Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest: A Joyful Christmas Release in the UK
Let me begin here: I write a children’s book series titled Lady Lucy’s Quest about a feisty multi-racial heroine who becomes a knight in the Middle Ages. With her team of trusty helpers (Dillon the Dragon; Tapestry the Unicorn; and Quincy the Belgian Shepherd), she goes on a myriad of quests that call for creativity, ingenuity, tenacity, endurance, strength and courage to reach resolution. And, when faced with inevitable and seemingly intractable problems, Lady Lucy and her team find solutions where none appeared to exist.
The most recent book in this series, Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest (the cover of which appears above), is being released on Christmas Day in St. Margaret’s Church in Ockley (a village in Surrey), England. (It will also be available at Northshire Books in the US at the same time: www.northshire.com.) And the obvious question is why.
Why is the book coming out in England? Why at a church in Surrey? And why on Christmas? Good questions all.
Here are the answers, and I hope that they are at once informative and inspiring and bring a touch of wonder and serendipity to a world that is fraught with difficulties on so many levels.
Why St. Margaret’s Church?
Many reasons. First, it is located in Ockley and that is where the real complete set of bones of a dinosaur (a Baryonyx) was found by William Walker in 1983; those bones are now housed in the Natural History Museum. (I don’t want to give away too much of the story….)
Next, the church is stunning and historic, with the building dating back over 700 years (in a sense, a parallel to dinosaurs who date back centuries). And, it has an amazing bell made at the same foundry as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. What could be more important than beautiful sounds and liberty in our world now?
But, the most important reason is that St. Margaret’s serves its community and it does so with enormous grace and pride. And, a portion of the net proceeds from Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest will be going to the church foundation to enable it to continue its community efforts and insure that the church building itself is preserved and remains forever and a day.
There is an added reason. The original Lady Lucy’s Quest book was based on a real woman from England — Lady Lucy Duff Gordon. She was a fashion designer of extraordinary repute and lived for a time in the US where she advertised in the Sear Roebuck catalog, a rarity for women’s fashion. She had courage and strength and lived a life filled with challenges and ups and downs. A legal case involving her was always a part of my teaching of first year law students; we had “Lady Lucy Day.” It was so popular that other students and even graduates came back just to participate once again in that class.
So, basing my books on real events and real places and real people is a part of the Lady Lucy series. And, the church is real as are many of the other sites in the book. The dinosaur is real too, and the one that was found in Ockley, like the dinosaur in the story, had fish bones in its skeletal stomach.
As with the prior question, many reasons. First, Lady Lucy is based on a British woman as just observed. Next, many of us associate knights and castles and quests with Great Britain, so the setting seemed perfect (in addition to being the home of many dinosaur remains).
But, the real reason is that the designer and illustrator of this story (and some of the others) lives and works in Surrey. She and I connected some time ago about the demise of Southern Vermont College, a place about which we both had strong ties and even stronger memories. Indeed, an earlier Lady Lucy book, Lady Lucy’s Ghost Quest, is based on the Southern Vermont College campus and its Everett Mansion.
This designer/illustrator, Dianne Sunda, works with children and so her work on these books intended for children (although adults enjoy them too) takes on added meaning for me. She helps children grow and flourish as artists, finding their creative muse and expanding their sense of wonder. Her illustrations and the work of her team have made the Lady Lucy series a marvel to see. The stories come alive through the art, which is worth the price of the book even if there were no story.
In a sense, the publication of this particular Lady Lucy book is a tribute to the designer and illustrator and her remarkable team. I wanted them to be recognized and acknowledged and they have rendered illustrations that are extraordinary, particularly if you have been to the actual sites that Lady Lucy and her team visit on their journey.
Indeed, but for the Pandemic, I would have seen those locations pre-publication and read the book aloud in the UK but that will have to wait until the world is a safer place. And the latter observation gets me to the last points.
Again, there is no simple reason. Originally, the book was set to be released way sooner but it got slowed down by the Pandemic. Next, the book is all about strength and courage and teamwork and what better time than Christmas to celebrate those values which we need ever so much these days? And, for many, Christmas this year will be filled with sadness and a loss of heartfelt traditions. Some people are ill and others have died; social distancing, masks and shutdowns have altered the holiday landscape.
We do need new traditions, things to help us celebrate and find a pathway forward (more on that in a moment). For me, reading and writing and art have always provided solace and joy and peace. With the release of a new children’s story (based on a real story in a real nation with a real central character), perhaps we can all find solace, joy and peace.
I write children’s books and I hope they are enjoyed by children. But, I also hope the adults reading to children will find enjoyment too. Children’s stories can look, at first glance, just to be a “story.” But, on further examination, the stories have other and deeper layers that can be explored and discussed — from history to (in this case) dinosaurs to personal strength to success when that result seems far fetched.
I did a YouTube Video that explains Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest and it includes a reading of its first 10 pages. This will be shared with community members at Christmas in St. Margaret’s Church — whether online or in person. And, the children in attendance will get a copy of the new book. Would that I were there to see them receive the book.
There is a link to that video below; I hope you will watch it and share the excitement of Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest.
One last thought: In Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest, there is a map at the end of the book that shows all the places Lady Lucy and her team visited as they searched for a dinosaur. (They had a map too as they journeyed.) The map allows readers to follow the story and it also serves as a reminder of where they have been on their long quest.
That describes is the meaning of the map at one level. At another level, we are all living in such extraordinary times that we are creating new maps for how to move forward. We have become cartographers in a very real sense. It is my hope that the map in Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest is a recognition and reminder of and encouragement for our efforts to move forward, to keep going in hard times and to keep a record of where we have been and where we go. Someday, maps like that will provide remarkable memories.