Bestselling author Lisa Bevere has inspired millions of adult readers with books such as Without Rival and Lioness Arising. Her first picture book, Lizzy the Lioness, with illustrations by Kirsteen-Harris Jones, is the story of a playful lion cub who’s tired of being little. When Lizzy wanders away from the pride, she finds herself facing danger that she’s just not big enough to overcome. As Bevere makes very clear with this sweet story, being little is never a weakness, and sometimes asking for help is the bravest thing to do.
Why was this an important story to share with young readers?
We live in days fraught with confusion and peril. Our children have never been so inundated with conflicting messages and the demise of social boundaries. Our day demands bravery. I wanted children to know that they are never too young to have a voice and that there are times when the bravest things they can do is to ask for help.
Lizzy the Lioness was inspired by your own “Lizzy,” your granddaughter. You’ve said that strength and bravery are “particularly important” concepts to share with your granddaughter. Why?
I love Lizzy’s fierce innocence. She is strong and wants to do everything that her big brother and sister can do. I didn’t want to see this desire to put her at risk. I decided to fictionalize a story I’d read where a pride of lions rescued a little girl from her abductors in Ethiopia. I thought it would be fun to make Lizzy the littlest lion cub and create a fun story where being little wasn’t a detriment to being a hero.
This isn’t your first time using the metaphor of a lion to address the behavior of humans. Why do you return to these regal creatures?
Lions can’t help but inspire. . . . They are fierce and nurturing, free and yet intimately connected to their pride family group. In the wild plain of life, they know who they are, not to mention, they roar. I wanted this visual and relational connection made for the readers. Brave happens in the context of community where the voice of everyone is heard. I wanted to empower and validate this connection for children.
While Lizzy the Lioness has a great message for kids, there’s an author’s note at the end for parents, teachers and guardians, with conversation starters for talking to kids about asking for help. What do you think is the most difficult thing about talking with kids about this subject? And what is the best way to approach it?
I found that my boys wanted to unburden their soul as I was putting them to bed. I had hoped to make this release happen when I was wide awake and ready to be wise at 4 p.m. Bedtime was not my time of choice, so I felt that adding in tools that could make intentional conversations happen would be helpful when parents were tired and children were tender.
Also children follow what we model even more than what we say. Somewhere down the line adults have thought asking for help is a sign of weakness rather than a sign of strength. I wanted to sneak in the message to parents and mentors that it is courageous to ask for the help they need as well.
So often in children’s literature, the youngster at the heart of the book must navigate tough situations all alone. Why was it important to encourage kids to turn to the adults in their lives?
Whether we feel qualified or not, related adults (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and guardians) are their best guides, not peers. Our vulnerability and experience can go along way to teaching others from both our mistakes and successes. To that end, I want to create intentional conversations that located specific needs so the adults could equip the children with whatever they needed.
What do you love most about writing?
Writing gives me the ability to mark trails that others may follow.
What’s next for you?
For now I’m going to keep climbing the trail set before me.