie Oman Shannon opened up my prayer practice in new and meaningful (even playful) ways. I love how Spirituality & Practice invites people to explore the life of the spirit with creativity and compassion.
I also love their book and movie reviews.
For years I have hoped that one day I would have a book reviewed on their website.
Well, guess what happened yesterday?
“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.”
You can read the full review by Patricia Campbell Carlson here.
Back in 2015 I stumbled upon a blog called Picture Book Theology. Not only did the author, Hanna Brown Schock, clearly share my passion for picture books, she also demonstrated a wonderful openness to the way all sorts of books–not just explicitly faith-based ones–can nourish the spirits, hearts, and minds of readers of all ages. I sensed she might be a kindred spirit, so I sent her a message and told her about the sorts of books I write. She had a bit of trouble tracking them down at first (this was almost eight years ago so my American distribution was more limited). But once she did, she invited me to be part of her very first Guest Author post on PBT.
Since then, our paths have crossed online and–at last–in person!
Hanna brings great depth and sensitivity to her reading and interpretation of texts of all kinds, including picture books. I respect her opinion, so was particularly happy when she chose to feature Here: The Dot We Call Home on her blog.
After summarizing the movement of the story outward from a child’s room to the far reaches of the solar system, Hanna writes: “Our intelligent tour guide ends this thought exercise with a far view of our globe; Dot can look very small from space. She lovingly wishes she could care for all of Earth for the people who are to come after her. “But it is too big. And I am so small.” So she engages in a beautiful practice! When feeling overwhelmed by the issues of our globe, she says to herself, “But I can love this… and this.”
Mindful moments and small acts of creation care serve to boost her hope about the resilience of our home and its inhabitants.”
“Alary & Peterslund offer a remarkable construction of the breadth of the subject of home and the details that give it beauty and meaning. Through a thoughtful imaginary journey to the past and consideration for the future, the narrator models how to sense a calling for the present! The clarity & detail of the illustrations tell stories beyond the words so be sure to spend some time exploring those images. This keen-eyed girl invites all to gaze gratefully. She may be small and the subject of her worries big, but her vision and agency are expansive. Let her encourage your own children to care for our Dot so that we don’t leave so much ugliness behind.”
You can read the entire review, including suggestions for further discussion, here.
When Terrie Hellard-Brown invited me to be a guest on her Books That Spark podcast, it was to talk about Here: The Dot We Call Home. As it turns out, we spoke about many books, including some of mine, and others that are dear to me.
Terrie even asked me to name my favourite picture book! I did manage to narrow it down to one small masterpiece that I return to over and over, and another exquisite story about the earth that is a beautiful accompaniment to Here.
To find out more, listen to our conversation here.
When Lisa Day invited me to talk about The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything on her blog, Book Time, I was delighted. I don’t often get an opportunity to say so much about a book, but Lisa really did question everything!
This picture book biography about Maria Mitchell is about so many things: the history of science (not only astronomy, but navigation too); the development of women’s rights, especially in the areas of education and science; finding your vocational path through trial and error; the benefits of practice (and boredom); the power of mindfulness to give us insight into ourselves.
Some of my favourite questions were:
You can read the responses–and the rest of our conversation–here.
Picture Books, Eh? started as a way to promote the work of Canadian writers and illustrators releasing new books in 2022. Somehow I missed the memo and did not learn about it until the year was well underway, but lucky for me Andrea Blinick, illustrator of Sun in My Tummy, was more on the ball.
Here is a terrific interview in which Andrea talks about her process for creating art–from character development to sketching thumbnails–and gives us a sneak peek behind-the-scenes of Sun in My Tummy. She even reveals some of her favourite spread in the book–and I imagine it is not easy for an artist to choose just one.
I am intrigued by Andrea’s reference to playing with darkness and light in a new book she is working on and can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next!
You can learn more about Andrea on her website or follow her on Instagram @andreablinickillustration.
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)
I’ve followed 49th Shelf for years because they have such great book suggestions–all featuring Canadian writers and illustrators.
I’m delighted that this year Sun in My Tummy has been included in their summer reading list! The list is a kind of Top-40 for Canadian kids books and I am tickled to be sharing the shelf (see image above) with writers like Michelle Kadarusman and David Robertson.
You can explore the full list here.