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12 X 12 February 2016 Featured Author Melanie Florence

12 x 12 February 2016 Featured Author Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence-Hanna 200x300When I interviewed our February 2016 Featured Author Melanie Florence for her 12 x 12 Success Story, I was so inspired by her passion for writing picture books on difficult, but important, topics. Melanie proves that writing stories from the heart in our own unique voices can produce standout picture books. She’s here today to talk about how. Please welcome Melanie!

As a First Nations woman, I am keenly aware of the dark history of the Canadian residential schools and the heartbreaking issue of the missing and murdered Indigenous women across the country. As the granddaughter of a residential school survivor, I felt strongly about giving people like my grandfather a voice.

I attended the Ontario Library Association Super Conference yesterday to do a couple of book signings, one for Missing Nimama, my new picture book. There are a few things about that experience that stood out for me.

First, I wasn’t at all prepared for the enthusiastic response to this book. One of the women in line literally couldn’t speak to me because she was trying to compose herself after reading it in line. She’s far from the first person to react like that and it still surprises me everytime someone tells me that it made them cry.

Second, I had a librarian tell me that I was the one author she really wanted to meet at the conference. I smiled and thanked her but inside I was thinking, “Really? Me? You did see the list of authors who are here, right?” But again, I know that this book has really had an amazing impact on some people.

And lastly, I had a librarian tell me that she loved the book but didn’t I feel that the subject was incredibly dark for a picture book? And before I could answer, she asked me if I had written it for teenagers.

Missing Nimama is far from the first book to address a difficult subject. I have two more coming out that deal with dark subjects. Are children really too young and sensitive to read a book like Missing Nimama and other picture books dealing with difficult subjects?Missing Nimama by Melanie Florence

Missing Nimama is about a girl who is growing up without her mother; one of the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. As she grows up and hits milestones like her first date, marriage and the birth of her first child, her mother is there with her. Her mother is watching over her even when she can’t be there for her.  It’s dark. But the sad fact is, children lose their mothers. Children deal with death. And even though Missing Nimama is sad, there’s something about the girls mother watching over her that I felt would give a child hope that their parent is still there for them somehow.

And I strongly feel that picture books really have no age limit. Although a child dealing with the death of a parent might see themselves in the pages of Missing Nimama, an older reader could gain just as much from it and books like it. Children’s authors and publishers are realizing that children have to deal with difficult subjects and giving them and their parents a vehicle to explain these subjects is an incredible resource.

The fact is, although a picture book about death or other difficult subjects may make adults feel uncomfortable, children who are experiencing these things need them badly. They need them to validate their feelings, the experience they are having and to gain some reassurance that they’re not alone.

11622305Missing Nimama came about over a cup of coffee with an editor. I threw the idea out – how about a picture book about the missing and murdered Indigenous women? And she loved it. I asked how dark I could make it if it was a picture book and was told quite clearly just to write it. Don’t talk down to my audience. So I just wrote. I was keenly aware that at some point, a child who lost his or her own mother would probably read it, and I didn’t want to moralize or lessen the impact of their own loss. Instead, I wanted to give them hope that in some way, their loved one is still with them, even if they can’t see them.

I think the best advice I can give about writing a dark subject for children is that you don’t have to solve a problem, moralize, preach or make it all okay. Because sometimes it’s not okay. We don’t always get happy endings. But showing a child that someone else got through their grief and did something about it – like Kateri marching in memory of her mother – that gives them something to hold on to.the-final-double-page-spread-in-missing-nimama-circumflex-o

So if you have an idea for a darker picture book, how should you proceed? Just write it. Create characters that resonate with your audience. Remember who you’re writing it for. Kids are smart and sometimes they feel lost and confused and scared and hopeless and they need to know that’s alright. Everything they’re feeling is legitimate and normal. And if you can craft a book that tells them its okay for them to be scared or sad and leave them with some bit of hope, then you’ve done your job well.

I didn’t set out to become a children’s author who deals with dark subjects but I’m proud of the books I’ve written and I’m thrilled that they’re getting some recognition. Don’t be afraid to tackle issues that aren’t common in children’s literature. If you feel like you have something to say, then say it. I sent out a manuscript about a girl in residential school and was told it was too dark for a picture book. I’ve since sold it to another publisher who thinks it’s a strong and beautiful story. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. It could very well be the story that a child is waiting desperately to hear.

Melanie Florence is of Cree and Scottish descent and currently lives in Toronto with her family. She is the author of the OLA Best Bets award winning book RIGHTING CANADA’S WRONGS: RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS, MISSING NIMAMA, which was awarded an Honourable Mention by the OLA, THE MISSING, ONE NIGHT, and JORDIN TOOTOO: THE HIGHS AND LOWS IN THE JOURNEY OF THE FIRST INUK TO PLAY IN THE NHL, which was chosen as an Honor Book by The American Indian Library Association. She is also the recent winner of the inaugural Second Story Press Aboriginal Writing Contest with her picture book STOLEN WORDS, which will be published in Fall 2016. As a freelance journalist, Melanie’s byline has appeared in magazines including Dance International, Writer Magazine, Parents Canada, and Urban Male Magazine. 

This Post Has 383 Comments
  1. Thank you for writing the stories you do and giving children a lifeline during a stormy time. What a beautiful legacy!

  2. Excellent key points about writing the story that’s in one’s heart, and remembering that children need all kinds of books to help them deal with the realities of life and feelings. Thank you, Melanie.

