Fairfield’s Monique Gray Smith recently picked up a B.C. Author Book Prize for her book My Heart Fills With Happiness.                                 Contributed photo

Fairfield’s Monique Gray Smith recently picked up a B.C. Author Book Prize for her book My Heart Fills With Happiness. Contributed photo

Fairfield author wins coveted book prize

Monique Gray Smith’s newest book wins the 2017 Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize.

Tim Collins

VICTORIA NEWS

Holding the hand of someone you love, walking barefoot through the grass, and feeling the sun shine on your face are some of the simple things in life that fill a heart with happiness.

They are experiences that cost nothing and require no technology. They are also the simple things in life, and should be cherished.

That’s the message of Monique Gray Smith’s newest book and the recent winner of the 2017 Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, My Heart Fills With Happiness.

“The book was inspired by witnessing the love of a grandmother for her grandchild, and the simple joy that can result from pure love,” said the Fairfield resident, adding she wrote the book as a reminder of the importance of small things that foster love in the heart of a child and adults.

The children’s board book is richly illustrated by Julie Flett, who has herself been the recipient of a series of awards and honours for her past work.

“Julie’s illustrations are really what bring the book to life. I’ve had a lot of parents approach me and tell me that they see their own daughter on the cover of the book…that’s how fantastic those illustrations are. They allow children to see themselves in the story, and that’s really important,” said Gray Smith.

The book’s secondary purpose is to honour the healing of intergenerational residential school survivors, a theme that is always present on some level within Gray Smith’s writing. In her 2014 book, Tilly, Gray Smith told the story of Canada through the experiences of a young indigenous woman and the characters she meets. That story resulted in Gray Smith winning the 2014 Canadian Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Literature.

In addition, Gray Smith has two more books coming out this fall. Speaking Our Truth: a Journey of Reconciliation, is a book for young people, designed to help schools teach children about the history and challenges facing the First Nations in Canada.

A second book, You Hold Me Up, is another children’s picture book, aimed at educating the youngest citizens about reconciliation and the way in which First Nations’ experience fits into that history.

“This isn’t just indigenous history or indigenous issues. They are the country’s issues and history and shouldn’t be divided up into a separate category,” explained Gray Smith. “When we finally understand that we can start to move forward with some real understanding.”

Gray Smith feels a responsibility to disseminate the message of reconciliation and it’s not one she takes lightly. She wants to get the message out, while acknowledging that her take on the issue is only one of many who are writing about what still needs to be done.

editor@vicnews.com