Life is filled with change and, sometimes, loss. Children experiencing loss and grief may need help to know that they are not alone and that memories can comfort them.
Amanda Rawson Hill wrote You’ll Find Me for just that reason. Here’s an interview with her about creating the book.
Magination Press: What inspired you to write You’ll Find Me?
Amanda Rawson Hill: I wrote You’ll Find Me about eight months after my brother-in-law died of cancer. His daughter was three at the time, and she came to visit for the week. A day or two into the visit, she found a picture of her dad and carried it everywhere with her. After she left, I was stripping the sheets on her bed and found the picture under the covers. I got teary thinking about how she’d found her dad and then the text just came to me in a rush. I ran to get a pencil and paper and wrote the first draft in about 30 minutes.
MP: Why do children need books about loss?
ARH: Children need books about loss to know that they aren’t alone, and that it will be okay. They need someone to tell them that this big, scary thing isn’t the end of the world. And often after a huge loss, the most important adults in their life are also in a profound state of grief which can make it very hard to effectively talk to the child about loss and help them process it. Loss is part of life, and books tell children that in a way that is still hopeful and gentle.
MP: Some people might interpret your story to be about coping with the death of a loved one. Did you intend it that way or did you intend to address a wider kind of loss?
ARH: The journey of this book has been very interesting. When I originally wrote it, I was actually intending it to be a pre-grief text: something a family would read when a parent or grandparent was in the process of dying. Something to help them say goodbye. It also worked very well as a grief book after the fact as well, so we figured we’d market it as both. But after I saw Joanne’s illustrations, I was struck by how much they changed the tone of the story. The pictures really softened and universalized the text so that it could be whatever a child needed it to be. So we tweaked two sentences in the text to give it a broader audience beyond just loss. Now I see it as a book to help children through any kind of separation. Short term, long term, etc.
MP: Children have experienced new kinds of losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic including the loss of going to school, playing with friends, or participating in favorite activities like sports, art classes, or playing in the band. How do you think You’ll Find Me might be especially helpful in this situation?
ARH: Really, the heart of You’ll Find Me is that the bright spots and joys in our past point to joy in our future. That things change and might not be completely the same, but there are threads that we can find to anchor us to the people we love, the places we love, the activities we love. We just have to be willing to find them in new ways. I think this is something we can all use in our current situation. The world right now is different, and many of the things and people we LOVE are not available to us in the same way. But if we can go back to what we loved from before and mine those memories for the bright spots, we can use those to look at what we have now and find bits of that goodness in the present.
A child may not have traditional in-person school, but they can still experience the thrill of learning something new. the feeling of completing a hard task. They can find new ways to interact with friends. What goodness can we find in our current situation? The more we look for it, the more we will notice the small gifts all around us. I think helping a child grow that sense of gratitude and awareness is incredibly helpful.
MP: What was it like to see your illustrator’s, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, interpretation of your words?
ARH: It made me cry. Several times. I felt like I was handing Joanne a very heavy text and I expected to see heavy pictures. And instead, her illustration filled my text with light. It honestly felt a little like reading a completely different book. Her pictures changed the tone so dramatically for me that there was a shift in what I saw as the message of the book. It was incredible.
MP: You’ve written a novel for middle grade students, too. How was writing a picture book different or the same?
ARH: Writing a picture book was much faster. 🙂 I’ve written other picture books where the process feels much closer to my middle grade books. Lots and lots of revision. You’ll Find Me wasn’t like that though. The words felt more like a gift than something I had to hone into submission.
The biggest difference between writing a novel and a picture book is the illustrator and how they can change your book. With a novel, I have basically total control. With a picture book, I’m not even sure the author has half the control, the pictures are so important. Letting go of your creative work and allowing someone else to put their spin on it is actually kind of a scary and exhilarating process. Because of that, I feel like I can use a much lighter touch with picture books, leaving a lot more unsaid. And I like that.
MP: Do you have plans to write any more books?
ARH: Oh yes! I have more novels and picture books on the way in the next couple years and I’m working on more to try and sell. I’ve always got something I’m working on.
MP: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
ARH: I homeschool my children, play board games, read books, do crossword puzzles, yell about politics, play the piano and ukulele, and take naps!
MP: Is there a fun fact about you that readers might not know that you’d like to share?
ARH: I have traveled every inch of I-80 because of all the cross country moves I’ve made over the last fifteen years!
MP: What was your favorite children’s book when you were growing up?
ARH: I loved Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. It was the first book that really made me feel deeply and I never forgot it.
Hear Amanda read You’ll Find Me aloud here.
Related Books from Magination Press
You’ll Find Me
Loss becomes remembrance in this book that offers tender ways to pay tribute to, and meaningfully incorporate, a loved one’s lost presence into present and future life experiences. Be it departed friends, family, pets, and more, memories can carry us beyond the precious moments we have together to keep the ones we loved before in mind forever.
Throughout the book the omnipresent narrator encourages thoughtful reflection on the empty spaces left by the loss. The gentle scenes portrayed inspire recovery from sadness and honor those who are absent. This lyrical heartful story provides consent and gently encourage readers to move to a place of peace and acceptance despite the absence.