A local author has won a prestigious award, and he did it by writing the book he wished he read when he was young.
S.P. Joseph Lyons of St. Marys wrote Little Bear in Foster Care, a children’s book based on Lyons experience in the foster care system.
He was surprised when it won the First Nations Communities Reads (FCNR), PMC Inidigenous Literature Award, especially since he didn’t submit it for the award.
“I didn’t write the book for rewards of any kind,” he explained to StratfordToday. “I did it for the good work that it does. What an award tells me is that it validates that work and it shows how important that is.”
Lyons is an Anishinaabe Algonquin author and a 60s Scoop adoptee. He has written sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and now children’s picture books. Little Bear in Foster Care speaks to the experience in the foster care system.
“It was a very scary, very lonely place that I was in. There was a lot of abuse and I had no voice … That was the hardest time in my life.”
He said that children are still going through the same things in the foster care system and they deserve to hear some comfort.
“I am going to write a book for them,” he said about his decision to undertake the task. “A book that says ‘I understand. I know what you're going through. I know how it feels and how important family and community is to you. We're going to build that around you so you never have to feel scared, alone, separated, lost.’”
Lyons published Little Bear through Goodminds.com, an Indigenous owned publishing company based on the Six Nations of the Grand River in Brantford. Julian Grafenauer illustrated it and it was translated into Anishinaabemowin by Potawatomi Odawa and Mawla Shawana.
The Foster Care series, as it's called on his website, will be seven stories in total that will cover the seven grandfather teachings and the animals associated with that teaching. Humility is represented by the wolf, bravery by the bear, honesty by the raven, wisdom by the beaver, truth by the turtle, respect by the buffalo, and love by the eagle.
All seven are written and two are published. The follow-up to Little Bear, Wolf Pup Misses his Pack, follows Wolf Pup as he adjusts to having a change in his family and what it means to have a community around you.
Lyons wants to write books with intrinsic value. While entertainment is great, he argues, stories should matter long term, and just entertainment is short-lived. To that effect, Lyons is currently working on a story around Ojibwe Spirit Horses.
Ojibwe spirit horses are horses indigenous to North America that were saved from the point of extinction. He hasn’t begun writing yet, but is theorizing what story is best to tell. Ultimately, he wants the story of the horses to shine through the history.