Lawrence & Sophia
Rocky Pond Books, 2023
40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99
Lawrence stays close to home because “out there” is too big and loud and crowded. Sophia stays high up in the tree branches because “down there” is too bumpy, dark and dangerous. When they meet and become friends, they find ways to enjoy each other’s company without leaving their own safe spots . . . until a storm comes, and both are so worried about the other that they are finally able to take a huge, scary leap into the unknown. Together they feel brave, and the future is suddenly a lot more interesting.
This is a story about feeling vulnerable and scared, and your imagination making things more fearful than they actually are. How gradually taking the first step and then another, can lead to something so amazing that the things you feared just fall away. How sometimes your concern for someone or something else can lead you to do things you would never have considered possible when you are the only one in the picture. And it’s particularly appropriate for this time of the year and new schools loom for so many of our young readers and anxiety increases. So much easier to stay in your comfort zone than risk being where it seems big and loud and crowded. Talking about the joys that Lawrence and Sophia shared because one day Sophia got the courage to walk to the very end of her branch might just be the impetus for encouraging your child to take their first step.
On a broader scale, research and data gathered since COVID, particularly, are showing that the levels of anxiety in children and school refusal is at an all-time high, and while one gently written and illustrated picture book is not going to solve such a complex problem, nevertheless it may be a starting point. With its deceptively simple text and soft palette, this is a story that offers neither solution nor judgement but allows the anxious child to see themselves in a story and offers them some hope that there can be a life beyond their self-imposed prison that they can be a part of, and that might start with a conversation after sharing the story. Perhaps musing on why both Lawrence and Sophia only feel safe and comfortable in their own space, putting the conversation at arm’s length so the child doesn’t feel threatened, will offer an insight into what is causing the child to feel so anxious, because it is certainly more than “laziness” and “being okay to stay home” as one commentator recently opined.
This interview between creators Doreen and Brian Cronin offers an insight into the story behind the story including how there is a bit of both Lawrence and Sophia in both of them.