I wrote Rainbow Reunion fifteen years ago. The basic story was told to me by a very dear aunt who has grandchildren from various cultural backgrounds. She was reflecting on how lovely it was that each family had a different name for her, for ‘Grandmother’.
I took her story and combined it with a quote from a Unitarian minister: “The rainbow symbol celebrates the many distinctive colours of humanity, and the beauty of bridging cultural and faith barriers.”
(The rainbow has symbolized many things over time, the most recent being LGBT Pride. It is always a beautiful symbol no matter what it stands for.)
I threw in a child-like lifeguard (Levi), six culturally mixed families looking for their grandmother at the beach and, finally, the reunion with the creation of the rainbow crescent by the families (each family is wearing t-shirts depicting one colour of the rainbow). The family even adopts a new member, Levi, who is wearing violet – the final colour of the rainbow – to make it complete. The book ends with a glossary of grandmother names in other languages and the family tree of the characters in the story.
I sent this manuscript off to a contest that was looking for stories for children that celebrated cultural diversity within Canada. My story celebrates cultural diversity within one family! To my utter amazement (I don’t usually write picture book stories) I won the contest and received a nice cash prize.
From there I began the oh-so-slow process of submitting my story to publishing houses. After a bunch of rejections I decided to take matters into my own hands. I contacted an artist acquaintance whose work I loved and asked if she’d be interested in illustrating my story. She agreed. This wonderful artist is Julie Fox.
Julie took my story to a whole new level with her illustrations. They far exceeded my expectations. Rainbow Reunion is now one of those picture books that is multi-layered. Each time a parent and child read it they will discover more of the rich details that represent the culture of the families depicted. These details are shown through sand-castles, beach toys and many beautiful details in the sand and sky. The colours are vibrant and warm at the same time.
This has been a labour of love, especially for Julie who, after completing the art began to grapple with the layout, the format and so many other book-producing decisions.
Fifteen years. You can practically raise a child in that time, and I’m relieved that human pregnancies don’t last that long. But as the award committee said, books like these “help young children everywhere”.
The book should be out in December. Please contact me for a signed copy.