Layers, this One’s for You, Oldest

Our oldest left for college last fall . . . and her sister, whose room was designed as a baby nursery attached to the master bedroom, moved into her room. We’d allowed Oldest to write on her walls throughout her childhood; her pen of choice was Sharpie. I loved reading her poems and quotations and learning about who she was and what was important to her.

But now it is Younger Sister’s room (apparently they had agreed to the swap a few years back over email, and Oldest felt obliged to honor the agreement). And the very day Oldest went to college her sister cleaned out that room, with a vacuum and 409 and rags . . . when she finished she said she also wanted to paint the walls.

I felt sad at first, because these walls filled me with a sense of awe. Sometimes I would go in Oldest’s room when she wasn’t around and marvel at the breadth and depth of her mind; she was so young but so old too—she’d lost a great deal of her childhood to a devastating illness, but had come out strong.

After I had photographed every word on those walls and filed the images in a google drive, I was able to say “okay” to painting. I had preserved them, yes, but I also knew in my heart that every word Oldest had ever written on those walls would be there for always, right beneath the surface. And I understood that Younger Sister needed space to spread her wings.

It took five coats of primer to cover that Sharpie . . .
with every coat, I wondered what other layers were beneath Oldest’s, layers I couldn’t see but nevertheless were there, like the layers in all of us.

The walls are now Diamond White, the choice of Younger Sister, and I don’t think she plans to write on them. My loss. But also my gift, because the act of painting over these words gave me space to reflect on Oldest, how much hope I have for the world because people like her are out there in it now, ready to make it better with their gifts.

Celebrate Come with Me (with Us)!


” . . . though at the level of the individual our actions are as light as a cloud,

united they can change the color of the sky.”

—Yvette Pierpaoli, Refugees International


These beautiful words by my collaborator Pascal Lemaitre‘s mother-in-law, Yvette Pierpaoli,

a humanitarian who died in Kosovo while working for Refugees International, inspired Come with Me.


Here is a list of our upcoming launch events—

If you are in Boston or the New York area, we hope you can make it to one!


 Friday, September 1, at 11 a.m., Catching Joy / Lady Gaga #channel kindness event




“The words and pictures work seamlessly to deliver a powerful message:

What we do matters.”

—R. J. Palacio, The New York Times Book Review



Thursday, September 7, 6:00 p.m., a conversation with us & launch event at Rizzoli Bookstore,

featuring Matt Dillon, Refugees International, Emma’s Torch, the Consulate General of Belgium,

& moderated by Julie Burstein




“Inspired by the 9/11 attacks in the States and the bombings in Brussels in early 2016, this book tackles a tough subject with honesty, gentleness, and a call to action.

Let’s all try to do the same.”

—PW ShelfTalker



Saturday, September 9, 11 a.m., Albertine Books,

a children’s French & English story & drawing hour




“The author and illustrator… present huge emotions and abstracts

with simplicity that makes them approachable.

—Susie Wilde, Raleigh News & Observer 



Saturday, September 9, 3:30 p.m., Maplewood Library & [words] bookstore,

global citizen / sidewalk chalk event





“This lovely picture book, set to be published in early September but available for pre-order, offers smaller children a gentle, encouraging, age-appropriate response to the disturbing news reports.”

— Maria Russo, The New York Times



Sunday, September 10, 1:00 p.m., Books Are Magic, SCBWI Back2Back with Barbara DiLorenzo



“[A]n emotionally rich proclamation about not giving into fear.”

Publishers Weekly