Our Board Book: St. Ia Rides a Leaf

As you know, illustrator Kristina Tartara and I have contracted with St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press for a board book. Earlier, I shared this photograph as a hint about the book.

Where is this place? It’s St. Ives in Cornwall! This charming seaside town, and the parish church that watches over it, are named for St. Ia of Cornwall (Ives is an Anglicized version of her Irish name).

I discovered St. Ia’s story while researching another book (coming out this Fall), and although it fit beautifully with the women’s devotional I had in mind when I found it, the story stayed with me until I realized it makes an excellent book for little ones as well.

St. Ia was an Irish missionary to Cornwall in the 5th or 6th century. England owes much of its Christianity to Irish missionaries who crossed the Irish Sea to save those heathen English.

Ia expected to travel with a group, but unbeknownst to her, her fellow missionaries decided she wasn’t old enough to come along. (Is there a child anywhere who can’t relate to this?)

Ia’s group left without her, and without telling her. She ran down to the beach, expecting to board the ship with them, and instead, she saw it disappearing over the horizon.

Ia was heartbroken. She stood on the shore for a while, being sad and praying, and she saw a leaf floating on the water. She touched it with her staff, the way you do when you are busy being sad and you start fiddling with something around you. The leaf began to grow, and Ia realized something special was happening.

The leaf grew large enough to be a seaworthy boat, and Ia rode her leaf to Cornwall. In one version of the story, she arrives before the people who had left her behind. (That must have been just the least little bit satisfying.)

Our book is a simple, lyrical 300-word retelling of this story. With contracts signed, Kristina and I are venturing into the world of story-boards and sketches. I love this. I will never get over the enchantment of seeing my stories illustrated, and Kristina is a great partner. We talk over the time and place, the probable age of Ia (our guess is very early teens), and the layout. When it’s ready, I’ll be sharing Kristina’s work here, both in development and finished.

Meanwhile, here is some of the other artwork we’ve found that shows Ia’s voyage, each interesting in its own way.

7 thoughts on “Our Board Book: St. Ia Rides a Leaf

  1. How splendid! I had never heard of St. Ia, and love the story of her voyage. My late husband’s ancestors were from Cornwall and I can imagine giving this book to some of the grandchildren with Cornish blood in their veins 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We named our last daughter after St Ia!! When I was seven months pregnant and reading down a list of orthodox names, I came to Ia and had a crazy gut intuition—It’s a girl! And her name is Ia!!

    Also, you might be interested to know that her name can also be spelled “Eia”—the Welsh spelling, I believe—and there is an Eia Street in St Ives. St Ia’s missionary work extended into Wales, and it may be that she was martyred there.

    Additionally, you might like to know that the English pronounce her name “eye-uh” (I spoke to the vicar of the church in St Ives about this), but evidently the Welsh pronunciation is “ee-uh.”

    In the eight years of our eia’s life I’ve queried every Irish person I’ve encountered in order to find out how her name would have been pronounced in Ireland. The consensus has been—even though many had never heard her name before—that In a Gaelic language either “Ia” or “Eia” would be pronounced “ee-uh.” So perhaps “eye-uh” is a later anglicization.

    Blessings on your work! We can wait to see the finished product!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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