  3. I was so happy to see this post. It’s amazing to me that children who are already marginalized by their circumstances can’t hold a book in their hands that would help them because it’s not happy enough. I’d love to know of publishers who, even as a public service, are open to books that would speak to marginalized children.

  4. Thank you! I have written two mss about difficult subjects, and at times I’ve felt like I must be the only one who thinks it’s important to tackle them. I can’t tell you how validating this is for me!

  5. You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. I’m working on a story that some have told me is too dark, too complex, too sophisticated for a picture book. I agree that children who are dealing with challenges need to read books that mirror their concerns; those who are not need to develop empathy for those who are. I looking forward to reading your books. Thank you so much for this post. <3

  6. Thank you Melanie for your post, and for having the courage to write about subjects that interest you, even if they are “dark.” I’ll have to check out your book!
    My first encounter with a “dark” picture book was when my then 6 year old son picked up a picture book at the library about a survivor of the Holocaust. It was beautifully written, and after reading it together we had a discussion about the horrors of world war II. It wasn’t a subject I would have thought to bring up, but I realized during our discussion that my son was interested. Books like this help children learn about human history, even the “dark” side. What happened to indigenous people in Canada is a part of human history too. Thanks again writing this!

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience writing about difficult subjects, especially concerning missing and murdered indigenous women. I absolutely agree that these stories are needed and can provide a lifeline to a child. I like your advice to just write the story, validate what the child might be feeling, and offer a bit of hope.

  8. Thanks, Melanie, for your audacious courage and daring. Children find much they need in books that we adults close to them are unable to impart. You honor children with truth as well as the truth of spiritual strength.

  9. Hi Melanie,
    Thanks so much for this beautiful and moving post. I already feel that this book has touched me–and I haven’t even read it yet. As a former teacher of 20 years, I ran into children who would have benefited from a book like this. Your post and explaining the journey from idea to book has inspired me. Thanks again!

  10. Thank you for the push to “just write it.” One of my children is Autistic and I’ve had a story knocking around in my mind for quite some time now about the struggles Autism families face, because it is a struggle for the entire family, not just one member. My main concern was how to end the story. I guess I got caught up in the idea that everything had to be okay in the end, but it really isn’t. Autism is a lifelong struggle. Well look how I have rambled on so… I guess I really need to write my story since I obviously feel passionate about it. Thanks again for the push. 🙂

  11. Wow…I think this post is as beautiful and touching as the book itself! Thank you, Melanie for sharing all this with us and for writing a much-needed book! I’m still distressed by all the violence that are still perpetrated against Native women (I seem to hear at least one news item about it whenever I visit family in Vancouver, and who knows how many more don’t make it to the news), but your book is a positive step in the right direction.

  12. Wow, I think the feeling of Missing Minana came through so clearly in your beautiful post. I can’t wait to read it. Thank you for writing the story and sharing your journey with us.

  13. Melanie,
    I look forward to reading your book. Your post is an inspiration and as a former therapist I remember children who were more than willing to talk about the sadness in their lives. I will be more open to writing on subjects that they need to hear.

  14. “I think the best advice I can give about writing a dark subject for children is that you don’t have to solve a problem, moralize, preach or make it all okay. Because sometimes it’s not okay. We don’t always get happy endings. But showing a child that someone else got through their grief and did something about it – like Kateri marching in memory of her mother – that gives them something to hold on to.”

    Brilliant. Touching. Important. Thank you for sharing, Melanie.

  15. I have a couple of dark stories that I think need to be written, but I have been putting them off because I didn’t think anyone would ever look at them. I’m going to start developing this month. Thank you.

  16. Melanie, I am touched by your comments and I applaud you for following your heart as it told you to tell the stories that need to be told. I know you are right about a dark subject possibly causing an adult to be a bit unsettled, when you know there will be a child, and another, and another, who desperately needs that story. Thank you for being an advocate and courageous voice for those children, and really, for that child in all of us, who desperately needs to hear a particular story at a particular time.

  17. Thank you, Melanie, for sharing your strength and commitment to follow your heart to write those sad moments in a child’s life. Children are sometimes forgotten when a tragic event comes calling. Bravo! I look forward to reading your books.

  18. As a fellow Canadian I am well aware of the dark history that residential schools have left – sharing this story in as many ways as possible, including the marvellous PB format, is so important. Thank you, Melanie!

  19. A very important post on a very important subject. We tend to want to treat children with kid gloves and shelter them from darker themes of loss and grief but we only do our little readers a disservice. Children of all ages experience the same darkness that we experience as adult, and, as you pointed out, it eases their burden tremendously to know that they are not alone in their feelings. Thank you for writing such important books and for sharing your thoughts with us here.

  20. Melanie, thank you for having the courage to write your story. I lost my father when I was very young and I didn’t have a book to cling to. I loved what you said about older kids needing it too because all too often, picture books are viewed as texts only for the very young. This is simply not the case. Picture books can resonate with any age if it’s a message that speaks to one’s heart.

  21. Wonderful post, Melanie! Thank you for telling the stories that need to be told. I agree that adults tend to sell children short about what they can handle, and books that deal with darker subjects need a place on library shelves as they help children know that they are not alone in their feelings.

  22. Melanie, thank you for the wonderful and inspiring post. I think that writing for tough subjects is often overlooked, and you are absolutely right….children need them. I can’t wait to track down your book and read it!

  23. Thank you for sharing your unique picture book, Melanie! I looking forward to reading it, and admire your tenacity and thoughtfulness in its creation. It’s true, children need to be aware of the realities of life, and your story is a perfect way to communicate one of those realities.

