For Child Abuse Prevention month, I am running a Kickstarter for my book "Lena & the Dragon", which focuses on childhood trauma and resiliency. We are currently running a Flash Sale on donated books- $6 donates a book to a foster/adoption agency, mental health center, children's advocacy center, or other nonprofit. Please consider donating here!
This week we continue our series on Child Abuse Prevention and related issues. War can cause collective child abuse experiences of abuse, neglect, and trauma. Many children in Ukraine are living out this reality right now.
With that in mind, and with the plethora of tough topics on the news these past two years, we invited Sarah Lynne Real to discuss her book "The Breaking News" on the blog this week.
Sarah Lynne Reul is an author, illustrator and award-winning animator who likes science, tiny things and drawing on photos.
After years in science museum education, she was lured back to school by the magic of making drawings come to life. Armed with an MFA in 2D animation, she now strives to pack the energy of animation into each illustration.
Her books include THE BREAKING NEWS, ALLIE ALL ALONG, PET THE PETS and NERP!, as well as the upcoming BUBBIE & RIVKA’S BEST-EVER CHALLAH (SO FAR!). www.reuler.com
Sarah, thank you for joining me this week! What inspired you to write The Breaking News?
There are so many awful things going on in the news all the time, and those are compounded by the past traumas we’ve all been through. Around the time I started writing this book, I was feeling particularly upset by a recent piece of the awful news, when I came across this quote by Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,
"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
As much as we try to shield our children from the worst of reality, they can often feel it anyway.
I know that so many kids want to find a way to help. I wrote this book because I want to be one of the helpers too. I hope this story might, in some small way, counter sadness and fear with a little bit of hope and humanity.
I love that motivation, wanting to be one of the helpers. I think as authors and illustrators we may not realize that we can be one of those helpers!
As you are both author and illustrator, what was the process like for you? Did you start with an image or text?
My process of writing & illustration goes back and forth quite a bit. I’ll often start with a rough draft of the words, will attempt to figure out the page breaks, and then will make super rough thumbnail sketches of how I’d like to communicate each spread. Often I’ll find that I need to change some of the language, or shift the page breaks to heighten the impact of each scene. I’ll go back and forth, refining each side, and when I think it’s starting to make sense, I’ll share it with family members, critique partners & my agent for feedback.
Do you have a scene in the finished book that is your favorite?
The bedtime scene is one of my favorites - the glow of the lamp, the dad exhausted, collapsed on the bed, the little girl trying to figure out what she can do, the mom preoccupied with the baby in the background. At the time that I drew this, it felt like a scene right out of my own life. I also liked putting in all of the details in the background - a suggestion for a pink bunny came from one of my daughters, and I put a cow made of glass as a nod to one of my favorite books when I was growing up, SARAH’S ROOM written by Doris Orgel & illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
There have been so many big, difficult things on the news the past few years and especially now. Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves?
Kids are always asking me “What is the actual ‘news’ that happens in THE BREAKING NEWS?”
I usually answer them with another question: “Why do you think I decided not to focus on what the news was in the book?”
It was important to me that we never quite understand the nature of the actual news that is reported within the story. I wanted to leave it open ended, and to leave that question unanswered so that each reader could interpret, drawing from their own experiences. I also wanted the focus to be on the helpers, rather than on the news itself, which gets plenty of airtime in our media channels.
THE BREAKING NEWS is ultimately about our reactions to the worst things that we can’t control - and how we don’t need to give up hope just because there is so much fear, doubt & despair in the world.
How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use The Breaking News to engage in deeper conversations with kids?
There are also more resources on THE BREAKING NEWS page of my website, including a video read-aloud and to help kids draw and write how they might help make things better.
Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being didactic and trying to make everything tie up neatly. It helps to zoom in on details, rather than zoom out to a more generalized, lesson-y overview. Try to stay true to the legitimate feelings that you & your loved ones go through in difficult times, even if they’re messy.
Sarah, thank you again for taking the time so share your work and story with us. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?
My book BUBBIE & RIVKA’S BEST-EVER CHALLAH (SO FAR!) will be coming out from Abrams in the fall. It’s a story about a little girl and her grandma trying to make the best of (many) not-so-successful attempts to bake bread. It’s available for pre-order now from Abrams or wherever you like to buy books!
Thank you all for joining us for Picture Book Therapy Thursday! Don't forget to visit us next week for a chat with Dimity Powell!