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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Chain of serendipity leads to publication of co-author’s first book

Posted on 11 February 2019 by Calvin

Como Park residents, and sisters, Jennifer Victor-Larsen (left) and Katy Korby (right) participated in a panel discussion at the St. Anthony Park Library. The event was called “Stories: the Door to Compassion, and also featured local author William Kent Krueger. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Writers sometimes have a flash of inspiration—but last summer, Como Park resident Jennifer Victor-Larsen experienced both a flash and a boom.

“We had such stormy weather in June,” Victor-Larsen said. “Every time it stormed, I was reminded of the story my grandmother used to tell us when we were children. Though the story changed slightly with every telling, the message was always the same: Baby Thunder was lost and was looking for Mama and Papa Thunder. The crashing sounds of summer storms became less frightening to my sister and me when we were little because our grandmother said it was just the family calling out to each other until Baby Thunder was found.”

Victor-Larsen continued, “In the middle of one particularly bad thunderstorm, I sat up in bed and texted my sister, Katy Korby. It was early last summer when family separations at the US/Mexico border were on the rise. Most people that Katy and I knew were appalled by this practice; we believe that, for kids, being lost for even a little while is traumatic. The message I sent my sister was this, ‘Should we finally write down the Baby Thunder story, and send the profits to an organization that helps children and families separated at the border?’ Also awake in the middle of the night, she texted back one word, ‘Yes!’”

The storm was the first in a series of fortunate events that lead to the publication of Victor-Larsen and Korby’s illustrated children’s book. Victor-Larsen recalled, “Katy and I decided to write down our own remembered versions of our grandmother’s story. We were sitting at my kitchen table and my brother-in-law, Shawn Korby, was there too. He and his wife own a real estate company, and he is also a talented artist. While Katy and I were talking and writing, Shawn started to sketch. The ideas he came up with became the watercolor illustrations for our book.”

The sisters were able to put their grandmother’s story down on paper, to take what she’d created for them—and use it to help other kids. They found an organization in Florence, AZ, called The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project that works with families in detention. Their grandmother’s first name, coincidentally, had been Florence. The Florence Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal services to detained children caught in deportation proceedings.

“Baby Thunder” is a book for and about families, and its creation was a family affair as well. Victor-Larsen’s mother-in-law, Ava Larsen, a retired children’s librarian, was an invaluable part of the work team. Victor-Larsen said, “She brought us books she thought were effective for the early readers our book is geared toward.”

On a sister’s weekend in Grand Marais, Victor-Larsen and Korby met notable Minnesota children’s book author Betsy Bowen at a craft fair. When they described their book, Bowen suggested they contact her designer to pull all the pieces together. Victor-Larsen said, “That’s just the way this project has gone for us. Doors kept opening, and people kept helping.”

Victor-Larsen and Korby are doing a number of “Baby Thunder” events in the metro area. They are partnering with friend, neighbor, and New York Times best-selling novelist William Kent Krueger for library events. They’re scheduled to be at the Anoka Public Library on Feb. 16, and the Hamline Midway Library in the spring. Their joint presentations are underscored by deep mutual concern over the current immigration crisis.

The sisters are also available for elementary school presentations and readings of “Baby Thunder” free of charge. Email Jennifer@herosearch.org for more information or to schedule. Victor-Larsen and Korby believe that “Baby Thunder” is both timely and timeless. It is about being lost and about being found. It is about the basic need for children to feel safe and loved.

“Baby Thunder” can be purchased locally at Micawber’s books (2230 Carter Ave. in Milton Square).

NOTE: On any given day, there are approximately 1,700 immigrant children detained in Arizona. They are denied the right to a public defender. Many of the children were abused, abandoned or neglected before coming to the U.S. They are unaccompanied minors (children under 18) who have crossed the border, or been apprehended by immigration authorities, without a parent or guardian. They are held in children’s detention facilities under the control of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

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