art ~ spirit ~ transformation
e*lix*ir

e*lix*ir   #16
Twin Birthdays 2023
State of the Arts
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Editorial

The Art of a Loving Correspondence

The Writing Life

Trust in Poetry by Tami Haaland

Features

The Beautiful Foolishness of Things, A collaborative work by poet Sandra Lynn Hutchison, composer Margaret Henderson, and painter Inger Gregory
Writing Music for The Beautiful Foolishness of Things, by Margaret Henderson

Poetry

Heather Anne Hutchison
Victor Kulkosky
Linette Kuy

Essays

The Art of Losing by Victor Kulkosky
Yearning for Water: The Story of a Traveling Quilt by Bradford Miller

Personal Reflections on Bahá’í Texts

Fire and Paradise by James Andrews

Letters

Dreaming of a Better Iran: A Letter to Our Fellow Citizens by Eight Bahá’í Students

Translations

“I Want to Walk With You” translated by Bashir Sayyah

Comics

Ruhi & Riaz by Eira

Voices of Iran

Keeping the Eternal Garden by Maryam Afzal and Saam Mozafari
Mrs. Mansouri’s Mission by Shahrzad Mohebbi
Nothing but the Sanctity of the Desert by Nazgol Adyani
Five Days by Bahar Rohani

Interviews

Art and the Creative Process: An Interview with Hooper C. Dunbar by Nancy Lee Harper
An Interview with Erfan Hosseini, Santur Player by Mehrsa Mastoori

Arts

Paintings by Hooper C. Dunbar

State of the Art

Books for Children by Allison Grover Khoury

Looking Back on Books

Forty-eight Fragments by Imelda Maguire
The Divine Melody: Song of the Mystic Dove by Lorraine Hétu Manifold
Walking to Martha’s Vineyard by Franz Wright
Soul of the Maine House by Bradford Miller

Films

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in France by Perry Productions


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State of the Art:
Books for Children

by ALLISON GROVER KHOURY

All year long I scour Bahá’í publishing and author websites, on the lookout for Bahá’í books and materials for children, junior youth, and youth. Below I offer a small selection of some of the books for toddlers, children, and youth I found this year. This is by no means a comprehensive list; there are many other Baha’i-themed and authored books available at various publishing trusts around the world, in Bahá’í bookstores, and on Amazon. I have simply selected some books that I especially liked, and ones I think families will enjoy.


I am beginning with this charming picture book — >Yes, Lucien! by Mathai Mathenge and illustrated by Justin Farmer, with creative collaborator Juan Pacheco — because it is a wonderful addition to Bahá’í children’s literature. Yes, Lucien! features an adorable, spunky, thoughtful seven-year-old boy. Lucien is part of a loving family who supports and encourages him throughout his day as he makes decisions about healthy snacks, when to turn off the TV and read a book, when to clean his room, and more. By means of the multiple choice questions offered, readers get to choose as Lucien does. A page turn reveals what Lucien chose. If it was the responsible or healthiest choice, he is celebrated with a big “Yes Lucien!”. Thoughtful parents everywhere will delight in this book. The illustrations are brightly colored, and rooms in Lucien’s house are filled with recognizable African-American art and culture. Lucien’s parents are often wearing T-shirts honoring artists and musicians.

Written and illustrated by two African-American men, this book adds much-needed voices, an important story and wonderful art to a genre of children’s books in which these voices, stories, and images are still rare. I hope this excellent book, as well as its planned sequels, will encourage authors and illustrators of every race and culture to share their stories.

Author Mathai Mathenge is a long-time elementary school teacher, a loving father and life-long Bahá’í. He, the book’s illustrator Justin Farmer, and their creative collaborator, Juan Pacheco, live in the Los Angeles area. Mathai graciously agreed to answer my question about how the book got started, telling me that he was inspired to write a positive, supportive story about a boy’s choices as he goes about his day by a picture book he used in teaching kindergarten years ago, a book in which a lively boy was criticized and told NO at every turn. He said he wanted to bring his passion for Hip Hop, specifically the Los Angeles 90s/00s Hip Hop scene, into the story and knew that his friend Justin Farmer would know just how to bring the same vibe into the illustrations. He also told me he wanted to add to the store of multicultural literature available. He said, “I decided to write a book that my child, the children I teach, and my friends’ children could celebrate as one reflection of their reality as opposed to just another book that checks the boxes but lacks the heart of the culture.” You can read more of his thoughts on his Instagram page @yeslucien. Yes, Lucien! can be ordered here: yeslucian.com and will soon be available on Amazon. This book is self-published but deserves being picked up by a major publisher to achieve wider recognition and a broader market.


Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan, with illustrations by Merce Lopez, tells the story of a riotous journey from a city to a beach on the Island of Zanzibar in a ‘daladala’, a vehicle that is a combination of a bus and a truck. Over the course of a few stops, everyone and everything that could be packed onto and into the daladala have been. Chickens, goats, children, adults, sugar cane, fruit in baskets, fresh milk, scuba equipment, umbrellas, and much more, all make their way to the beach together. Everyone gets pressed closer and closer together each time the driver stops. Musa, the young protagonist, becomes seriously worried about how much more room there can be in the daladala. But the rest of the riders show good-natured confidence that there will always be room. Soon Musa is joyfully inviting more to come aboard and “join the fun!” By the end of the book, Musa has learned the valuable lesson that, with a little extra effort, generosity and good humor, there really can be room for everyone.

