In this year’s flourishing of online resources related to Abdu’l-Baha, I have found it particularly poignant to see materials created for children by children. Light of Unity is a nine episode podcast mini-series of stories about Abdu’l-Baha as told by a group of children in Indonesia.
Wendy Yap graciously shared the initiative with us and in this interview, she tells us how it came about, what’s it’s meant for the participants, and what they hope you will take away with you when you listen to podcast:
Shira Trick is an all-round magical person, but especially with children. It is a delight to interview her about her book about Abdu’l-Baha for children called Remembering Abdu’l-Baha.
In this Baha’i Blog post, Shira tells us a little bit about her book, what inspired her to write (and illustrate!) it, and what she’s learned along the way.
Here’s what she shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
My name, Shira, means poem or song in Hebrew and somehow this has always felt fitting given how much I love to write and how much I enjoy singing and finding meaning in the lyrics of songs. I was born in Haifa and later served there myself for a little over a decade. It was the beginning of my story as well as the beginning of my children’s stories and holds great significance in our lives. My family left Israel when I was 3 months old though, so I didn’t grow up there, I grew up in Juneau, Alaska, and even though I haven’t lived there since I was 15, it is still my heart’s home. It shaped the beauty my heart responds to – as you can see in the picture on the front of my book. Mountains, snow, trees, water, these pieces of God’s creation have a deep connection to the story of my heart.
Lucie Dubé is a singer, songwriter, and composer originally from Sherbrooke, Quebec (Canada). For over 25 years she has been composing and performing music all over the world. Her most recent musical initiative is an album titled Hommage à Abdu’l-Baha, which is French for “Tribute to Abdu’l-Baha” as this work was created in honor of the centenary of His Passing. The album includes 13 Baha’i Writings sung in French by a choir (comprised of 40 singers and soloists) accompanied by piano, string quartet and flute.
Lucie graciously agreed to tell us about her album. Here is what she shared:
Artist Alice Williams recently published Where the Light Comes In, the third instalment in a trilogy of illustrated books filled with her artwork as well as divinely-inspired quotes and meditations from Abdu’l-Baha and others.
Alice graciously agreed to tell us about Where the Light Comes In, as well as about the whole trilogy and the artwork featured — some of which is included below. We hope you enjoy!
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been a Baha’i since 1978. My daughters, Aimee and Jenny, were young children then and I was happy to discover the Faith in time to raise them in it. I’ve held a number of non-art related jobs, but I’ve been a painter and photographic artist since I served in the art department at Maxwell Baha’i School in Canada in the mid ’90s. I try to use my art for service any way I can. I illustrate, edit and sometimes write for a Baha’i-inspired nonprofit, Oceti Wakan, with Cindy Catches, a long-time pioneer on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and a dear friend who taught me the Faith. I assist her in creating curriculum for children and youth for the prevention of addiction and suicide, and to preserve Lakota culture. Along with my family, I also do art projects with Central American refugee children and create art from them for fundraising and awareness. One project is currently on display at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I’m active in my Baha’i community in Camarillo, California. I’m blessed to be a mother and grandmother as well.
The Winter Cloak is a short novel for young readers by Ronald (Ron) Tomanio. It tells the fictional story of an impoverished ten year old named Ahmed who meets Abdu’l-Baha in November 1921, who is given a cloak by Him, and who becomes one of the many who mourn His Passing.
Although a work of fiction, Ron draws on historical texts to bring his story to life and to give young readers a sense of what it would have been like 100 years ago, to lament and grieve the loss of Abdu’l-Baha.
Ron graciously agreed to tell us about his book. Here’s what he shared with the Baha’i Blog team:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m 74 years old, married for 40 years to a wonderful woman named Karen. We have two daughters and five grandchildren who are all Baha’is. Karen and I live in the shadow of Green Acre a few miles away in Eliot, Maine (USA). I became a Baha’i at Green Acre when I was 17. My early teachers were Stanwood Cobb and Curtis Kelsey. Both men knew Abdu’l-Baha and all they wanted to talk about was Him, which was fine with me. I wrote my first children’s book 27 years ago. It was called Lilly & Peggy for George Ronald. I write mostly books for children, but did co-author With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate When You Can Investigate Reality? for George Ronald. This is a book I didn’t want to write because it diverted my focus from writing books for children.