  24. Wow Maria! I can’t wait to read your book! It’d be a great one to add to our mentor text list for bibliotherapeutic books in the 12×12 forum!

  25. Thank you for writing stories that show young children’s truths. There are so many kids who need to be able to have relateable stories that depict hard truths read by adults who are sensitive enough to to help them explore their feelings and thoughts through the books. I am looking forward to reading Missing NiMama.

  26. Lovely post. Dark subjects are necessary for kids to be able to handle some real issues in their lives. Thank you tackling the difficult subjects. It’s now a must read for me.

  27. Dark subjects in PBs aren’t easy to write even though there’s plenty of material and and topics, but getting it right is tricky. Knowing how important they are, thank you for the advice and examples to help in understanding how to handle those stories.

  28. Melanie, I congratulate you for writing these stories. Here in Canada it is horrifying how things were done that seemed okay to too many. I don’t understand that.
    I agree with what someone said here about stories not having to have happy endings. I believe that a child can create a fantasy world and develop an unrealistic view of the world, if all they get to read turns out perfect in the end. It makes it harder to deal with real life as they grow older. Not to grieve children further, of course, but to handle issues in a different way – realistically and with hope – would make a positive difference for them and help them cope.
    Thank you.

  29. Thanks Melanie for showing me that you can write about dark themes. I am an Early Childhood teacher and some of the things that the children in my class have to deal with are very intense. Their resilience amazes me and it would be great to read them stories (and write stories) that address what is happening in their lives, to show them they are not alone.

  30. Wonderful post about a very important subject. Thank you for educating me and for believing that children are strong enough to handle dark topics. I agree these books are so necessary.

  31. We all wish children have ‘fairy tale lives.’ But sadly this isn’t the case. How wonderful for you to write this book and even more wonderful, a publisher was interested and respectful.

  32. It’s so important that there are books out there for children dealing with difficult issues, and so true that adults can get as much out of these books as children. Thank you for creating this type of literature!

  33. Melanie, I am honoured that you agreed to be our featured author for February. When books are written from the heart, they can be shared heart-to-heart. Their power is in the story and the connection we can make to each other as human beings. They provide a portal through which is provided an opportunity for healing and for understanding. Thank you also for taking up this story as we all need to hear it – child and adult. The text is beautiful as are the illustrations. I sometimes think we label a book “dark” because it takes us to places we would otherwise not go on our own. You have provided a light to guide us. Thank you for doing this work and sharing it with us.

  34. Thank you for showing us how to tackle the dark topics. It’s timely for me as I’m working on my February draft. I definitely need reminding that it’s okay to feel sad and okay to not have a happy ending. Looking forward to reading your stories.

  35. Thank you for posting this. I am working on two dark stories, so this is very affirming. Many small children have to deal with issues of loss of pets, friends, or family. Others have fears of loss or danger. To pretend such things don’t exist is unfair to those who most need our help and support.
    Thank you!

  36. Congratulations on your successes, Melanie! I’ll look for your books and get them to read with my children. It’s so important that all children understand our country’s past and present in all its dimensions.

  37. Melanie, thank you for sharing your experiences writing and publishing picture books about dark topics. I can only imagine the hope your books bring to children, and adults, dealing with the difficulties in life all of us experience. I look forward to reading your books. And Julie, perfect choice for featured author this month!

  38. I currently am working on a ‘dark’ ms and am in process of figuring out how to handle a few details for my PB. You are an inspiration. Thank you!!

  39. I am looking forward to reading your books. You are an inspiration to those of us who write from our hearts regardless of popular opinion or what others may think. Thank you for the post.

  40. Your book may be on the dark side, but it is needed to help balance all the cute and funny picture books so many of us are trying to make sense of when we write. But more, I found it refreshing to hear your encouraging words to write and not be discouraged if you believe enough in your story and writing. Thanks for helping us to follow our dreams and words, not always to give in to another’s idea.

  41. Your book may be on the dark side, but it is needed to help balance all the cute and funny picture books so many of us are trying to make sense of when we write. But more, I found it refreshing to hear your encouraging words to write and not be discouraged if you believe enough in your story and writing.

  42. Thankful that writers like you exist. I agree, children’s books have no age limit, and to write a book that addresses dark subjects is courageous, compassionate, and a special gift to humanity. Thank you for sharing this legacy that you’re building through your career as a writer, Melanie.

  43. Wow! I have an idea on a very dark topic that I’ve been wanting to write as a picture book, but wasn’t sure if it was appropriate. Thank you for the encouragement! I’m going to write it.

  44. I’m really looking forward to reading this book. I love that you feel strongly that picture books have no age limit. I completely agree.

  45. Very interesting post. I especially loved the part that seemed to address all the second guessing writers tend to get caught up in– “If you have a story to tell, then tell it. It could very well be the story that a child is waiting desperately to hear.” Thank you

  46. “And if you can craft a book that tells them its okay for them to be scared or sad and leave them with some bit of hope, then you’ve done your job ” This is so true! I’m going to be rereading your post as I continue working on a tough subject manuscript.
    Thank you for being part of 12×12!

  47. Thank you for your post — dark topics are also real topics, and it’s so important to address them thoughtfully and forthrightly instead of hiding or ignoring them.

  48. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s hard to write dark topics, you have found just the right way to address them,

  49. I love to hear about all the different kinds of picture books being written. Obviously, this subject is very important to many and it seems you’ve done the subject justice. Thanks for being a brave writer!

  50. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s hard to write dark topics, but you have found just the right way to address them.

  51. Thanks for the remainder that not every story has to have a happy ending. Sometimes just knowing they’re not the only one is comforting to a child in a difficult situation.

