Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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A few weeks ago I received an invitation to participate in a project–a new online platform for sharing books. That sounded like my cup of tea.
I have always loved browsing bookshops and wandering through the stacks in libraries, scanning the shelves to see what catches my eye. Often a book on one topic will lead me to others. That is how Shepherd works, except in an online environment. Authors are asked to share their favourite books on topics or themes they are passionate about. As you browse, you get to know more about the writers you love, and at the same time learn about new books you might enjoy.
My contribution is “Best Books for Children About Gardening as Community Building” (guess which of my books is featured ). With two new books on the way this spring I may get a chance to contribute more.
Please check my page. You might find your next favourite read!
You can find it here: https://shepherd.com/best-books/gardening-as-community-building
What a treat to open this post from the 49th Shelf on their most anticipated spring books for young readers and find not one, but BOTH my new books mentioned in the first paragraph.
The Sun in My Tummy (Pajama Press) and The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything (Kids Can Press) will launch in April and May respectively. I am thrilled that they are both included among so many other wonderful books by Canadian artists and illustrators.
You can read the blog post here: https://49thshelf.com/Blog/2022/03/14/Most-Anticipated-Our-2022-Books-for-Young-Readers-Spring-Preview?fbclid=IwAR2Rcm1ABKuHjqrNBowWZkEmOSNeGhNPpBgb2YolzR-0rqphAmfrmNdYLEI
Make Room has a little sibling!
Back in 2016 Paraclete Press published my book Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter. Last year they invited me to take up the challenge of transforming it into a board book for the littlest listeners. This was a far more difficult process than I had imagined as it involved paring an almost-2000 word text back to 200 words. But I hope that you will find the newer version to be just as meaningful and useful as the original.
Make Space for Jesus launched today and I was delighted to have a chance to discuss it with Glenys Nellist, author of many lovely books for children (including one coming out from Paraclete Press in 2024). Glenys and I have connected before through social media, but this was our first opportunity to speak in person (albeit at a distance) and it was such a pleasure. Our host was Rachel McKendree from Paraclete Press–gracious as always!
You can listen to the interview here: https://fb.watch/bUvNgr0dFU/
I always love it when Traci and I get a chance to talk about stuff that matters to us, though we don’t often do it publicly. On this occasion, however, Traci invited me to join her on Zoom to discuss a topic close to her heart (and directly related to her most recent book, Faithful Families for Lent, Easter, and Resurrection), namely, A Theology of the Cross for Children: Beyond Substitutionary Atonement, and I decided to be brave and share my musings.
We had what Traci calls a “long and lazy conversation” about all sorts of things–the sort of meandering exploration that doesn’t happen as much any more in these days of quick headlines and soundbites. It was a rare pleasure.
I thought I’d share the link here both because readers who know Read, Wonder, Listen (52:51) and Make Room (33:08) may be interested in some of the thought process and history behind those books. But readers with no interest in theology or religious education might also be curious about how our entire conversation ended up coming around to Maria Mitchell and The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything (1:21:46) and the high value she placed on intellectual freedom and healthy skepticism.
You can listen to our discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzSwJPc6ao8
Somehow, no matter how heavy the subject matter, Traci and I end up laughing. This time was no exception 🙂
Have I mentioned how much I love picture books?
I am always happy to have an opportunity to share why I love this particular form of storytelling. Recently I had an opportunity to write a short piece for the Autumn 2021 issue of Vocations, a publication of my alma mater, Knox College. Part of the purpose of the piece is to highlight our growing collection of picture books in the library, but it also offers a few thoughts on why picture books are so valuable for people of all ages.
Here is a link to a PDF of the magazine (my article is on page 6): https://knox.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-10-Autumn-Vocations-smaller.pdf
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
I’ve been eager to share this and now I can!
A few years ago I became fascinated by the American astronomer Maria Mitchell, whose life story is a significant part of the book Figuring, by Maria Popova. Naturally, I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing a picture book biography about her so I could share her story with a younger audience. This process was well underway when I discovered that there already was a beautiful picture book about Maria Mitchell called What Miss Mitchell Saw, written by Haley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I found a copy and was pleased to discover that because the two books narrate different portions of Mitchell’s life, they are actually very complementary. A life as rich as Maria Mitchell’s can definitely inspire multiple tellings!
In the months to come I will have much more to say about my own book. For now, just let me say how thrilled I am to have had the opportunity to work with the amazing Ellen Rooney. Her attention to detail, care for historical accuracy, and subtle sense of humour enliven the story on every page. Just look at that cover and feel the awe!
The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell will be released on May 3, 2022 but it is available now for pre-order: https://www.amazon.ca/Astronomer-Who-Questioned-Everything-Mitchell/dp/1525303481/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+astronomer+who+questioned+everything&qid=1633379659&sr=8-1