Books for kids and families: February 2017

Ten-year-old Shanna has an uneasy feeling about the stranger her seven-year-old brother Rye met on way home from school.

Is she just a silly chicken or is this what Momma calls intuition?

Then Shanna and Rye are disturbed by an angry presence in the shadows under some pine trees and by a mysterious raven. Their mother shows them how to use the magic of Imbolc to protect themselves and stand up for their beliefs.

Shanna and the Raven is the first book in the Children's Wheel of the Year series for earth-centered and Pagan families. It is also a useful book for anyone teaching children about multicultural tolerance and about how to use intuition rather than prejudice to judge potentially dangerous situations.

Awakening the inexplicable knowing of childhood

A child adopted soon after birth cries bitterly for a sister and later it is discovered that a biological sister was born to her birth family.

A four-year-old turns to his grandmother and says, "I'll never forget you, Grandma. Never ever."

An timid little girl found her strength in the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children" at Sunday School, though she didn't really believe he was the one and only god. She then grew up to be a therapist for traumatized children.

Children know things that don't make logical sense. There are so many things they don't know--like if you chew on that electrical cord it will eventually fray and zap you with electricity and if you throw your plastic toys across the room in a tantrum some of them will break and the others will be confiscated. 

But then they do know some incredible things.

James Hillman, a prominent psychologist and author of The Soul's Code, wrote that children possess a form of intuition which seems almost miraculous and as we age we lose it, some faster than others but almost all inevitably.

I am always the student in class with my hand up and an annoying question bursting out. If I were at a lecture by Hillman, my question would be, "Do we have to lose it? Isn't there some way to keep on knowing?"

I have been fascinated by that question for years because I had predictive dreams as a child. I can't prove it to others, but I know that it wasn't my imagination. I knew. 

When I was nine I dreamed of the moon, big and full in the velvet dark. Then the moon rippled and shattered, breaking into two--one still round and whole and the other squashed and blurred. That was all but I jerked awake and sat up in bed, bathed in cold sweat. 

I immediately knew what the dream meant. I had lost one of the new contact lenses that my mother had bought with a huge portion of our family's meager subsistence income. I wasn't told exactly how much but I knew it was a lot. My vision impairment is such that I could see twice as much with contact lenses as I could with glasses, so I needed them badly.

That was why the dream left me shaken and gasping for a few mements. I was relieved that I was in bed and the contacts were safe on the shelf beside me. Just a nightmare, I thought, and I went back to sleep. 

The next day I put in my contacts and went to school. I came home and immediately got out my sled and followed my brother to the sledding hill. We barely stopped for dinner. Then the moon rose and we went back out into the silver fairyland of a full-moon winter night. 

I straddled my sled at the top of the hill, tasting the cracking cold on my tongue and the ultra dry air in my nostrils. My brother let loose and slipped off down the hill into the dark. I dug my heels in and pushed. The sled scraped against the hard crust of snow and then I was flying. 

The cold air rushed past my face, ice crystals stinging so that I had to squint my eyes. The night was alive around me, the sound of sled runners, the shaddows of well-known trees, the star-studded sky and the moon hanging straight out in front of me. Coyotes called on the far ridge and I looked up at the moon, whooping with sheer joy.

And then I saw it. The moon rippled... and then shattered, just as in the dream.

A spark of fear jolted inside me. I had forgotten the dream until that instant and with the wind and spraying snow in my face and the speed of the sled, I could do nothing.

Except cover my face with my mittens and slide to the bottom completely blind.

My brother came when I called for help and I gingerly took lowered my hands from my face. My right eye felt wrong and the moon and everything else was completely blurred. He crouched down to look at my face and then at my mittened hands. And there, amid the snow and wool he found the tiny contact lens--worth more than all of our Christmas presents put together.

On the eve of Imbolc, Ten-year-old Shanna and her seven-year-old brother Rye find protection and connection through the use of intuition and through a myterious raven, who turns out to be a friend. This is the story of a modern earth-centered family who follows the old gods and celebrates the wheel of the year. The Shanna stories give children in Pagan and goddess traditions a community and inspiration within lively adventures that kids can't get enough of. Check out Shanna and the Raven: An Imbolc Story on Amazon.

That was the first prophetic dream I had but not the last. Several times during my childhood, I had other such dreams. I can't explain it but I am telling the simple truth. I dreamed it the night before each time I came close to losing a contact lens. My doctor always said it was incredible that I never lost a contact and never had an eye infection. It's unheard of among similar patients. 

When I first got contact lenses, I lived in a cabin without hot water or an indoor toilet. To say that money was tight would be a vast understatement, so it is good that my dreams helped out. I could wish my dreams had warned me about a few other things in life than just this, but mostly they didn't.

Some children seem to be protected. Is it a guardian or is it intuition? And if it is intuition, what is intuition exactly? I have found some answers to these questions, answers which led me to a earth-centered, polytheistic Pagan path. But each person answers these questions in different ways and I doubt there is one absolute truth.

There can be sign posts and maps however, help along the way.

The book Shanna and the Raven is a piece of a map for both children an adults. It is a children's story of today's world, an example of how children use intuition in the real world--for protection and well-being. It is also a story of one family's celebration of Imbolc, a tale for earth-centered families that portrays seasonal celebrations as an integral part of life.

Children's Healing Stories: Kids can utilize intuition and be safer

I was returning to the apartment of friends where I was staying late in the evening. I was a teenager alone in a city far from home. And one of those things that parents fear most happened. 

