In times like these, everyone could use a big wish. With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, forcing businesses, schools and even parks and beaches to close, and racial strife at levels not seen since the 1960s, one big wish would really come in handy.
It just so happens, Reading resident and Wilmington native Tracy Harding wrote a children’s book called “Anna’s Big Wish,” which was just released last week. In the book, illustrated by the appropriately named Anna Mosca, Anna actually has three wishes, but her “big wish” involves flying to Heaven to visit with her deceased grandmother.
Harding, who grew up in Wilmington but graduated from Arlington Catholic in 1988, wrote the book after her mom passed away at 71 from lung cancer two years ago. The Anna of “Anna’s Big Wish” refers to Harding’s five-year old niece who had a strong relationship with her grandmother.
In fact, even at just five-years old, Harding said her niece has “vivid” memories of spending time with her grandmother.
“She’s keeping her spirit alive,” Harding recalled about her niece whom she said has “happy memories” of her grandmother.
Proceeds from the book will be donated to Brigham and Women’s Hospital where Harding’s mom stayed during her battle with lung cancer.
“They went above and beyond my expectations,” the first-time author said of the hospital, specifically pointing out the radiation oncologist and cardiologist who worked with her mother.
Thankfully, Harding had the chance to tell her mother, whom she credited as her inspiration, about the book before the 71-year old passed. The Reading resident named the book in Anna’s honor because she is the youngest of Harding’s three nieces and nephews (she also has two teenage nephews whom she incorporated into the book through their drawings and handwritten notes).
Even though the coronavirus stopped much travel and get-togethers, even among family, Harding said she showed Anna, who lives a couple hours away, the book over the Internet and the youngster responded with a “thumbs up.” She added how her brother, Anna’s father, thinks it’s amazing.
Although this is Harding’s first foray into literature, she said she “always knew I would write a book,” adding she took a course at Merrimack College and had an “amazing” professor.
It took two years for the book to come out - one year to write it and the other to get it published. Harding acknowledged the help she received from the creative writing group she belongs to at the Wilmington Public Library. She called the group “inspiring” and “supportive.”
“They’re an exciting bunch of diverse people,” she said, hoping to present the book to them when they all meet again later this month.
She also had help from Mosca, who illustrated the book, her first ever book illustration. The fact that her first name, Anna, is the same as the title-character is pure coincidence, according to Harding. At only 19, Mosca was able to somehow connect to the story about grief and loss.
Harding actually had the option of choosing between a more experience artist and Mosca, and she selected the teenager. One could say Harding was (no pun intended) drawn to the inexperienced illustrator’s work.
“She’s extremely talented,” Harding said about the 19-year old artist.
If Anna’s big wish involves seeing her grandmother in Heaven, does the little girl have any other wishes? She has two, according to the story: one, to grow wings (because how else can one get to Heaven) and two, for her father to also grow wings (but bigger wings, because, obviously, her father is bigger than Anna).
“I think all children can relate to wishes,” Harding exclaimed. “Anna’s wish came true in her eyes.”
Harding is no stranger to children; besides her niece and nephews, she works as an occupational therapist in a school of pre-kindergarten to fifth grade students.
For those who read the book, Harding hopes they understand how her mom had a love for life and a love for her grandkids. She included a picture of her on the dedication page.
Now, with the book complete, the author has turned to her second goal, raising money for Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Sadly, some readings Harding planned were canceled due to the coronavirus, but she hopes they can be rescheduled.
“I want to read to young children and older kids, too,” she stated, acknowledging the older children might get something different out of the book than the young children (not to mention those who believe in Heaven versus those who don’t).
Even still, the Wilmington native called the entire process an “amazing experience,” one she hopes to share with people and encourage to pursue, as well.
“My publisher went above and beyond,” she gushed about the hard work other people put in so she could realize her dream of being a published author.
As for a follow-up, well, Harding said she’s simply trying to get through this moment first before she can even think of another book.
To purchase the book, visit https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/annas-big-wish-tracy-harding/1137140209?ean=9781734240214 or https://www.amazon.com/Annas-Big-Wish-Faith-Goodbye/dp/1734240210/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=annas+big+wish&qid=1592310842&sr=8-1