Spotlight on New Work From Santa Barbara County Writers

A Peek into Local Poetry and Picture Books 

Santa Barbara writer Janet Lucy has a new children’s book, 'Makana is a Gift/Makana es un Regalo.' | Credit: Courtesy

The moving tale of a little green sea turtle’s quest for identity and purpose — and a life threatening encounter with a plastic bag he mistakes for a jellyfish — come to life in Santa Barbara writer Janet Lucy’s new children’s book, Makana is a Gift/Makana es un Regalo. With colorful watercolor illustrations by artist Alexis Cantu, this undersea tale connects young children to the ocean world and educates them about the perils of plastic pollution. 

Available in both English and a bilingual Spanish/English version, local nonprofit publisher Seven Seas Press partnered with the Goleta Valley Library to raise funds to give 400 books to the children participating in their Summer Reading Program, themed “Oceans of Possibilities.”

“Themes of identity and belonging are important for young children,” says Lucy, who earlier in July received the 2022 Book of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine in the category of Kids Storybooks on Nature & Conservation. “Through Makana’s story they can recognize challenges they experience. Makana is a Gift offers children and families timely themes to explore together. May we all play a part in protecting these magnificent, magical creatures.”

Lucy’s previous children’s books include The Three Sunflowers/Los Tres Girasoles, and Mermaid Dreams/Suenos de Sirena. She is also the author (in collaboration with Terri Allison, co-founder and former Executive Director of Storyteller Children’s Center) of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter ~ Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age —  a guide rooted in ancient traditions and timeless wisdom that uses goddess myths as the basis for each chapter. sevenseaspress.org.


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Credit: Courtesy

An illustrated story poem by Ann Lewin-Benham, Parsley: A Love Story of a Child for Puppy and Plants, is the new children’s book from this local author, who is widely known for her six classic textbooks on how brain science looks in practice in the classroom. Illustrated by Karen Busch Holman, this story of a child, a dog, and a plant combines simple rhyming stanzas with a message of hope — and a surprise ending. Lewin-Benham will read and talk about Parsley at Chaucer’s Books on Sunday, July 31 at 2 p.m. See annlewin-benham.com.


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Santa Ynez Valley author Dan Gerber has a new book of poetry, The End of Michelangelo, coming out this fall. A long practicing Zen Buddhist, Gerber is the award winning author of more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction, essays, and memoir, and has had his work included in The Best American Poetry and American Life in Poetry, among other collections. Often dark, and always  thought provoking — an example, talking about words on the page from his poem “On Dyslexia” is the line “You see them as they are; I see them as they are becoming” — Gerber’s poems acknowledge both the fragility of the times we live in and how very much alive we still are. See Coppercanyonpvress.org.


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Written in response to lines by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, local memoirist, poet, essayist, blogger, and speaker Diana Raab’s new poetry chapbook, An Imaginary Affair, is an intimate collection that celebrates the joys, and pains inherent to the heart, while honoring the wisdoms and moods of Neruda’s poetry. Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emma Trelles’ take: “These poems remind us that to be alive is to try and balance joy and lament, and how through this effort we more deeply inhabit the world and ourselves.” See dianaraab.com.


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