In Shannon Hanbury’s performance world, including her recent gigs on Disney cruise ships, the Coquitlam resident spends a lot of time entertaining young children.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit worldwide last spring, Hanbury — along with many others — was grounded as the travel and arts industries came to a halt.
Over the past year, the graduate of Archbishop Carney regional secondary has kept herself busy as a fitness instructor and she’s even tried her hand at writing.
This month, Hanbury released her début book that’s geared to her best audience.
Told over 26 pages and in rhymes, Grandpa’s Friend Mr. All is a touching work for kids, published by Tellwell Talent, that address the topic of Alzheimer’s disease in a way that helps children better understand what their loved one is going through.
“I work with children a lot through theatre and storytelling,” said Hanbury, who has her BFA in musical theatre from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and has appeared on big international stages. “I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for children, and I’m very well versed with kids and how they communicate. They love whimsical stories and being imaginative, and I love telling them to children.”
Although she personally doesn’t have a family member with the disease, Hanbury said she drew her inspiration from the movie The Notebook, in which Rachel McAdams’ character sees her husband as a stranger as she lives out her days in a residential care home. Hanbury said she was especially moved by a scene in which the husband is crushed when the nurses assist his ailing wife, who is suffering.
In Grandpa’s Friend Mr. All, Hanbury uses a lizard named “Mr. All” to help grandpa with his memories. She wanted the green creature to look cute to ease young readers’ fears about the disease that affects the brain and progresses slowly.
“I wanted to write something positive that would provide comfort, and show children that not everything is so dark. There is always something good out there.”
And since her work came out April 14, Hanbury said she’s been inundated by praise from her friends and supporters — many of whom she didn’t know were going, or had gone, through a similar experience and had to explain the disease to their kids.
Asked if she’ll pen another children’s book, Hanbury told the Tri-City News, “I’ve had such positive support and such a smooth experience with this passion project of mine that, if this takes off, I’m sure I’ll have another spark of inspiration.”
• "Grandpa’s Friend Mr. All" is available on Amazon.ca and Book Depository and, soon, through major book stores.