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Authors turning kids' heads with new books

Kathy Kelley and Jen Lavallee will both be doing readings during the children's festival.


One, Two, Three, Meditate With Me

By Kathy Kelley, with illustrations by Lior Dahan

28 pages

ebook for $7.99, paperback for $20.99, and hardcover for $25.99

FriesenPress Editions  

Nature is an Artist

by Jen Lavallee, with illustrations by Natalia Colombo

36 pages

$22.95 hardcover

Greystone Books


Readings at the Children's Festival

Attendance at these drop-in readings is free. Each session is scheduled for 30 minutes. Best suited for children aged up to five. All readings to take place at Forsyth Hall at the St. Albert Public Library.

Thursday, June 2:

  • 1:15 p.m. – Jennifer Lavallee

Friday, June 3:

  • 11:15 a.m. – Kathy M. Kelley
  • 2:15 p.m. – Jennifer Lavallee

Saturday, June 4:

  • 12:15 p.m. – Kathy M. Kelley

As the city prepares for the International Children's Festival of the Arts, two local authors have lined themselves up for a series of reading circles with their brand new kids' books.

Jen Lavallee and Kathy Kelley will take turns reading their works at the library between June 2 and 4. One, Two, Three, Meditate With Me is Kelley's attempt to impart some valuable tools about meditation and mindfulness practice on the very young. The sooner they can learn the practice, she says, the better and longer the rest of their lives will be with enduring stress relief and intellectual groundedness.

First, she said, it's important to break down some of the myths about meditation.

"I know the word ‘meditate’ is hesitant for some people. To some people, it’s to sit still and doing nothing. The main premise of my book and my passion is to just teach children how to pause and breathe and to just help self-regulate, and to impress that message into their minds," she said.

"When I was growing up, I was never really taught how to self-regulate. I grew up in that generation, that family that was just like ‘go to your room to cry.’ Crying and feeling those harsh emotions were not really accepted. I know they didn’t intentionally do that. They just didn’t know how to handle it. Just stop doing it."

She had her first son when she was 21, and noticed she was passing on her own unhealthy coping mechanisms to him.

"I lost my mom two years later, which was devastating. I went through a real sad and angry place, and I was unfairly lashing out [at] my son with my words, not being able to regulate my emotions. Becoming aware of my past and everything, I went through a really long journey — the journey that I’m still on — about using meditation and mindfulness and being self-aware of my emotions and allowing myself to feel them in healthy ways and coping with them. I really healed my depression and my anger and all of that through all these meditations."

One, Two, Three is her first book, and it's a colourful one. It offers step by step instructions on breathing and visualization techniques featuring a mild-mannered unicorn and a curious dragon as the central figures. 

Paintings in the great outdoors

Nature is an Artist is the first picture book for Jen Lavallee as well. She wants to show kids how things you can find in nature are like beautiful art. Through her colourful words, she compares fauna and flora to paintings, stained glass, sculptures, collages, and prints. 

"The story itself is about exploring different art forms that kids can find in the natural world. The children in the story follow nature through different landscapes and then they discover the beauty that you can find in nature. They look at what they’re seeing in the context of fine art," she explained, adding that the story also encourages respect and appreciation for nature.

"When you see a rainbow, it's like a piece of stained glass, or you see a beautiful sunrise and it's like a painting. My goal with the book is I hope that young readers will find the confidence to see themselves as artists."

The book offers craft activities for the readers after every natural art encounter.

The book was on both CBC's list of books to read in May and picture books with environmental themes to read for Earth Day. Children's literature is actually a big switch for the seasoned writer, who has been published in fiction anthologies and worked as a reporter in Morinville, and who still maintains a business coaching writers called Third Verb.

"I was looking for a niche and when I thought about it, it just made absolute sense to go with children's literature. I've always been a huge fan. I consider myself a super-fan when it comes to middle-grade literature. I've always loved picture books," she said. 

"I'm in love with every illustrator; I think that they weave magic. There's just something so special about pairing beautiful text with illustrations. I also deeply love classics. It just made a lot of sense for me to focus on children's writing. It's been such a joy. I honestly feel like this is what I was meant to do in terms of being a writer."

Lavallee's book got a special book launch event at the Art Gallery of St. Albert on Monday.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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