  52. I had never heard of this book or about this topic before. It is interesting in the historical sense, too. I will definitely find a copy and read it and look into the subject of the indigenous women of Canada.

  53. Wow. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this situation. How amazing that we can now teach our children all of the story. Thank you for providing a voice for these lovely women.

  54. Thank you for this inspirational post. Great reminder that picture books can be so powerful and important to the kids we write for.

  55. This looks to be such a beautifully told and poignant story…and though the story may be about a specific scenario, the imagery sounds relatable to children who’ve gone through a different loss, as well. Lovely looking book; looking forward to seeing it.

  56. Thank you for your post – your book sounds beautiful & would be a comfort especially to a child who has lost their mother.

  57. Thank you for writing the stories in your heart. You are a voice of reassurance for so many kids. Picture books are powerful!

  58. Melanie, your comment on writing a darker pb – “…how should you proceed? Just write it. Create characters that resonate with your audience. Remember who you’re writing it for.” – applies to all of our stories, so well said. Write and read and read and write … and revise, revise, revise!

    Thanks for sharing your journey. The illustrations are gorgeous.

  59. Thank you for your inspirational post. I agree it’s important to tackle dark subjects to teach children history, develop their empathy, and give them stories of how other children deal with difficult things. I look forward to reading your books.

  60. Thank you for the post. And I am glad to see dark subjects being handled so greatly. I also have a dark subject that I am trying to put in a manuscript so thanks again for your guidance.

  61. I can’t wait to read your PB, Missing “Nimama,” because if it’s anything like this one blog post, it must be amazing. Your heart really comes through in your writing.

  62. Missing Nimama…wow.
    As a Canadian, I hear the news and read publications regarding the missing aboriginal women . Missing Nimama is the strongest message that I have read. Thank you for putting this out there.

  63. I’ve often wondered how to approach writing stories that share the unsavory side of life. I couldn’t agree more that children need to hear of experiences like their own that give them hope. I can’t wait to read Missing Nimama. Thank you!

  64. I haven’t read your book yet but it sounds beautiful. I think children who have lost parents will find it comforting. I’m anxious to see your next books as well.

  65. What incredible words to read for a writer, especially those starting out and those getting new ideas. At times, I tend to re-focus what am I am writing based on what the market wants or what an article just said would be best in the pb world. Then, my work changes and my story changes and it is not what I wanted to write at all. Write from your heart, no matter what comes from it – dark, silly, sad or emotional. Thank you!

  66. Beautiful post Melanie. Although it can be difficult to write about “darker” subjects, your execution was flawless and touching.

  67. Very powerful interview and article. And I now really want to read your book, Melanie. I think you’re right that kids can handle tackling the hard stuff. It can likely make them feel less lonely, and not everything can be sugar-coated.

  68. Wow! I’m so happy to hear (read) this. I think it’s so important for us, as adults, to realize our children need to feel safe to share and explore darker moments in their lives. And you are right. It’s not just for little kids. I lost my mom at 26 and my dad at 38. Guess what… I still feel like a little girl who is orphaned at 40. We give graduates Dr. Suess’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. I would give a grieving adult a PB like this. Thank you for sharing this story.

  69. I love the idea of these books and the way in which they are written. I’ve dealt with children in the classroom who have experienced such loss, such tragedy in their short lives. Of course they feel very alone. And hurt. Thank you for writing these stories. These are stories that needed to be written, and I’m so glad you had the insight and the courage to do so!

  70. I look forward to reading this- thank you for telling this story! I’ve worked with many children, including teachers, who would find strength in reading this.

  71. Thank you for this amazing post. I think that kids need books that tell the truth and reflect some of the hard times they may encounter in life. It’s a great lesson to just write a good story, and not worry about it being too dark or too real.

  72. Great hearing about the way you approach difficult topics in your books and your advice to those who want to try. Thanks for a very interesting and inspiring post!

  73. What an inspiring story. As a former pre-school teacher, I fully agree that children need books to help them get over milestones, even if the topic is too difficult for adults to recognize. SO they just ignore them and treat the child like a little adult. The child’s mind doesn’t work that way. Thank you for writing this book.

  74. As writers, our job is to be true to our heart and true to our story. It’s not easy to do. Thank you for staying true to your heart and speaking to those who have not yet found their voice. Bravo!

  75. What a beautiful and inspiring post, Melanie. I think “dark” texts hold a very important place in picture books, and I’m looking forward to reading MISSING NIMAMA. Thank you for sharing.

  76. Children do have to deal with loss and dark feelings, even very young kids. They have to pretend they don’t and their voices are silenced. I know this from experience in my life, and I’ve watched my children struggle, too, with people wanting them to be silence. More power to you, and I hope you can reach your target audience. They need to know they aren’t alone. Blessings. Brenda

  77. I agree that children need books which address difficult topics. Their understanding often surpasses what many adults would expect, and they can find solace in stories which resonate with what they are experiencing. Thank you for sharing your track in writing this book and getting it published. I am inspired by your experience.

  78. Thank you for your post Melanie. I love that you have created a book for children that tackles the darkness some children may unfortunately have to face. I will definitely pick up a copy!

  79. Thank you for not shying away from difficult subjects. I think the tendency has been to protect kids too much instead of helping them understand and/or cope with the hard issues they are often confronted with.

  80. Along with so many of the other comments, I appreciate that you are willing to write about subjects that some people might believe are too dark for children’s books. Children are humans who experience the entire range of life’s circumstances and the best books help them deal with difficult situations. I commend your great work.

