We recently experienced the death of the Great Grandpa of our family, so we have been talking about the cycle of life at our house. Coincidentally, one of our babysitters’ recently published her first book on just that subject. Lolly and I read it the other night and decided we needed to interview her and get this book up on the blog! I was actually brought to tears by the last page, in a good way.
Check out our interview:
1. Why did you want to write this book?
When I first wrote Papa’s New Home, I was doing a lot of babysitting. And I kept meeting children who had lost a pet or grandparent, and they were very confused and curious as to where their loved one had gone. Even some children who hadn’t experienced a loss seemed fixated on the idea of death and where we go after. It’s a very overwhelming concept even for an adult, so imagine trying to grasp it as a child. So, I saw a real need for this book.
2. What parts of the story are true? Or, what event inspired the plot?
The book is based on my experience of losing my grandfather, Papa, when I was three. I changed around some details for the sake of the story – for instance, my sister, Meagan, was actually born a month before Papa died. But, other than tiny details, it’s true up through the visit from my Papa. I really did have a visitation from him a few months after he died, and told my mother all about it the next morning, how he had brought me a flower and assured me he hadn’t wanted to leave me. However, the visit to Heaven was a product of my imagination, drawing upon the many varied descriptions of Heaven I’ve heard about/read about.
3. Do you practice a religion and if yes, how do your ideas of Heaven fit in with that? If no, how did you form your ideas of Heaven?
I was raised Catholic and have visited many different churches with friends, roommates, etc. I’m pretty fascinated by learning about different faiths. The church I’ve settled on and realized encompasses my beliefs best is Unity. I certainly got an image of Heaven in my head from my Catholic upbringing, and have just expanded upon that as I’ve gotten older and exposed myself to different faiths, read various life after death books, etc.
4. What age is this book best suited for?
It fits well into the 4-8 age range, but Publishers Weekly deemed it an all age book. I know I’ve had many reports so far that, though written for children, it’s had a pretty profound effect on some adults, as well.
1. How did you think of this….what made you want this idea of this book?
Well, at the same time I was meeting a lot of kids who had questions about Heaven, I had an assignment in an acting class to write an autobiography. I found myself writing about when my Papa died, and my teacher commented that she liked that part of the story best. Those two ideas came together in my mind, and I got the idea to write Papa’s New Home.
2. How did you come up with this kind of Heaven? (I think she means—dogs, houses, a garden, the library…she was particularly baffled by the pictures of the future sister)
Well, I don’t think any of us really know exactly what Heaven will be like until we get there. But, I based my concept of Heaven on a lot of things – our traditional concept of Heaven that we grow up with in churches, the books I’ve read by people who have had near-death experiences, and what I’d like to see when I get there. For instance, my family is from Massachusetts and we love the ocean, so I thought it made sense to have them living in a cottage by the sea. I do think things are created in Heaven before they appear on earth, so that was why Papa already had a picture of Baby Meagan before she was born.
3. Did you come up with Jessie because your name is Jessica?
Yes, all the characters in the book are based on my family. I’m little Jessie, my sister is Baby Meagan, Papa is my grandfather. And the illustrator worked with pictures of my family to make the characters look like us.