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Diplomacy Of The Heart

Tuula Pere Author Interview

Between the Walls follows a wondering traveler that comes across two towns that are divided by two walls and works to reunite them. What was the inspiration for this story?

In real life, there are many situations between both people and different groups in society where a mediator is needed. His role is not easy because it requires both sensitivity and strength.

The mediator must be a person that the parties to the dispute and conflict can rely on. Independent and fair in one’s actions. This diplomate needs to be able to listen, understand different points of view, and find compromises that can connect as many people as possible behind them. The solutions that are created must seem fair and justified to everyone. So the task is extremely demanding!

I chose this topic for my children’s book because it’s good to introduce this kind of thinking about resolving disagreements as early as possible. I call this approach “diplomacy of the heart.”

Of course, the use of the brain must not be forgotten, but it is often taken more for granted. In general, too little attention is paid to the human factors that guide our solutions, even at the highest levels of society and the world.

It would be helpful for adults to keep in mind the basics of a child’s way of looking at the world. The protagonist of my book represents such common sense and a natural way of treating people even when they live across borders and behind walls.

Did the personality for Leo’s character come from anyone you know in real life?

Fortunately, there are a lot of people like Leo in the world. They are everywhere and in all kinds of roles in society.

Many go unnoticed because they don’t make much noise about their activities. Nevertheless, they are essential for the whole community. They may have a bearing on the wellbeing of all the others, as they prevent problems from escalating and resolve them in case others are unable to do it alone. Their performance may be invisible, even though it is a crucial adhesive and lubricant for the entire “interplay machine.” We find these people in their homes, jobs, and hobbies.

I am also interested in the dynamics of high political life at the societies and the international level. Fortunately, there are active mediators and organizations – with Leo’s type of motivations, too. They work both nationally and globally, even at very high levels and positions. Their actions are not only guided by cold facts, but they are also able to understand situations through their human dimension. As those skills can also be used for evil purposes, the motive of such an organizer is crucial.

At their best, for example, heads of state and prominent representatives of peace organizations can do a lot of good and take the international debate toward the common good.

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

My stories don’t change much during the writing process. Often the whole story is intact and pretty finished in my head even before I sit at the computer. This same applies to Between the Walls. Of course, I still read it through many times, made minor refinements, and corrected the language.

I also do this finetuning when I participate in translations into English or Swedish. I speak those two languages myself. Interlingual “cultural interpretation” sometimes brings up interesting details.

Collaboration with illustrators is an exciting step, too. Sometimes I still grind some points even then to make the interaction between the illustration and the text as seamless and smooth as possible. This phase may require changing the name or color of the bird species or plant in the text. But like I said, the main lines in the book are strong and remain from the beginning.

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

A natural choice for me to meet would be Zachris Topelius (1818-1898). We have a lot in common regarding our general interests and roles in society. True love for telling stories for children and improving their knowledge and wellbeing is something we share, too.

Although my work and influence as a writer are far more limited than Topelius’, I strongly connect to the idea of defending the weakest in society with various literary means. I respect his work for families and those who were less fortunate in the community. I consider myself working for the same purposes, so we certainly had a lot to discuss.

The power of rich imagination and a warm heart in stories is irresistible. Topelius combined facts and fiction in his vast children’s book production and kept his goals clear throughout his long career as an author, journalist, and respected scholar. Topelius used all his skills and positions in society to make a difference. In the same way, I think the weakest in life need the strongest defenders. The more fortunate should use their abilities to help others in whatever position there have.

If I could meet Topelius, I’d love to use the “time capsule” and meet him both in his time in 19th century Helsinki and today’s independent Finland. I would be happy to show him how the Finnish society has improved in social and educational aspects and become a genuine democracy to provide even better possibilities for everyone. I think he would be pleased and proud.

Like Topelius, I also love history and nature. We would undoubtedly ponder the changing societies and nature around us. We could take a long walk outside to admire forests and shores of lakes and the sea. I could take some photos and videos with my mobile and let him be surprised.

To end the day, I could repeat one of his thoughts that I like a lot – “… open the window and allow the air from the world to flow in!”

After that, I could concentrate on my favorite thing, writing stories for the world’s children – and use both my brain and heart!

Author Links: Facebook | Website

On his sailing trip, Leo the little wanderer arrives at a rocky bay and disembarks on a deserted pier. It belongs to two towns that are feuding furiously with one another.
The angry mayors won’t allow the traveler inside their stone walls. But luckily for Leo, between the two towns lies a piece of land that nobody owns. It is just big enough for his neat little cabin and garden, where many flowers bloom and the beautiful sounds of his violin fill the air.
On warm nights, people climb onto the walls together to admire the view and listen to the music and the sea.
“Would it be better, after all, to tear down the walls that separate us?” the townsfolk begin to wonder.

Between the Walls

Author Tuula Pere and illustrator Andrea Alemanno’s Between the Walls is a tale of two formerly friendly fishing towns estranged by a quarrel for the harbor space. As tensions rise due to boat mishaps, disputes for fishing grounds, and political divergence, the mayors decide to build two walls that leave only the harbor in a no-man’s-land strip between them. The people of the towns were devastated but had to do what the mayors wanted. The children, however, found ways to keep in touch with friends on the other side with kites, and paper plains to pass messages. When one day a kindhearted and resourceful stranger appeared on their shores. When both town mayors refused the stranger a home behind their walls, the stranger, Leo, decided to move into No-mans-land. From his small plot of land, he slowly brought change upon the towns.

The first thing that caught my attention in this captivating children’s book was the art. The illustrations done by Andrea Alemanno are beautifully drawn by hand and the color palettes change with the mood of the story, making for great ambiance and visual transitions.

The plot is built around a classic story setting of two cities divided. The town mayors that made the choices to divide the land hold onto their beliefs, while the towns’ children look for a way to make peace and change their world. The main character, Leo, a nonchalant boy who appears when the towns need guidance and sets sail on his small boat for places unknown when the dispute is solved, is a borderline mystic figure who leaves the reader wondering about where he could possibly have come from and wishing there was more to know about him.

Between the Walls is a thought-provoking picture book that will open up discussion with children about problem-solving and the building of communities. With so many hostilities in the world over resources and land borders, this children’s story is a great way for teachers and adults to explain world events in an age-appropriate manner.

Pages: 20 | ASIN: B07HXF1LQB

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