Circle of Friends, my second book in the Guardian Angel Series has been a joy to write and is undoubtedly my favourite in the series. I have created a garden within a garden to reflect the magic of being transported from one place to another. Here again your child will experience the imaginary sights and sounds of their special garden created from the first book but in addition very different ones will evolve from the description of a Japanese garden. As before I have included Parental Insights and Pauses, and themes of both the meditation and story in the front of the book to guide the parents into making the most of this unique meditation story.
I want to move on to some aspects from a writers perspective of what motivated me to create this delightful story and reflect on what this story means to me. I have included at the start of the story an inspirational quote by Tom Hannah, “Tolerance and celebration of individual differences is the fire that fuels lasting love.” I just love this quote, and sincerely believe this to be true in any type of relationship. But here in this story, it is about a developing childhood friendship, culturally set in a Japanese garden. The story is woven around the differences of one culture to another and ideally I could have picked any culture. I wanted to create visually, a different scene for your child to enjoy. One where he or she can be immersed in the joy of that moment when we open our hearts to another, and how it can lead to the discovery of new things. As a parent I have been delighted to have witnessed young children positively interacting quite naturally with other children from another culture or with obvious individual differences such as a physical impairment. Amidst the backdrop of childhood play, any differences seem to be accepted perhaps hidden to them while enjoying the moment. If allowed to develop naturally, friendship blossoms and then differences can be celebrated. Parents I believe play an important role here in letting go of preconceived fears, and beliefs that impede this natural flow of a friendship.
Yui, a young Japanese schoolgirl is the central character that we meet in the garden. Without giving too much away, she is not ‘happy in her own skin.’ She feels left out and overlooked by her classmates which has led her to be obsessed with finding out whether she will be invited to the latest schoolmate‘s birthday party. What happens in this magical garden provides her with a valuable lesson in acceptance of her differences and what she is willing to do to be accepted. I can here you all groan how familiar this scenario is as many of you as parents have had to cope with this disappointment with their own children. But the fear of not being part of ‘the gang’ or dominant peer group is real even as young as preschool children. In Circle of Friends I hope that I have created a story that may help children to understand or acknowledge this fear and be happier in ‘their own skin’ and celebrate what makes them who they are.
I would also like to share a special insight of this particular story. The main character ‘Yui’ is named after my Japanese host child who stayed with my family as part of my daughter’s school exchange program in 2013. When thinking of names for all my characters in the books I spend a lot of time researching meanings and how the name fits into the story. What came to mind immediately was Yui’s beautiful smile, openness to learn, and most of all her gratitude and acceptance of our family. This was especially significant as during her stay I was diagnosed breast cancer and have always wondered if the stress of what was evolving affected her stay. So I have honoured my host child Yui by naming her as the main character in the book. So on many levels this story remain very special to me and is a celebration of cultural exchange, tolerance and renewed life.