Local author Annette LeBox has been short-listed for the B.C. Book Prizes.
LeBox is a finalist for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature prize along with New York-based Stephanie Graegin, who illustrated the book.
LeBox, who has won numerous awards for her writing, says this book is different.
Peace Is An Offering is a poem that LeBox wrote just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“It’s a poem, but I had written the poem as a picture book,” said LeBox.
“I have always visualized it as a picture book.”
LeBox remembers crying as she was watching the chaos unfold in New York City during the attacks that brought the Twin Towers to the ground.
“I was just thinking, ‘Oh my god, the world is going to change. There’s going to be war. It’s never going to be the same.’”
She wrote the poem in only a couple of hours, “in a kind of a white heat,” thinking if there could only be peace in the world.
“It was one of the easiest things I think I have ever written,” said LeBox.
Two weeks later, she sent her poem to publishers in New York City, expecting them to pick it up.
Instead, she was rejected.
“What they said, basically, was everything is so up in the air now, politically, that we don’t even want to touch it,” said LeBox.
She even sent it to Canadian publishers, who also rejected it.
So, she stuck it in a drawer, telling her husband that she was confident one day it would be published.
Two years ago, she finally got the nerve again to send it out to her agent in New York, but again it was rejected. He didn’t know how her poem could be illustrated, she said.
“It doesn’t mention 9/11 in so many words. There is just hint of it. Any adult reading it would get it, but a child wouldn’t.”
Part of the poem reads, “And even in the wake of tragedy, And even then you might find her, In the rubble of a fallen tower, In the throw of your darkest hour, In the hat of a hero in the loss of a friend.”
Followed by, “Peace is a joining not a pulling a part, “It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.”
It wasn’t until the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place in December 2012 in Newtown ,Connecticut that her agent decided the timing was right.
He sent it to a publisher who had printed another of LeBox’s books two years before and this time decided within a week to accept it.
Graegin was then hired to illustrate it.
“Most people fall in love with the illustrations, they are just gorgeous,” LeBox said.
The page referring to 9/11 shows the backs of a mother, a child and a little dog sitting on a bench overlooking the New York skyline. There is a huge cherry tree with a couple of blossoms falling off of it, representing memory and loss.
Peace Is An Offering is also nominated for the Black Eyed Susan award by the Maryland Association of School Librarians and it has also been selected for the Blue Ribbon Book Committee for 2016.
LeBox even received a letter from country singer and song writer Dolly Parton congratulating her after it was selected for the Dollywood Foundation Literary Program, a free book distribution program started in 1995 and which has since sent 60 million books to children in 1,600 communities in the U.S., Canada, and U.K.
Winners for the B.C. Book Prizes will be announced April 30.