Born out of grief, this children’s book ‘See You on the Other Side’ explores loss – Press Enterprise
The words came to Rachel Montez Minor in her dreams.
The author was inspired to write her new picture book, “See You On the Other Side,” after she dreamt about it while pregnant with her daughter. Exploring grief as a universal human emotion, the children’s book is an ode to loved ones who have died, with the message that love will be cherished and carried on forever, Minor said.
“It’s a heart-opener. And the words are soothing, like a hug or a blanket. They’re so melodic – you can kind of tell it came from the dream space,” said the author, who lives in the Hollywood Hills.
Featuring evocative, detailed illustrations by artist Mariyah Rahman, the new book aims to be a comforting resource to children who may be grieving a death or who are learning about or coming to terms with the idea of loss.
Because the book itself is the result of loss.
Losing a friend
In 2020, she read an early version of what would become “See You On the Other Side” at the funeral of her friend, Broadway star Nick Cordero, who died during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cordero was married to Minor’s best friend, Amanda Kloots.
“A lot of people’s hearts were opened; there were a lot of tears,” she said. “It felt like it was for Elvis, their son, and for Nick.”
Seeing how people were moved at the funeral, Minor realized her words could provide solace to others – particularly young ones and families – experiencing feelings of loss. She wanted to write a book that would feel inclusive, comforting and uplifting.
Minor, whose debut, “The Sun, Moon and Stars,” was published in 2021, hopes “See You On the Other Side” reframes loss and brings families together to heal, especially in challenging times.
Minor collaborated with illustrator Mariyah Rahman who created the illustrations to pair with her words on grief and comfort.
Rahman, who is from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, got into “kid lit” illustration after going to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. With “See You On the Other Side” her second picture book, Rahman said that her art style is a reflection of her diverse background, growing up in a mixed family from India, Venezuela and China. Her first book, “Plátanos Are Love,” explores Afro-Latine culture.
“I want any kids who read books that I illustrate to know there are so many kids who look like them,” Rahman said, “especially in a book about grief, to know that they’re not alone.”
She illustrated her deceased dog, Sunshine, in the book as a way to honor him, and dedicated the book to other pets who have passed away. Even her grandmother is reflected in one of the pages.
Reflecting a diverse world
Of the book’s illustrations, Rahman said it was “fun to research different cultures.” Included in the images, there’s a girl placing a letter on the family ofrenda, an altar for Día De Los Muertos, surrounded by orange jacaranda flowers, marigolds and plates of pan dulce; a same-sex couple plays with their child; an Indian family makes traditional bread together.
There’s even a spread about anger, because “it’s very natural to be angry when there’s a big change; something that’s hard to wrap your head around,” Minor said. “After the anger, the storm’s gonna blow over, we can get to the other side.
“You see the things, the shared experiences, the grief, that links us all together. There are feelings of grief coming from kids all over the world.”
Minor agreed that when she was growing up it was hard to find books with people of color in them, so she’s made a mission to make her books more inclusive.
“There’s a (drawing) that looks like my daughter, and she’s like, hey, that’s me,” she said. “I just think it’s so helpful for children to be able to see a reflection back – it lets them relate to it more, and to open their hearts more.”
Minor hopes the book will remind readers young and old of “the truth: that we are all one.”
“We want everyone to feel at home, and to see other cultures and families on the pages,” she said. “One thing that’s always constant is change – and we’re not immune to loss. So I think it is a gift to be able to introduce these topics with children, even in difficult times. We can get to the other side of it if we stay connected to our hearts and to each other. We will see the other side of it.”
“See You On The Other Side” is available online and in stores now. Minor will be in conversation with Debbie Allen at a ticketed launch event Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
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