Pair of spring releases celebrates the power of connection through story

Natasha Deen credits family history and practice of observing people for her inspirations

Prolific writer Natasha Deen is celebrating the publication of two books this spring. Thicker than Water and Lark and the Dessert Disaster are her 17th and 18th books.

Lark and the Dessert Disaster is the fourth in a series of mysteries for early years readers about twins Lark and Connor. In this book, they are asked to solve a mystery at a neighbourhood baking contest. Someone has wrecked the dessert that was almost sure to win. Lark and Connor must find the culprit before the judging begins.

Thicker than Water is a mystery for older kids. This fast-paced novel is written from the viewpoint of 17-year-old Zack as he struggles to know, while not wanting to know, why his father is lying to him, why he is denying being with Zack’s friend the day she disappeared.

Zack and his friend Ayo investigate exactly what Zack’s father was doing that day and why Zack’s parents are fighting all the time. They try to figure out where Ella is and if she’s all right.

And over and under and through it all, Zack’s culture permeates. “My life is all about respecting my elders and not questioning my parents. It’s the West Indian way,” he says.

These are two very different books for two very different audiences.

Natasha Deen
Natasha Deen

“The stories have very different premises and tones,” Edmonton-based Deen says, “but they touch on similar themes – solving a mystery, family dynamics, friendship, the connections we have to others, and the responsibilities we hold to ourselves.”

To get ideas for her stories, Deen says she loves watching and listening to people as she plays what she calls her “What Game,” asking questions such as: What would happen if…? What if this thing happened? What would be funny/sad/hilarious…? What could happen next?

“Those questions, asked in everyday situations, help me get my ideas,” she says. “They remind me that if I look at an event from a different point of view, emotion, or perspective, I can usually find the crack that will allow me into the story world.”

Stories are very important to Deen. “The only reason I’m here, able to live the life I imagine, is because of stories. My parents brought us to Canada because of the stories they’d heard about the country. But beyond that, the fact that I have rights, that I freely walk where I please, that I’m allowed to dream and fulfill those dreams is because of stories.

“Because starting long ago and continuing today,” she explains, “there are people who are brave enough, strong enough, to stand up and share their stories, to say, ‘I know I don’t look like you, worship like you, love like you, move like you, but listen to my words, listen to my story, and see that even if I am not like you, I have worth and value, just like you. I am precious and beautiful, just like you. Listen to my story and allow me to listen to yours. Take my hand and let our stories shape this world.’”