  81. Thank you for sharing your experiences and book with us. I wouldn’t have considered writing about something so dark as a PB.


  82. I’m glad you’re getting such good reception from so many people. The subject obviously needed to be addressed, even (especially) at this early age. I agree with Brenda above. The silence thing has got to go. Congratulations on your success.

  83. I wrote a manuscript about losing someone close to me. I haven’t tried to get it published because I felt no one would want to read it. You have given me the encouragement to really work on the revision and try to get it published. Thanks.

  84. Thank you for opening up the world’s eyes to the concept that picture books can reach out to all age levels and be a voice for those who sometimes don’t know how to put their feelings into words. Picture books need to spread their wings and your writing is helping them to do just that.

  85. Thanks for the great post Melanie — and for taking on multiple difficult/avoided subjects. I am always struck, when I’m in Canada, by how much more present the history and current realities of First Nations peoples is (in the newspaper etc.) there than here in the U.S. Maybe not present and acknowledged enough, still — but I find that, living in a city on the East coast of the U.S. it is easy to forget — in a more day-to-day way — those parts of North American history and their ripple effects.

  86. I know I “posted” a comment in my mind about how amazed I am with your persistence and success, Melanie, but I am not sure it actually made it to this comment section in print. 🙂 You amaze me! Congrats! And I can’t wait to read Nimama, along with all of your other upcoming books!

  87. I tweeted this post out before I even commented because it is so in depth and inspiring. I have a few dark topics and have not been encouraged to continue with them and this post gave me the gently push I needed.
    So thank you. I can’t wait to read Missing Nimama.

  88. Thank you for sharing the insightful post with us. I look forward to reading the story. I feel this type of story is needed for children today.

  89. I too have been told that some of my subjects are too dark. As a school teacher, I see dark each week. I am interested in the fact that you had your character age in the book. I can’t wait to read it, to see how you did it without making it non fiction. In my classes , so far, they keep telling me to make the character the same age or slightly older than my audience. I know that doesn’t work when telling the whole life, so I am excited to see how you did it.

  90. “And I strongly feel that picture books really have no age limit.” I agree with this so much – just because we focus on writing for children does not mean that those stories are limited only to children.

  91. Kudos to you for Writing about this difficult subjects. I agree that PB can be for any age. Just like NF PB can be for any age. Thank you for discussing this. looking forward to reading your books.

  92. Thank you for your brave work. I am extremely encouraged by your take on writing about difficult subjects without preaching or problem-solving.

  93. This looks like a beautiful and needed book. And I agree that while it will certainly benefit children, it can benefit older readers, too. There is no age limit on picture books (that’s why so many of us love them, too).

  94. Your advise “just write it” is encouraging and something I think we all need to hear when we question our inspiration for a story. Thank you for tackling difficult subjects in children’s picture books.

  95. my book is dark and i have wondered if that would be appropriate . . . thanks to your story i see i need to proceed with my journey and feel it is needed too!

  96. What an inspiring success story! Thank you for encouraging us with your passion, clarity of purpose as a writer, and belief in the stories you write.

  97. I am looking forward to purchasing this book. This difficult subject, dealing with the murder and disappearance of indigenous women, struck close to home to this BC girl. Congratulations, on so many fronts 🙂

  98. I’m Canadian and live in the States, but I still call Canada my home. The missing First Nations women in the country is a tragic statistic that needs to be corrected! Every woman counts. Every woman deserves to be home safe and sound. I think it’s amazing that you’ve been able to give them a voice. And you’re helping the children who have lost a mother, sister or aunt. Keep writing the stories of your heart because they clearly need to be told.

  99. Wow. I loved this posting & the encouraging reminder to write what we’re passionate about. Also, the statement about everything not having to have a happy ending because that’s reality–this made me feel all the more confident in my writing, no matter the topic, no matter the mood… to still “write it.”

  100. I just requested Missing Mimama from my local library. I’m looking forward to reading it. I agree strongly that picture books are the perfect vehicle for introducing children to and helping children copy with difficult subjects. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  101. I am so pleased to read about your work. I has a challenging upbringing and the hardest part was feeling alone with no one to validate my feelings or concerns. Their is a need for these stories and thank you for taking them on.


  102. Thanks for the great post. It has encouraged me to stretch myself as a writer and attempt a story that deals with a more serious matter. There is such a need for stories of depth to be told.

  103. Thank you, Melanie, for your inspiration. I read this post earlier this month. I had been working on a difficult subject picture book that I simply could not find the right path on. But as I read this post again today, I magically figured it out. I can’t beleive it. Thank you so much for writing Missing Nimama. I haven’t read it yet, but I am going to go buy it right away. I have it feeling it is going to guide me through the story I am trying to write.

  104. This is wonderful! My own children have seen more than their share of death this year. Such a tough topic – but what a lovely book!

  105. Thank you, Melanie, for sharing a voice so many of us wouldn’t have heard otherwise. This is inspiring and eye-opening. Thank you for your courage.

  106. You are doing important work. There is a place for all kinds of picture books because children’s experiences don’t fit a particular pattern. Humorous are great, informational are great, biographies are great, and stories on difficult subjects have a definite niche—-especially in today’s world. Keep up the good work.

  107. Your book sounds beautiful. I am currently writing a story on somewhat of a depressing topic. While I feel it is desperately needed for children right now, I struggle with whether it is too heavy for them. Thanks for the encouragement.

  108. Liked the part: not talking down to kids, just write it and the acknowledgement kids need validation of feelings on dark topics. Empowering post.

