Author Feature: Monique Gray Smith

My Heart Fills with Happines by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett

#TuesdayTalk with Monique Gray Smith. Her new board book for children, My Heart Fills with Happiness, is illustrated by Julie Flett and is on shelves now.

Tell us a bit about your book.

My Heart Fills with Happiness is a children’s board book written to support the emotional wellness of children and families.

What was the catalyst for your story?

I was facilitating a workshop for an Aboriginal Head Start in Mission with parents and staff. At lunch time, the children joined us and I watched as a young boy about 4 years of age ran up to his Kookum (Grandma). She took his face in her hands and looked deep into his eyes. I saw his whole body change and his face and eyes light up. What I saw was his heart fill with happiness. That moment planted a seed and I began to think about what fills my heart with happiness and what I’ve seen fill my children and nieces hearts with happiness. About a week later, I was in a meeting with a group of women I love dearly and the book just flowed. I wrote it in about 10 minutes. I feel like it was a gift!

What was it like to see your story come alive visually?

I don’t really have words to describe the feeling of awe to see the beautiful and magical way Julie Flett brought the story and words to life. I feel incredibly honored to have worked with her on this book.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Are you there God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Bloom.

In your opinion, what makes a compelling story?

When one or more of the characters overcomes adversity, and has a sense of humor about it.

Who do you see your book speaking to?

I think My Heart Fills with Happiness can reach or speak to any child and whomever is reading it to them; however, when I wrote it, I was thinking of the intergenerational Indian Residential Schools Survivors. I see this book as something that can be read before bed and help alter the brain chemistry of the child (and adult reading) so they fall asleep with thoughts of happiness. It is my hope that as adults read this to children, that on the last page the child will respond to what fills their heart with happiness and then turn to the adult and ask them, ‘what fills your heart with happiness’, in turn, causing the adult to reflect and answer.

Do you gravitate toward a certain genre or type of writing? Why?

I love memoirs and biographies. I am fascinated with what motivates, inspires and changes people. I also like to learn from other lived experiences.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

I hope children and their families will talk more about happiness, what fills their heart with happiness and that as a result of those conversations, they will be more aware to do the actions that fill their hearts with happiness. I hope this conversations also occur between adult family members and that they seriously consider the importance of taking actions towards happiness. I also hope the readers take time to truly explore the intricacies of Julie’s incredible illustrations. She has added many elements that often reflect happiness for children. For example, lady bugs, butterflies, Narwhals (unicorn of the sea), dragonflies, etc.

Tell us a little known or interesting fact about yourself.

When I turned 40, I went to Las Vegas and Mario Andrettti Race Car Driving School.

Monique Gray Smith

 

Monique Gray Smith is a mixed-heritage woman of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry and a proud mom of twins. Monique is an accomplished consultant, writer and international speaker. Her first novel, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience, won the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature. Monique and her family are blessed to live on Lkwungen territory in Victoria, British Columbia. For more information, visit www.littledrum.com.

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