While most people on bed rest catch up on the Real Housewives and eat bonbons, Anna Renault decided to use her time churning out children’s books (and one for moms, too). Renault, a 36-year cancer survivor of multiple cancer types, was put on bed rest at the end of 2012 before a scheduled procedure.
“I had started several stories on my computer, and I never thought I would go anywhere with them, but while I was on bed rest, I had nothing else to do, so I started cleaning out my computer,” she said.
Fast forward six months, and Renault now has five new books under her belt.
By no means is Renault a stranger to writing. Avenue readers know her for her editorial and health columns, and she also writes for several online publications. In 2011, Renault published Anna’s Journey: How many lives does one person get?, which chronicles her life, including some near-death experiences and eight bouts with cancer.
Her first priority while home was to resurrect Mitzy the Butterfly. “Mitzy” was a metal butterfly – part of a Home Interior set – that hung above Renault’s kitchen sink. “My granddaughter and I would make up stories about what she could do if she could fly away. We would pass the time this way while cutting up fruits and veggies. It also made doing the dishes a lot more fun,” she said.
In her book, Meet Mitzy the Butterfly, Mitzy is an environmentalist who teaches kids about their surroundings and how they can play an active role in their environment.
Renault is active with several local environmental initiatives, such as the Back River Restoration Committee, Gunpowder Valley Conservancy and Holly Neck Conservation Association. A portion of the proceeds from her book goes to these local environmental groups.
“I don’t think we do enough to teach kids about the environment today,” said Renault, who is also a substitute teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools. “Based on my grandchildren, we have raised a whole generation of kids who recycle, and that’s wonderful. But recycling is only a small portion of helping the environment.”
“One thing we can focus on for kids is helping to stop litter. People don’t realize the harm that comes from dumping trash.”
On recent neighborhood waterway cleanups, for example, volunteers found shopping carts, mattresses, old tires, washing machines and bicycles – all items which could have been disposed of at the landfill or a recycling center.
Renault recently published her latest Mitzy installment, Mitzy the Butterfly: What’s in Your Backyard?, a great read for kids who like to play outside, observe and keep a journal.
Another book for kids, Annie Goes to Catholic School, partly autobiographical, tells the story of Annie who goes off to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Essex, where Anna attended grades 1-9. She wrote the book as a fundraising project for the school “in an effort to raise funds as a pay back for the wonderful education I received while at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.” All profits will be donated to a scholarship fund at the school.
The boys’ version of Annie is Ozzie Goes to Catholic School, which follows six-year-old Ozzie who has learn to deal with a bully in his class and in his neighborhood. His teachers and parents help him to resolve his problems.
Why Did my Dad Get Cancer? tries to help children understand the what, why and how their life keeps changing due to cancer.
“Children experience fear when a parent gets sick. This book will hopefully assist any child who has or had a sick parent — sick with cancer or any other terrible illness,” said Renault. “The goal is to help children understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people. The book also opens the door for children to ask questions about a parent’s illness and about why things have changed.”
This book is illustrated by John Morris of Ayr, Scotland, and proceeds go to the Cancer Support Foundation to enable cancer patients to keep up with their bills while undergoing treatment. Morris will be in Baltimore this summer to co-host a book signing with Anna.
Finally, Mothers: A Collection of Poems, is a perfect Mother’s Day gift for all of the special women in our lives. “It is my hope that my ramblings in rhyme will bring a smile to the faces of all who read them… mothers and those who fill that role as well as any other avid reader who happens to like rhyming poetry,” said Renault.