HERMITAGE — The 20 first-graders who were killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have a message to share with the nation, Rhonda Paglia believes.
Paglia, a Hermitage city commissioner, shares the message she thinks the students would if they had the chance in a book she’s just published.
“The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission,” is a book that celebrates life and is intended to memorialize those lost that tragic day.
“Every life is special. Every life is a gift from God. Each of us has been endowed and entrusted by our Creator to use the gifts and talents we have been given for the highest good of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world,” Paglia writes in a short preface, and that ethos pervades throughout its pastel-colored pages.
The powder blues, pinks, yellows and greens call to mind springtime and Eastertide, a time when Christians celebrate the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, called by some the “lamb of God.”
The book starts simply, as someone, somewhere once said all stories should:
“The Sun was shining. But there was a grayish haze on the Earth that day and the Sun just couldn’t shine through, in that oh, so lovely, lovely way ...”
Lambs, “doing all sorts of little lamby things,” are called by the voice of God to take part in a mission.
“Wowie!!!” the lambs exclaim, and they agree to take part in a “very special mission” that sends them to heaven to meet the “Great Shepherd” who asked them to help people remember what’s important in life.
“The people of Earth have forgotten to be nice to each other,” the Shepherd says. “My Little Lambs, I need your help to remind the people of Earth to be more loving and kind to each other.”
Their mission is to share simple truths of humanity like “be loving,” “be helpful,” “be joyful,” “be gentle.”
The story ends happily, with a familiar mantra: “... the children will lead them.”
“I wanted the kids to have a voice,” Paglia said. “If they had a message what would it be?”
She answers that question in the book, she said.
As a retired teacher whose first years were spent in a first-grade classroom with students the same age as the Sandy Hook victims, her heart went out to the kids and their families, she said.
Paglia, lovingly called “Grammy Pags,” had written storybooks for her grandchildren before, but this is the first she’s shared with others.
“I wanted it to be something (for) the families and parents,” she said.
She enlisted the help of Taylor Galaska, a 14-year-old Kennedy Catholic student who also designed T-shirts to memorialize the Sandy Hook tragedy, to help with some of the illustrations.
“Each one of the lambs represents one of the children,” she said.
She had initially planned to have a couple copies of the book printed, but as people heard about what she was doing, they started asking for a copy, so she decided to use the project as a fundraiser to collect money to be used for a scholarship fund for Sandy Hook students.
She’s had 200 copies of the book printed, “about half” of which are sold. A copy costs $10 and $5 of that will be donated to the scholarship fund.
“Right now we have more than $300,” raised so far, she said.
She wrote the book in part to “try to lift everybody up,” she said.
“We’re better than the violence that was bestowed upon” the Sandy Hook victims, she said. “I really feel as if I was given the story.”
To order a book, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org