Teach children intuition meme.jpg

A man came down the sidewalk toward me and stopped under a streetlight. The street was nearly deserted, only the occasional car going by and no other pedestrians. The man greeted me in a friendly and kind way, but I felt instantly that something was not right. 

There was nothing so terribly wrong about this man, except perhaps the fact that he greeted a young girl alone at night in a city. If he had been a few years younger, even that would not have seemed out of the ordinary at all. Still my hackles rose. Somehow I knew…

Intuition?

That illusive term we can’t quite explain. Some believe it's merely the quick, subconscious analysis of factors barely perceived by the senses. Perfectly logical and scientific. Others believe something more mysterious or spiritual is at work.

Either way it's a faculty that we know we have. Myth has it that women use intuition more easily and more readily. But the truth is that men can use it as well. But in either gender it helps if one has some practice and confidence in one’s own intuitive abilities.

That night when I was out alone on a dark street in a faraway city, I was afraid but I had been taught to use my intuition and I had been given a few self-defense skills by a handful of teen workshops. And so, with the feeling of danger buzzing in my nerves, I played cool for a few moments. I pretended I had no foreboding sense about the stranger and chatted lightly to him as we walked toward the dark apartment building. And I quietly gripped the key to the door in my pocket.

Illustrations by Julie Freel

Illustrations by Julie Freel

As I turned toward the building and said goodbye to the man, his hand came out and settled firmly around my upper arm. My feeling of danger had been correct. Now, out of the light and away from even the sporadic traffic of the street, he would make his move. 

“Hey, Nat! I’m over here!” I called gaily toward another doorway as if I did not sense the tension in his grip. “Come meet this guy.” Then to the man. “My brother and his friends are here. You’ll like them.” 

His hand lifted from my arm in a second of uncertainty as he doubted whether or not someone could be hidden in the shadows. And in that second, I bolted for the safety of the correct doorway, racing inside and up the stairs to a door with locks and deadbolts.

Twenty years later, I am a mother myself with two growing children. And like all parents I want to arm my children with the skills to protect themselves in an unpredictable world. There are some who trust in weaponry, whether it be guns or pepper spray. But statistics don’t back the theory up. Such physical weapons are more likely to be seized and used against the defender than employed against an attacker. 

Illustration by Julie Freel

Illustration by Julie Freel

Others favor teaching self-defense and martial arts techniques at a young age. And these techniques are more useful. I carried pepper spray for years and never had it handy in any of the dangerous situations I encountered. However, I did use techniques like the ruse about friends waiting a doorway that I was taught in self-defense classes in this situation and another similar incident.

So, I will teach my children these skills and see to it that they have more training in self defense. But I also know there is another faculty that was even more crucial to my safety at the time. I was prepared to escape and cautious enough not to give away the fact that I was alone, because my intuition was strong and well practiced. That I believe made all the difference in my two encounters with personal danger as a teenager and intuition saved me from great potential harm.

That’s why I have given a great deal of thought to how to help children develop intuition. I know that it can be developed. It's enhanced by both practice and confidence. I trusted my internal sense as a young girl because I had been told by wise adults that I could and should tap into that inner knowledge. It was important both to my inner development and to my practical safety. 

As a writer, one of my tools is now storytelling and I’ve seen the power of stories to impart deeper understanding and inner confidence. As a result, I became interested in the stories available for children on the subject of intuition and self-protection. But I was surprised at some major gaps in the literature for kids in this area.

There are children's books that explain about "okay touching" and "not okay touching." There are even storybooks to help the youngest victims of abuse cope after the fact. But there is precious little out there to help children successfully avoid abuse or an attack in the first place.

Partly this is because adults write the materials for children and it pains us to be too upfront because that might frighten children or lead to paranoia. And it's partly because evading harm isn't simple at any age and intuition is a slippery concept to impart. 

Beyond the issue of the topic, many of the stories in this area are not very much fun for children. They are too often pedantic and unlikely to be chosen by children. Instead these are books chosen by adults to forcefully teach a child. But anyone who has watched how children absorb information will know that it is very difficult to force children to learn concepts that are preached directly. It's much easier for children to absorb concepts and lessons that are part of a suspenseful, gripping story that is fun to read. 

From this need was born the first book in the Children’s Wheel of the Year stories. There is a tradition in the modern earth=based spirituality movement that claims February 2 as a holiday devoted to intuition and protection. It's an ancient Celtic festival called Imbolc. The themes are inspiration, intuition, protection, healing and the hope of new beginnings. These themes are embodied in the story of Shanna and the Raven, a book I wrote for children ages six to twelve, in hopes of answering the need for stories that help children develop intuition and train their inner listening skills.

The story begins when ten-year-old Shanna and her seven-year-old brother Rye meet a new neighbor on their way home from school. The neighbor is nice enough but he asks their names without giving his own. And more than that Shanna just doesn’t have a good feeling about the situation. Then the children encounter a raven that seems to warn them of danger and darker fears haunt their steps. As the story progresses Shanna learns the meaning of intuition and the raven, which she initially thought might be a bad omen, helps her to understand her inner sense. When true danger threatens her brother, Shanna’s intuition leads her to come to his aid in time. The story teaches both how to tap into intuition and the confidence to trust one's own sense.

Shanna and the Raven is the first book in the Children's Wheel of the Year series. It will be published on January 8. Within a few days it will be available in Kindle, Nook, Apple and other ebook stores. It will also be available in paperback here. The beautiful illustrations have been created by Julie Freel with pastels in a style that is very emotive and close to the hearts of children. We both hope the books will bring joy and confidence to many, many children.