Inspired by a journey author Naaz Khan, a Bahá’í currently living in Washington D.C., took on a daladala while visiting Zanzibar, this book is both fun and instructive. Engagingly illustrated by Marce Lopez, Room for Everyone is sure to entertain young readers and their families again and again. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, this book is beautifully made and will, no doubt, serve as a wonderful addition to many families’ favorite read-aloud books.


Two exquisite little books, Love is Light: Bahá’í Quotes on Love and A Flourishing Tree: A Prayer by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are among Elaheh Mottahedeh Bos’s latest publications. Beautiful flowers adorn each of the quotes on love in Love Is Light. Sweet-faced children from all over the world surrounded by tree branches and blossoms frame each line of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prayer in A Flourishing Tree. Elaheh has a lovely website — plantlovegrow.com — that includes more books of prayers and quotes, picture books, little coloring books, bookmarks, magnets, social stories, and emotional support books, all created to nurture, encourage, and inspire children. Her art is always beautiful and the quality of the publication is excellent. I regularly gift her books and supplies to the participants in our children’s class.


Ronnie Tomanio is a dear and long-time friend of mine. We have worked together on planning children’s art and literature conferences for twenty-five years and discussed children’s literature for longer than that. I never tire of his beautiful writing: the cadence of the words, the sensitive descriptions and details, the imaginative way he weaves accessible characters into stories based on Bahá’í history. His latest book was published by George Ronald and is historical fiction. The Winter Coat brings us to Akka in the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We meet a family that includes a young boy named Ahmed, through whose eyes we experience much of the story. Ahmed’s family has suffered great hardship in Akka. A family friend encourages the family to seek help from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who helps them in many ways, spiritual and material, including giving the family warm winter coats during a cold winter. We feel the despair of their impoverished lives, and the impact of the hope and help they receive from the Master, whom they hold in the highest esteem. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passes away, they attend the funeral with broken hearts. This tender story is perfect for children ages eight to eleven.


In this touching story for junior youth and youth, the reader meets fifteen-year-old Aalia as she is coping with the death of her dearest friend, Charlotte. Aalia is processing the grief of losing her grandmother some years back, so the loss of Charlotte feels unbearable. Aalia makes a new friend when Willow joins her class part way through the year. Faced with many challenges and also having some fun while learning about the Bahá’í Faith through a youth group, Aalia begins to navigate both life and her grief in new ways. Her supportive parents are right beside her, and she is able to move forward toward healing and supporting her friend Willow through her challenging times as well. Quotes from the Bahá’í Writings about life after death are integrated in a very natural way into the story.


Warrior Grandma: The Story of Patricia Locke is a fine fifth book in the Change Maker Series published by Bellwood Press, the imprint of the Bahá’í Publishing Trust in the U.S. Modeled after the famed and hugely successful Penguin Publishing Who Is/Who Was biographies, these books are accessible biographies for children eight to eleven years old. If readers are interested in learning more about this series, they can read my review of the first four books in issue #13 of e*lix*ir. While some books in this series are in need of a skilled editor, and suffer from repetition and problems with flow and consistency that are not the fault of the authors, overall the Change Maker Series continues to be a promising way for children to learn about many extraordinary Bahá’ís who lived in the past century.

Patricia Locke, long-time and devoted Bahá’í, was a member of the Lakota Nation. Her Lakota name, Thawachin Waste Win, means Compassionate Woman. Patricia Locke was an educator and an indigenous activist also active in advocating for women’s rights. She bravely and with great perseverance resisted and helped overcome the racism and discrimination that indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world faced and continue to face. She was and remains an inspiration to many.


Daily Reflections and Stories for Children: Stories of Bahiyyih Khanum, Book 5 is the latest in a series published by George Ronald that includes nineteen virtues (one for each day of the Bahá’í month), related quotes, short passages from the Bahá’í Writings, a story, and a little painting. I am always looking for stories about Bahiyyih Khanum to share with my ten-year-old daughter, so this book has been a welcome addition to our library. The quotes and stories are accessible to older children and would be suitable for eight to ten year olds. My only complaint is that the stunning paintings are way too small to be fully enjoyed by children or adults. The art and the reader deserve a larger reproduction of the images. I would have liked to see the art displayed on a full page, or at least a half page. Other books feature stories of the Central Figures of the Faith, so the whole series is well worth having.


Jacqueline Mehrabi, excellent and prolific writer of Bahá’í fiction, histories and biographies for children and youth has written yet another fine book, The Lamp: The Life Story of The Báb. The deeply moving and very heroic life of the Báb is told mostly in chronological order, from the Báb’s boyhood to His martyrdom and His burial on Mount Carmel by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1909. Wonderful illustrations by Shahrokh Nael help provide visual context to those of us who have not been to Iran. Detailed back matter including a glossary, pronunciation guide, prayers and writings by the Báb, dates, bibliography, maps and more will assist younger readers in delving into the life of the Báb in greater detail. The Lamp is an excellent preparation for reading The Dawn-Breakers once a young reader becomes a youth.



Allison Grover Khoury
Bio:   Allison Grover Khoury has been a life-long lover of children’s literature. She grew up in India and pursued studies for a bachelor’s degree in international studies at the School for International Training in Vermont. She has worked as a software technical consultant, an ESL teacher, a book reviewer, and an editor, but has most enjoyed her work in libraries and bookstores. She is a founding member of Spirit of Children and maintains a children’s literature review blog. Allison offers workshops on picture books and runs a special reading program at her son’s school, centered on books that have received the annual Caldecott medal for illustration. She lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.