  109. Thank you for addressing a difficult subject. There will always be readers for our stories. Someone is always waiting to see their story resonate in a beautifully illustrated book, to certainly validate that they are not alone in their feelings.

  110. This is such an inspiring blog post, and really speaks to me. I have yet to attempt a story about something as truly difficult as yours, and it’s motivation that if something calls out to you – do it. Amazing!

  111. Children often question without asking because they know it might upset their parents. Writing about difficult topics, open the dialogue between children and their parents, or other significant adults.

  112. I’m excited to read your stories. Thank you for so eloquently speaking about how important it is to tackle the dark, tough stuff of life even for young children.

  113. You had a strong theme and a one sentence summary to drive the story. Thanks for sharing the genesis of this book, very informative.

  114. This post was so timely for me this month as I began to write a PB about a child in Foster Care. I was struggling with how a dark story would be perceived and wondering if i needed to lighten it. After reafong this, i picked up your book and kept reminding myself to just write the story. So thanks!

  115. Thank you for your willingness to write about tough topics and your encouragement to others to do the same. Like all of us, children will experience grief, loneliness, sadness, and heartbreak. They need to know they are not alone and that there is always hope. I look forward to reading Missing Nimama.

  116. Love that you write from the heart and that you’re being recognized for your important contributions to children’s literature. You’ve inspired me to dig deeper and challenge myself to write something that may not be happy, but that children need to hear.

  117. Death is a tough discussion to have with a child and if there are authors who can successfully broach the topic then kudos to them because there are too many people hurting inside who desperately need some form of help to comfort them.

  118. I really appreciate authors who can address a difficult issue in a way that is appropriate and helpful to children. Best wishes on this book’s success.

  119. Hi Melanie, I just loved your blog. Thank you so much for writing such an amazing book. although I haven’t read it yet, it sounds like something that has been needed in the picture book market. Many children lose their mothers or other members of their family. It is a difficult subject to talk about. Thanks for writing Missing Nimama. I am sure it help many. I am going to look for it now. Sincerely Joan Sloane

  120. Melardersnie you are helping to break down barriers with your boks andI commend you for it. I wil certainly order Nimama soon I have been writing letters for Amnesty on behalf of indigeneous women especially as jean Little, a favourie children’s author lost her neice in BC Murders, some years back.
    I have also written a book called Nana i miss you which came out of myHOSPICE EXPERIENCE.I KNOW IT IS HEART WRENCHING TO WRITE BUT IT IS NEEDED. MAY GOD BLESS YOU, MELANIE.

  121. I haven’t read your story yet, however I want to Thank you for writing this story and for your wonderful words of encouragement for writing dark subjects. I too write about subjects that I have been told are too dark, and didn’t intend to do it.
    A few years ago my sister was murdered, leaving my Neice and nefew behind. When I tracked down picture books about death they were mostly more informative, when what I was searching for is a relatable character to show them that they weren’t alone. And of course, I too wanted a character who was going through the same experience I was. The subject might be dark to many who haven’t experienced a loss but for those who have, children alike, its a comfort to know their feelings and emotions are shared with others.
    I look forward to reading your story.

  122. Dark topics for children are not inappropriate at all. Many of our classic fables and fairy tales are rooted in loss and death or fear of death. But one of my professors encouraged us to “not abandon the child in the dark” when tackling dark topics. Sometimes that is our greatest challenge – to lead them out of the dark – or at least help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  123. What a wonderful blog! You are so right that picture books can’t/shouldn’t always have a happy ending and that children in all sorts of situations will benefit from seeing someone who is also dealing with something hard. I grew up in New Mexico, which has its own dark history with residential schools. Those stories need to be told.

  124. Congratulations on the reception you have been getting for your book. Your statement that we don’t have to solve a problem, moralize, preach or make it all OK really resonated with me.
    Thank you

  125. I really needed this post. I too am tackling some “dark” material in PB form. I felt like this spoke directly to me. Thank you. I’ll also look for your books. I’m so sorry for what your ancestors experienced as well.

  126. It sounds like you have some powerful stories to tell. I can’t wait to read your published books – I think they will serve as mentor texts for one of my picture book ideas!

  127. THANK YOU! First of all, for writing this incredibly beautiful story that will help so many children (and adults…because I agree…picture books aren’t just for little ones)…and secondly, for leading the way in showing us all that dark, sensitive, and difficult topics can be presented to young children in an acceptable and appropriate way. Children are not made of spun sugar…and we need to understand that if they are old enough to have bad things happen to them, they are old enough to have someone acknowledge what has happened and help them deal with it.
    This is a book I must have, Melanie…and I thank you for writing it.
    Julie…so glad you got another draft done this month…so did I…and guess what? My January draft is already polished, and, having been through the hands of many of my awesome critique buddies and then revised about a gazillion times by me, is now in the hands of my agent who is sending it to 9 editors this week. Fingers crossed for someone to fall in love with it!

  128. Thank you for your book, which has over four stars on Good Reads (Congratulations!) and for your insights about writing books that cover difficult topics.

  129. Simply awesome! I can’t wait to read this book. I’m so glad to see these “dark” books being accepted. They are truly needed in some of our children’s lives. Thank you!

  130. This opens up an avenue for writing that I never thought about, and even the open and honest way you dealt with it, without moralizing is another bit of wisdom that is invaluable. Thanks!!

  131. Melanie, your beautiful post brought tears to my eyes, so I know that your book will too. I look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.


  132. What a great post! I agree kids can handle the darker stuff and they need to see it from their perspective. They need to know they are not alone and their feelings are normal. Your writing is so important.

