Once, as a child, I attended a Baha’i winter school and made the most amazing friend: she was creative, fun and had a smile that lit up the room. She let me read part of a story she was writing and I was so impressed and in awe of her talent with words and her ability to weave a compelling and absorbing story. Fast forward a couple of decades and I am so excited and proud to interview her about her latest project, a book for children about the nature of the soul and life after death. Esther Maloney has a special gift for creating enchanting narratives and I’m delighted to hear all about The Lovebird’s Freedom and how it all came together.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up just outside of Montreal with my family. I’ve realized that moments from my early years with my grandmother Lucille were very formative. She was immensely creative, fun and spiritual. We used paint and glue, we named paths in the forest, we wrote books together, wore costumes, sang songs and used these as ways to think about the big questions of life. Since that time, I have essentially kept doing those exact same things, but as a grown-up. I studied acting at Concordia University and worked as a theatre and film actor for almost a decade in Montreal and Toronto. I produced my own work, acted at the Shaw Festival, was a cartoon voice on CBC, did a bunch of commercials, acted in a film at the Toronto International Film Festival and learned a lot about my craft and process.
Throughout this, I had a nagging curiosity, which was related to how the arts, or making things, could be at the core of all our lives, both individually and in community. I worked with some inspiring community arts organizations through grants and eventually was able to serve with some other Baha’i friends in creating a project with youth who wanted to write their own scripts that extended the reach of some of the spiritual concepts in the junior youth program. Since that time, Illumine Media Project has created a number of short films and episodes which have been shared with thousands of young people and their families in Toronto neighbourhoods and schools. This work has led me to more questions about the role of stories, creative process and media in our lives and I’ve recently finished my MA in Education at the University of Toronto in that area.
Alhan Rahimi is the author of Mulla Husayn: The Story of the Declaration of the Bab for Young Children and Ridvan Garden: The Story of the Festival of Ridvan for Young Children and she has also penned and published The Moon Was There: Glimpses of the Bab’s Childhood for Young Children. As a parent of little ones, I am so grateful to Alhan for creating these materials. Here’s what she shared with us about her book about the childhood of the Bab:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to make the moon your main character?
Not being able to have any illustrations of the Manifestation of God was the main reason for thinking of a some other way to illustrate the story. And why the moon? Well, I think it’s special that the moon, which can be seen from everywhere on this planet, is the same moon that witnessed the Bab’s childhood!
Baha’i Blog: Who is the book’s target audience?
Children under the age of 5. However, anyone can enjoy reading it!
Alhan Rahimi, who you may remember from her children’s book about the Declaration of the Bab or her book about the Birth of the Bab, has just released a new work for little ones related to Baha’i history and its holy days. Her latest book, illustrated by Alina Onipchenko, is called Garden of Ridvan: The Story of the Festival of Ridvan for Young Children and it’s a fantastic resource.
Told from the perspective of one of the garden’s nightingales, this book features soft colorful images and repetition. Written with children around 5 years old or younger in mind, this book is sure to help foster an understanding of the beauty and significance of the Festival of Ridvan. Continue reading
I have never personally met Elaheh Bos but I am so grateful for the materials and resources she creates and produces for children. Her latest: a story book, During Ayyam-i-Ha: How We Celebrate, and an activity book, Ayyam-i-Ha Crafts. (Not sure what Ayyam-i-Ha is? Here’s a Baha’i Blog article called “An Introduction to Ayyam-i-Ha” that might help!)
With the multiple-day Baha’i festival just around the corner, I am thrilled Elaheh was able to share a little bit about her new books. Here’s what she said: Continue reading
Andrea Hope is no stranger to the Baha’i Blog team! In the past, we interviewed her about her spoken word (you can read all about it here). Now she has taken her skills with words to create a book for young children called A is for Allah-u-Abha. Illustrated by Winda Mulyasari, this bright and bold book will help little ones learn spiritual qualities, Baha’i concepts and history such as equality, the Fast, and the station of Abdu’l-Baha as our exemplar.
Andrea lovingly shared how her picture book of poetry came together, the process involved, and what she’s working on now. Here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I publish under the name Andrea Hope, which is my first and middle name. “Hope” comes from my great-grandmother, Virginia Hope Jones, who was the first Baha’i in our family and my spiritual guide. Growing up, I was always quite empathetic toward the plight of humanity. At age 11, I found my first solace in writing poetry with lines like, “If the world were full of blind men what a beautiful sight it would be … we’d be forced to feel, not see.” I remember wondering as a junior youth, “Why would God put me on this earth if there was nothing I could do about suffering?” The Baha’i Faith both relieved and empowered me. I have been working for some time to combine my passion for the arts and children’s education with the needs of the Faith. This has included developing children’s programs for holy days, organizing a theatre performance of the children’s book Rooth Sees a Trooth, creating Baha’i Holy Day memory cards, writing a poetry activity book called I Am & I Can, and now, publishing the picture book A is for Allah-u-Abha. Continue reading
There are few things I enjoy more than sharing an armchair with my children and reading a book together. Despite access to a great public library and its incredible wealth of resources, illustrated books for children that aim to inspire change in the world are rare treasures. I was over the moon when I heard about a team of collaborators who are working on a book called Little Champions of Justice. The team consists of Shirin, Alyssa, Yas, Anjali, and Neysan and their book tells the true stories of eight remarkable girls and boys from around the world whose courage, determination and sense of justice will inspire its readers. The eight stories feature diverse protagonists, challenge gender stereotypes and racial biases, and find role models anyone can identify with.
Unlike other books that are available through a variety of outlets and over a long period of time, the team has chosen to only print their books once, and to only make as many copies as are ordered before December 12th (you can purchase a copy here).
Caught up in the joy and excitement of this book’s creation, we got in touch with the team behind Little Champions of Justice, and here’s what they shared with us: Continue reading
Lisa Blecker is a bit of a celebrity in our household. My three young children have, at various times, all held our board book copy of Blessed is the Spot during prayers and we have read, and sung, The Good in Me from A to Z by Dottie as a family and in our children’s class more times than I can count! When I saw that Lisa had put out a new book called Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors, I knew it was going to be a hit with our family — and I wasn’t disappointed! It is cheerful, vibrant, sweet, fun and a book the kids ask for over and over and over again!
Because of how much her books have meant to us, I was a little star struck when I approached Lisa to find out more about her book and when I told my six year old that Lisa and I were in touch, she was floored! It was a pleasure to find out more about the book and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did: Continue reading
Amidst the outpouring of creativity inspired by the Bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah is a new book for children by Melissa Charepoo all about the life of Baha’u’llah. You may remember her from her colourful children’s books for Ayyam-i-Ha, the Fast and Naw-Ruz. In this new 72-page book filled with elegant drawings, Melissa chronologically outlines the events of Baha’u’llah’s life from His Birth to His Ascension through short stories and explanations of Baha’i concepts. The book also includes a family tree, a timeline, maps, and a glossary. It’s a fantastic and beautiful resource! Continue reading