Would you mind if this post starts on a personal note? I hope it’s okay — because here goes. This morning (Monday) I attended the funeral of my dear friend Mary Dunn. I met Mary 18 years ago. She was the instructor of a writing class I took at our local community college. Within the first several minutes of class, it was obvious Mary was a very special teacher. She knew the answer to every question, always had fantastic ideas to improve our works-in-progress, and was incredibly sweet! In fact, her two hour class soon became the highlight of my week.
At our last class session, Mary kindly invited everyone to join a critique group that met at her house. At first, the thought of joining a critique group with “real” writers intimidated me, but Mary calmed my nerves and made me feel right at home. I always looked forward to our monthly meetings at Mary’s where she even served tea and cookies while everyone took turns reading stories out loud.
Although I had no business attempting to write a children’s book (I’m an engineer, which means I didn’t take any writing classes in college), Mary cheered me on and helped me improve my writing. Always the optimist, she kept encouraging this ill-equipped writer through dozens of rejection letters.
With 30 books to her credit, Mary was an accomplished writer. Despite her busy schedule, she always made time to help others. She was my mentor, encourager, and most important — my friend. Without her, I would have given up writing.
2011 Launch party for Mary’s book, Rose Nichols
Thanks for letting me take a moment to honor this sweet lady. I’m forever grateful for her inspiration and friendship (and the lovely afternoon teas we shared in recent years.) I hope every writer (and illustrator) has the good fortune to find a kind, giving mentor like Mary, and maybe even become a mentor to someone else!
So after Mary’s funeral, I decided to go to the library to find a book to feature in this post. I hadn’t had time to select one yet due to editing deadlines and recent “life” happenings (my daughter left home this morning to move to Arizona). I also hoped spending time at the library surrounded by children’s books would help me feel less sad. As always, the “New Picture Books” cart was filled with fresh, beautiful titles. But I didn’t see quite what I was looking. Not today anyway.
So I asked the children’s librarian if there were any recent picture books she particularly enjoyed. She immediately stood up from her desk and told me to follow her. “I’ve been showing this book to everyone. It wordless, and it’s wonderful,” she said, handing me a small book titled BRICK BY BRICK (by Giuliano Ferri).
(Disclaimer: Officially, this is a board book, but it would make a lovely picture book too.)
I was hoping for a book with text, yet the librarian’s enthusiasm made me curious. The cover was adorable! And the clever cutout on the cover which revealed a flower inside caught my eye. So I sat down and slowly turned the pages. Eleven spreads later, I understood the librarian’s zeal.
Without a single word, this tiny book shared an inspiring story of helping, kindness, and hope.
It told the powerful story of tearing down walls and building bridges — to new opportunities, new friendships, and much more,
Its message of kindness and hope seemed to be just what I needed. And perhaps it’s what our world needs too!