Last year’s tragedies on Parliament Hill shook the entire nation, and though many adults found a way to cope with their grief, children were left still trying to grasp the notion of grief. In order to help children understand the tragic events of Oct. 22, 2014, better and to commemorate that day, author Menna Glynn Andrews and local artist Katerina Mertikas came together to create a children’s book entitled “We Stand on Guard.”
Andrews, an Ottawa resident who recalls being in lock-down on Oct. 22 along with hundreds of government employees, was first inspired to write a children’s book from Mertikas’ painting “Honouring My Father.”
“It was only a few weeks later that my youngest grandson Elis celebrated his first birthday. As a gift, I had bought him a print of the painting “Honouring My Father” by Katerina Mertikas. The painting was shown to parents at Elis’s birthday party and when I saw how moved people were, especially the fathers in the room, it inspired me to take up my pen and to follow Katerina’s example,” said Andrews.
The book gently narrates the events of the day in a way that children can better understand grief and tragedy. Andrews recalls that she would often walk around downtown Ottawa to brainstorm the best way to tell the story. It was during these walks that she realized her story would best be told through the literal bird’s eye view of crows.
“In my wanderings, I noticed that every time I thought about the book there would be a crow on the Cathedral cross. And I came to learn how benevolent they are and important in First Nations storytelling. I realized it was a good vehicle to tell the story. It gives the book more meaning,” said Andrews.
Writing her very first children’s book, she says two valuable pieces fell into place to make the dream a reality: finding an illustrator and finding a publisher.
“All these things came together as if the book was meant to be,” noted Andrews.
Andrews was introduced to publisher Bob Barclay, who agreed to publish the book.
“This is one of those wonderful coincidences in life when the stars all align. Menna comes to me with this proposal, and it fit exactly into what I wanted to do. It’s books like this that need someone to publish them. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process from the original manuscript to the printed version,” said Barclay, who is also a father to a CAF member.
After writing an initial draft of the book, Andrews reached out to the woman who was the catalyst to the entire production to illustrate the book.
“The message was simple and basically from what I gathered when I looked at the initial draft, was that it was to commemorate and remember Nathan Cirillo and mark the events of that day which I think should be marked and remembered. I thought it was well written. I like the idea, and I was happy to produce 13 new paintings for it,” said artist Mertikas.
Mertikas spent the entire month of May creating the images for the book. She says creating the paintings came to her naturally.
“I really believed in the idea and I lived the tragedy in Ottawa, I felt it. So when I painted it, it was easy,” explained Mertikas.
The 13 paintings that Mertikas created for the book are up for sale at Koyman Galleries in Ottawa.
Mertikas is well known for the painting she created last year “Honouring My Father,” that pays tribute to Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s sacrifice and describes the love between father and son.
“This one little painting has taken on a life of its own. When I painted this painting, I didn’t know where things would go. I just thought that it should be put down on a canvass. It’s brought attention to the military and to someone’s life. I’m very honoured,” said Mertikas.
An unveiling ceremony for the book was held on Oct. 15 at the Ottawa City Hall. The author and artist were joined by Ottawa City Mayor Jim Watson and hundreds of members of the public
“We felt it very fitting to have at the City Hall because the original painting [“Honouring My Father”] hangs in the boardroom. The Mayor was very gracious to facilitate the program,” explained Andrews.
At the event, Mayor Watson also drew the crowd’s attention on the importance of purchasing “Honouring My Father.” To-date the painting has sold over 1200 copies. Proceeds from the sales have been donated to a Trust Fund for Marcus Carillo, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s son. Earlier this year $50,000 were donated to the Trust Fund. Mertikas is encouraging people to buy the painting so that more funds can be donated to Marcus’ Trust Fund. They hope to make another donation later this year.
The book has been released in both English and French. Proceeds from the book will be donated to children’s charities and MFRCs.
“Part of writing the book is to inspire others to do something. My intention is that readers will be moved to share how they deal with grief; parents and teachers sharing with children and children sharing with their friends. They will be able to add their own memories of the day to the narrative and work on explaining feelings that may not be properly understood. My hope is that the messages in this book will help others to act on their inspirations and move forward from tragedy,” said Andrews.
The limited edition print along with the paintings created for the book are available at Koyman Galleries. The limited edition is $124. The prints can be purchased online at Koyman Galleries. To learn more about how to purchase “We Stand on Guard” visit Baton Press.