Monday, March 21, 2016

A Children's Book that helps us grieve and remember our loved ones!

"What Grandma Built"
A delightful story written by: Michelle Gilman and  Illustrated by: Jazmin Sasky
A summary of the book: "Grandma builds her home on the shore of a lake. As her family gets bigger, the house grows too- and eventually becomes a castle, a magical place full of love and traditions. The castle's stone foundation means that it will last for years and years, just like how Grandma and her love will last forever in the memories of her family".
A few years ago, Michelle Gilman approached me to illustrate a book she wrote honouring her late mother, Phyllis. Michelle lost her mom a few months before we met and the idea for the book came from the eulogy she wrote for her mom’s funeral. The story was a simple and delightful one, telling the story of a grandma through the eyes of her grandchildren. Keeping a warm and friendly tone throughout the book, the reader learns how this grandma nurtures and loves her husband, children and grandchildren eventually building “a magical castle” where the family builds memories together.
The process of creating this book was magical because both Michelle and I witnessed the fight and loss of a loved one to cancer. Going through the life of this Grandma, her joyful moments, her illness and her death, helped me, in a special way, to grief and to process my own brother's death. 

In many of our meetings, Michelle and I just sat down and cried and talked about our loved ones. The loss was recent  for both of us and the story was so personal that it brought tears and memories. Michelle had many versions of the story being the death part the most challenging one to write.  When Michelle was pleased with the story (after many editing and corrections) she passed it on to me so I could start visualizing the book.
I first sketched the whole book in pencil in order to check the flow of the story and the illustrations. This process was very important because I checked that the compositions were interesting, that each page was different and that each page would capture the child's attention.

Once the sketching part was completed, I prepared the book for colour. I created a first color sample for Michelle to approve. Once she approved this sample (below), I coloured the whole book.

When the book was completed, Michelle and I met to approve each single page and to discuss the most important page: the cover of the book. Lara Shecter, the book designer, was at the meeting too and she suggested to do the book cover illustrating only the "magical castle". We liked the idea of not showing the Grandma in the cover. I did a small illustration to show the Grandma in the first page (which I really like).

Once, the book was scanned, Lara prepared the layout of the book for printing.

Michelle printed a few copies for her family on the marking of the anniversary of Phyllis’ death. After sharing the book with her family, Michelle started sharing the book with friends and was surprised to hear that friends were asking to buy a copy for their own families. The story was appealing to everyone because it was a story of love, family traditions and legacy. 
After endless calls and meetings, Michelle managed to meet with Harbour Publishing Company. They loved the story and decided to publish, distribute and sell "What Grandma Built".
Today, I received in the mail some copies of the book that will be available soon to the market!! It is so exciting that this book is going to spread and reach many more homes and families across Canada.

Michelle Gilman's Testimonial: "Thank you from the bottom of my hear for helping me honour my mom. I will be forever grateful".

About the author:
Michelle Gilman was raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba enjoying summers at Lake of The Woods, Ontario. She attended the University of Manitoba earning Bachelor degrees in both Science and Education. After moving to Phoenix, Arizona, Michelle completed her Master of Education specializing in Special Education. She worked as a resource teacher for five years, before becoming an Associate Professor at Arizona State University teaching reading in the Faculty of Education.
Harbour Publishing Company:

            "The stories you believe to be true are the ones your life will become" with love, Jazmin
Visit my website: Jazmin Sasky

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