  133. Love the advice you received to just get it down on paper. Write the story! I so often think about dark topics, and always shy away from doing them. Honestly, I’ll probably continue to shy away, but I’m eager to read your books and give it some more thought.

  134. Loved your post! I have avoided certain topics that have interested me because I thought they would be considered too dark, too heavy, I.e. Inappropriate for children. My high school students did not live in a “Leave it to Beaver” world, and often had been dealing with issues that would be difficult for any adult. The lack of materials available for students at any age -and a book is such a safe place- is astonishing. Thank you for your post

  135. I was so very pleased to read that you have no intention of ‘showing children the way’ as some bit of didactic nonsense. Children are smart, as you say, and they need to hear that the feelings that they have have names like grief, anger, sadness and that other people feel them too and that it’s ok. Then some people, armed with this knowledge, work their way through the mud and out of the swamp. They recognize the path the next time and are better equipped.

  136. Thank you for this post! I’ve been kicking around a PB idea re: Alzheimer’s, but was worried it was too dark. You’ve given me new insight & perspective.

  137. “Kids are smart and sometimes they feel lost and confused and scared and hopeless and they need to know that’s alright.”
    This is a WONDERFUL statement. I am on the finishing states of my most serious PB manuscript yet- and I was so guarded about its depth… But reading your words have utterly inspired me. Thank you for writing with such truth!

  138. I’m a big believer that kids can handle a lot more than we adults think they can. What a wonderful text to turn to for kids who struggle with such a tragic loss. Thank you for your work.

  139. Thank you for your thought-provoking post, Melanie. I am a domestic violence hotline volunteer as well as a former CASA volunteer. Relevant literature is always being sought out for children who find themselves in devastating situations. Treating difficult subjects with an honesty that allows children to feel empowered and less alone is so vital.

  140. Thank you so much for sharing your story here, Melanie. This is incredibly important and so at the heart of why I bet many of us write: “Kids are smart and sometimes they feel lost and confused and scared and hopeless and they need to know that’s alright. Everything they’re feeling is legitimate and normal. And if you can craft a book that tells them its okay for them to be scared or sad and leave them with some bit of hope, then you’ve done your job well.” So glad we’re in this together. Thank you.

  141. I so agree that children need books that deal with “darker” issues. They are facing unbelievable hardships in the world we live in. I’m praying for a way to write books that will bring them hope and light in the midst of the chaos.

  142. I am looking forward to reading your book. I too think it important for children to realize that they are not alone in their experiences.

  143. Thank you for this timely book. Children respond to honesty and the fact that their feelings are validated. They will take what is needed and is true for them. Thanks again.

  144. I really love that you wrote this story and cannot wait to read it!
    I feel that stories like these are really important and precisely the type of thing that needs to be included in picture books. It helps those who can relate feel less alone in their situation. It also informs those who cannot relate, teaching them that their own situation is not the only one there is. I look forward to reading more of your stories. Thank you!

  145. This sounds like a wonderful book and I am looking forward to reading it! Thank you for sharing your voice and your stories!

  146. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story, and for writing such an important book!
    All the Best, on your journey!

  147. Thank you for tackling topics that matter. Children do go through tough times and your books will help them during those moments. Congratulations! Continued success!

  148. Thank you for your encouraging post, Melanie! I have been told several times that my voice might be better for middle grade, but I really want to write picture books! Your story is inspiring and I am going to keep moving ahead with my darker/more serious manuscripts. Thank you!

  149. Fascinating! I had no idea you could write this way in a picture book format (though I wonder if such serious subjects are more marketable in Canada than in the U.S.). It’s really given me food for thought.

  150. Thank you for addressing topics that are painful. Your advice is inspiring me to reconsider pursuing a difficult topic I had considered shelving.

  151. Thanks for sharing your story. Dealing with the death of a loved one is very difficult. We feel lost. We feel abandoned. Helping someone deal with it by writing about how someone else deals with death is such a tremendous gift.

  152. First off, I’m a proud Canadian so reading you are Canadian too made me smile. I look forward to purchasing your book – the illustrations look beautiful and the story captivating. I agree with you – there is no age limit on PB books

  153. Thank you for writing about difficult topics. Wearing my parent (as well as writer/creator) hat, I am so thankful for stories that address challenging issues.

  154. Thank you for sharing your story Melanie. Your post is a good reminder to not turn away from the difficult subjects we all struggle to face.

  155. Great post! I’m so glad that books like yours actually do get published. There are a lot of issues that should be addressed with children, and what better way than in picture books! Children can handle more than we think, and they deserve books that validate their feelings.

  156. When I was a kid I loved a wordless book about concentration camps. I picked it out of the library myself. I think people underestimate kid’s ability to comprehend books like this, but they are important. Kids have to feel that something is wrong, we can’t just moralize at them. I’d sort of forgotten that. Thanks for writing this.

  157. This is such a timely blog post for me, Melanie – I just finished training to be a Bereavement Volunteer. In my training, I learned of the need for more good books about coping with loss. I’m eager to read yours.

  158. I also write picture books with darker subjects. I lost my son Hamish in an accident and felt there was a need for a picture book that deals with this subject from the perspective of a sibling. I’m proud to say the result, ‘Finn’s Feather’ will be published in 2017.

  159. It’s so good you had the courage and the wisdom to write this book. It’s a difficult topic, but kids need to find ways to deal with the difficulties in their lives. Small kids don’t always have the words they need for this.
    When books have the words they need, that’s a lovely encounter. Much success with this book.

