Story of Me, The

26 January 2024

The Story of Me
by Denise Leduc, Illustrations by Olena Zhinchyna
Published by Lilac Arch Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$11.66 ISBN 9781778286933

Denise Leduc is a chameleon. The Aylesbury, SK writer easily changes genres, and she writes well in each of them. Perhaps you’re familiar with her children’s picture books—Poppies, Poppies Everywhere!, Letting Charlie Bow Go and In the Prairie Wind—or her titles for older readers, like Why Not Now?, My Sun-sational Summer and My Wonderful Winter. Her latest softcover is The Story of Me, a journal dedicated to her grandmother “for the memories she created with me when I was a young child”. Leduc writes that her “hope for these journals is to provide opportunities for our own reflection and for sharing between the generations”.

I can certainly get behind that. Even before reading, I decided I’d share this book with my octogenarian mother, two provinces away, in Saskatchewan. Though we speak on the phone daily, an occasional conversational prompt is welcome. As Leduc suggests, “Sometimes conversations with loved ones … can help get the memories flowing”. The Story of Me delivers forty prompts to help one “remember stories” from his or her life, and it includes several spaces for personal notes and attaching photos or other mementos. Rather than using the book as a journal, I’ll use it to interview my mother and record her responses.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Ukrainian artist—and “optimist!”—Olena Zhinchyna, beginning with the cover painting of yellow blossoms against a purple background. The journal opens with the question “What are ten things you would tell people about yourself,” and a series of lines—like a ruled notebook—appear beneath this. On the opposite page, we find another original, full-bleed floral painting.

The next several pages are headlined with questions about family names, memories and traditions; holidays; childhood treasures and friends; birthplace and travels. Many of the aforementioned questions might be easy to answer, but queries like “What would be a perfect day inside?” and “If you could be an animal for a day, what would you be? Why?” require more contemplation, and that’s where things will get even more interesting.

I appreciated the nature-based questions, including “What things do you love in nature?” and “What are some of your favourite places in nature?” Leduc doesn’t just stick to roses and butterflies, however; she also asks “What is a challenge you’ve had?” and “How did you handle this challenge?” I wonder what the question “Who have you loved?” will bring up for Mom.

The book ends on a sunny note, asking for a list of “Things I am Grateful For”. The illustrations—particularly the two evocative, wintery landscapes—may aid in contemplation as readers consider these wide-ranging questions about their experiences. Answering the prompts could take a few hours or a few weeks.

Christmas and birthdays provide wonderful opportunities to share activity books like this journal, but really, no special occasion is required to write about our own lives or to give someone our undivided attention while they speak about theirs. This book says: Go ahead. You’re important. And I’m listening.


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