"Don’t waste your time! There’s no way you can save them all!"
"No, I can’t save them all. But for this one I can make a difference."
Children’s book author and illustrator Alison Stephen has always known she could make a difference—and wanted to for as long as she can remember. After hearing a poem based on Loren Eisley’s “The Star Thrower” when she was in the 7th grade, the idea that one person can make a difference stuck with her.
Recently, this led to the creation of a beautiful children’s book called The Legend of the Starfish.
In this sweet and colorful tale, a boy walks the shoreline after a storm, finding thousands of starfish that had been stranded in the low tide. He begins to throw them back into the ocean, one by one, amid criticism from people who walk by.
The story mirrors Alison’s journey of publishing her book. Already a successful children’s illustrator, Alison was introduced to The Joy Market—which publishes kids' books to raise money to for children’s causes—in 2014. It was around this time that ISIS was gaining momentum and spreading terror on the other side of the world.
"My heart was broken for the people in the Middle East," Alison says. "I just wanted SO badly to do something! Anything! I kept praying, asking God, 'What can I do?'"
"God would ask me the question right back: 'What can you do?' Draw. I could draw. But I didn't believe it could do anything at all. Still, I kept praying for the people of the Middle East and just hoping God could use it."
The Legend of The Starfish beautifully illustrates the importance of using whatever is in your hands, and what can happen when you do. As a bonus, the book includes a second story called “Love Anyway,” about a real-life boy named Ali, who received a lifesaving heart surgery, even as ISIS was tightening its grip on his home country of Iraq.
Alison and The Joy Market are donating all proceeds from The Legend of the Starfish to Preemptive Love Coalition.
We asked Alison a few questions about herself and her experience creating her book...
What has the reception to the book been like so far?
Reception has been INCREDIBLE. I am amazed at the reactions and the way it has already been inspiring adults and children. Friends and people I've already met along the way have been sharing their stories with me, it’s amazing. I love how God is using what I believed to be a simple story to be so much more.
What kinds of doors has it opened?
Not only has it given me connections with publishing, but it’s opening doors for me to go into schools and encourage children. Growing up, every child hears tons of speakers, but there is always someone who comes along and says something they will always remember—the way I always remembered the poem [“The Star Thrower”]. I love that I have the opportunity to be that for a child, especially when what they will remember won't be my face. It will be what I say, what the world may never tell them: that who they are and how they dream makes a difference.
What was the most difficult part of creating your book?
The most difficult thing... was to believe in myself. To believe that God could use me, to believe my dreams weren't worthless, to believe in the power of what a story can do. After I believed that, drawing, writing, and the late nights were the easy parts!
The book includes a bonus story called "Love Anyway," about an Iraqi boy who needed heart surgery. What does the expression "love anyway" mean to you?
It means [to love] no matter what, no matter the conditions, no matter the reactions. The most powerful thing we can do, the most powerful way anyone can fight is to “love anyway.” It’s an act that a lot of people underestimate; but if we dare to do it, no matter what people think or do, it can do a lot anyway.
Order your copy of The Legend of the Starfish today from The Joy Market.