What Hast Thou Done? is an album by Vedad Theophilus. It’s a collection of sacred writings and poetry and its songs perfectly marry Flamenco and Persian musical styles.
It’s not every day that you come across such unique music so I was delighted when Vedad agreed to tell us more about her album. Here’s what she shared:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a fifth generation Baha’i, beginning with an early believer, Haji Mulla Mihdi-i-‘Atri, the father of the poet and martyr Varqa. For generations my family esteemed the arts of music and poetry. As everyone, while still in my mother’s womb, I listened to the rhythmic beating of my mother’s heart in the darkness. As a child, I awoke early each dawn to the sweet melody of prayers chanted by my father. I was persuaded to memorize many prayers and I developed a passion for chanting and singing as a young child. If I was not singing, I could be found painting and drawing, evolving into another passion which later became my University major.
I feel fortunate to have begun singing so early in my life. Much research demonstrates that musical training enhances a child’s brain development by producing physical changes in brain structure and function. Abdu’l-Baha recommends that music be taught in the school “because of its power to uplift the spirit and to brighten life with enjoyment.”
Although I grew up in a Persian culture, I quickly became attracted to the Flamenco music of the Gypsies after my family and I immigrated to Spain. I found an underlying coherence between native Persian music and Spain’s Flamenco music. What began as an experiment in blending the two musical traditions together evolved into a unique style of sharing the beauty and truth of spiritual reality.
Amy Renshaw wrote a book several years ago about Abdu’l-Baha’s travels. It’s called Voyage of Love and I still remember its attractive and clever cover and the well told stories it contains. As this year commemorates the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s passing the US Baha’i Publishing Trust has released a new edition of the book. I was eager to hear from Amy about this new edition and she very graciously agreed to tell us all about it:
Baha’i Blog: To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself?
First of all, thank you so much for reaching out to me. Baha’i Blog is a wonderful resource, and I’m grateful to everyone who makes it happen.
As for me, I’ve always loved books, writing, and learning. I have degrees in English and Sociology, and I work full-time as the Senior Editor at Brilliant Star Magazine and Brilliant Star Online. I’ve been blessed to be part of that team for about 21 years so far.
My free time looks a lot like my work time—I’m usually either reading or writing. I just published my first historical mystery novel, and I hope to write more books. My husband and I live in Wisconsin, where we grew up, and we have two adult children.
As the ongoing global pandemic continues to keep many of us apart, it is particularly delightful to see collaborative artistic expressions emerge. A group of craftspeople from the Maritime provinces of Canada, some beginners and others seasoned artists, have created a special textile hanging called “Precious Point of Unity”. The textile consists of 16 blocks of art that were painted, quilted, hand stitched or appliquéd. Each block is based on a story from Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha and they were sewn together in the form of a triangle to represent a mountain pointing to a nine-pointed star, depicting Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre or Focus of the Covenant.
Three of the participants involved shared a few words with us about “Precious Point of Unity”:
Abdu’l-Baha: The Perfect Exemplar is a new scholarly work by Dariush Lamy. Among its 350 pages, you’ll find an overview of the Life of Abdu’l-Baha. The books also provides us with a glimpse into the profundity and scope of Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings. As this year is a time for profound reflection on Abdu’l-Baha, I’m sure Dariush’s book will be valuable to those who read and study it.
Dariush graciously agreed to tell us about his book and this is what he shared:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Of course! I was raised in a Baha’i family and was fortunate from an early age to be in close proximity with the great scholars of the Faith in Iran. I started reading and researching Baha’i literature and published many articles in different Persian Baha’i and non-Baha’i magazines. I have studied architecture and then continued my graduate studies in Islamic studies at UCLA to help with my research in the Baha’i Writings. Continue reading
The dynamic team at First Valley Books that created the vibrant and engaging children’s book Little Champions of Justice have a new project in honor of Abdu’l-Baha as we commemorate the centenary of His Passing.
Mighty: 7 Stories About Abdu’l-Baha for Children Who Want to Serve the World is their latest creation and it’s really a gift to the children of the world: it’s been translated into five languages, it’s available as a free download and you can purchase physical copies of the book on www.firstvalleybooks.com, you can listen to all the stories here on our Soundcloud page, and you can see simple videos of the stories on our YouTube channel.
We’re beyond beyond grateful that the team at First Valley Books gave us permission to share this wonderful resource on Baha’i Blog. We wanted to share with you a little bit more about the book so we asked the team a few questions, and here is what they told us: