“Kathy Stinson’s stories have always found ways to offer hope and comfort, easily getting into the heads of her characters and recognizing what is important to them,” says Helen Kubiw in her CanLit for Little Canadians review of my latest book.
Writing a story often begins for me with wondering, What would it be like…?
To be one of the children not allowed to stop and hear Joshua Bell play his violin in the subway station?
To be a child growing up during the last smallpox epidemic in Montreal?
Anneliese is such a child in The Lady with the Books: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman. Although Marie Lafrance’s illustrations soften the extent of the damage to Anneliese’s home and neighbourhood and the hardships children like her would have endured, Anneliese is clearly discouraged at the prospect that her street will even be what it was before the war. By the end of her story, wonderful books she has encountered at an exhibition she visits (in the Haus der Kunst in Munich) have, naturally, given her comfort and hope.
After Anneliese’s fictional story is the factual story behind the travelling book exhibition set up by Jella Lepman in 1946. Jella believed that books from many countries would help build “bridges of understanding” between people and prevent another war. The information pages go on to describe something special she did for children who attended her December exhibition (it had to do with one of the most popular books in the exhibit, The Story of Ferdinand); how Jella Lepman’s philosophy led to the founding of the International Youth Library and the International Board on Books for Young People; and how both have grown in the years since.
A portion of the royalties from the sale of this book will go to IBBY Canada’s Children in Crisis Fund.