  160. This is simply a beautiful book that touches–and strenthens–so many souls. Thank you for this; can’t wait to “Share”. ~Yvette

  161. Thank you Melanie for bringing a voice to those who couldn’t express their story. Thank you also for letting yourself move naturally into uncharted territory by simply listening to your own voice.

  162. Thank you for your post Melanie. You have left us with a lot to think about, stepping into uncharted territory as writers, courage, honesty and voice just to name a few.

  163. Great post, Melanie! Thank you for taking on subjects that are difficult and important. We need brave writers. And kids deserve it. Thank you!

  164. What an aMaxing story about the birth of this book. It’s inspiring as I am inspired to write about some darker experiences at times to help children navigate their way through it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  165. Thank you for writing about difficult topics that provide hope for children. And thank you for providing an access point for children into this subject, although I also agree that picture books are for everyone!

  166. Great post Melanie! Picture books like this are a wonderful opportunity to open discussion and talk about things that so important, but not easily addressed. I am looking forward to finding and reading this!

  167. A tragic story indeed! I did copious amounts of research on the Nez Perce tribe and their Trail of Tears from Idaho to Oklahoma and to learn about these communities uprooted and broken was difficult. I can’t imagine learning about a family member enduring a similar history.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  168. Excellent points made. I have seven children, so I know very well that children are capable of and understanding that is much deeper than most people give them credit for.

  169. Thank you for writing about these topics. Children and all people need to hear them and have access to them.

  170. It’s wonderful that this book is out there. We hear so much about what a hard sell these darker or sadder books can be. Thank you for writing a hopefully ever after. As long as there is hope there is potential for future happiness.

  171. Congratulations on your success as you tackle tough, worthwhile subjects. Our county has a reading competition revolving around 15 books in which over 1500 fifth graders are participating. Every year there is at least one picture book – this year it is The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco. There is definitely a need and a market for picture books tackling tough subjects, and they really resonate with children.

  172. I have been illustrating the oral history of Growing Woman from Paula Underwoods The Walkong People. She was from Oneida people I believe. Are you familiar with her work?

  173. Very inspiring…Books like this are so needed! My great niece (three years old) lost her father tragically. I have thought about writing a book for small children like her…just to let her know as she grows, that she’s not alone! Thanks you Melanie….I’m going to get your book and look forward to reading it!

  174. Thank you for writing stories that address real life topics that children experience, but can be difficult to address. I look forward to reading this story!

  175. Thank you, Melanie. I really appreciate your advice to writers that “you don’t have to solve a problem, moralize, preach or make it all okay. Because sometimes it’s not okay. We don’t always get happy endings.” How true! I look forward to reading your books and will think about what you said as I work on new manuscripts.

  176. Wish I had this book when I was young. Very relevant to me. I requested it from our county library, but they don’t have it (in the whole county). Will keep requesting it. Maybe they will finally get it.

  177. Wow, Melanie! Your blog made me want to cry! I so salute you for following your heart to write about the difficult subject of a parent dying. And….thanks for the inspiration to “tackle issues that aren’t common.” There is no more powerful way to express those issues than through writing…..and writing in a picture book. Thanks for your courage and tenacity! You are an inspiration!

  178. Wow, what a powerful interview, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s so true, we shy away from being open with kids about dark experiences, but who is more vulnerable to them than kids, and who needs a voice and reassurance more than them? Thank you for your writing, and your advice.

  179. Touché! I so appreciate your validation of writing difficult/dark topics for children. You’ve given me courage to tackle parts of my own history that are tough and void of happy endings. Thank you very much!

  180. Melanie, thank you! What an encouraging post. It made me broaden my picture book topic horizon. There are so many kids out there that need books that speak to them about difficult situations. I look forward to reading Missing Nimama.

  181. As someone who has never contemplated writing on dark issues, I found your blogpost very thought-provoking. We all instinctively want “a happy ending” or at least for things to be “fair” but, as all adults know, this is not always the case. Finding books addressing these topics give adults a tool to promote discussion and give children a sense that they are not alone in their difficult situation.

  182. Thank you for your posts and for your courage in addressing the darkness that some children face. We need to find ways to support our children and help them find the beauty in the world, which is broken in many ways.

  183. Wow. I’m moved by this story already! Thank you for touching on an important aspect of life–death. Children need picture books to help them find the door to many subjects, and this is one of them.

  184. Such a powerful topic and such an important story to tell. My son (6yo) has been asking about death much too frequently for my taste, and I might be the worst person to explain it to him. I’m grateful that authors like you are doing what the rest of us aren’t courageous enough to do.

  185. Wow, I cannot wait to read this book. Thank you for being a voice for children whose stories had previously been deemed “too dark” to tell. Thank you for shining a light into that darkness.

  186. This was a remarkable post! I absolutely love that you wrote about this topic. I know this will help so many.

  187. Thank you so much for your post. I think it’s important to have sensitive picture books that touch on difficult topics for young children, and Missing Nimama does that in a very sweet, touching way. I loved your post and love your book as well!

  188. This story sounds incredible. What a beautiful message. Thank you for sharing your insight about writing darker PBs.

  189. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight and candor — and I look forward to reading your books! Your approach to writing about painful and emotional experiences echoes the essay collection I’ve been reading recently by Katherine Paterson (The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children).

  190. I appreciate your courage to write about those difficult subjects. Picture books are such a wonderful way to come alongside a child who is going through such times.

  191. I know it’s too late for the rafflecopter, but I enjoyed reading your post anyway.
    Is it too late for the end of month check in? I was out of town.

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