Sunday, 20 June 2021

"It's A Love Story" Meghan Shares Inspiration Behind The Bench For Father's Day

In her only interview following the release of The Bench, the Duchess of Sussex joined illustrator Christian Robinson for a conversation with Samantha Balaban, on independent, non profit media organisation NPR. The brief interview coincided with Father's Day. In fact, The Bench was inspired by a gift Meghan gave Harry to mark his first Father's Day two years ago. "As most of us do, you go, what am I going to get them as a gift? And I thought I just wanted something sentimental and a place for him to have as a bit of a home base with our son", the Duchess said. Meghan revealed she included a plaque on the bench inscribed with the poem "This is your bench. Where life will begin/For you and our son/Our baby, our kin." Click here to listen to the full piece.

NPR reports:

'Now, two years later, Meghan and Harry have added a second child to their family — daughter Lilibet Diana was born in early June — and that poem is a children's book. The Duchess of Sussex spoke to NPR about the book shortly before the birth of her daughter.

The Bench is a series of vignettes — fathers and their sons share a bench while they drink apple juice, wait for the bus, look at the stars, and put on their shoes. The bench is where they cry, celebrate, and mend their scraped knees and broken hearts.'

Meghan was inspired by watching Harry and Archie together, she recalled, "I often find, and especially in this past year, I think so many of us realized how much happens in the quiet. It was definitely moments like that, watching them from out of the window and watching my husband just, you know, rock him to sleep or carry him or, you know - those lived experiences, from my observation, are the things that I infused in this poem." Inclusivity was very much a key objective for the book. Meghan said "Growing up, I remember so much how it felt to not see yourself represented. Any child or any family hopefully can open this book and see themselves in it, whether that means glasses or freckled or a different body shape or a different ethnicity or religion." 

When it was time to choose an illustrator the incredibly talented Christian Robinson was delighted to jump on board. "Would you want to work with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex?' And I'm like, in complete disbelief and excited and then I read the manuscript and I fell in love even more. For me it was a no brainer." Christian added "What makes creativity fun is when things are improvised. When you kind of have to explore and play and experiment. I really think it was just the right note." For Christian "inclusivity" and "representing as many families as we could" is the "heart of the book".

Listening to the conversation, it was clear Meghan and Christian developed a wonderful working relationship and aligned vision for the book. The Duchess, who had long been a fan of Christian's work, said: "I wanted him to just try something a little bit new and work in watercolor. That was specifically because I just felt that when you talk about masculinity and you talk about fatherhood, it can often not come across with the same softness that I was really after for this book. And I just wanted this to feel almost ethereal and light and Christian was able to use that medium and create the most beautiful images." 

Meghan added: "We both started to explore what diversity means when you look at it through illustration. It's not just black and white." The decision to feature a military family not only stemmed from Harry's life but a family she met when she was on a USO tour with a sergeant from Texas. "He had told me the story about how he wasn't able to teach his son how to play catch because he was away," Meghan recalled. "He and his son would mail this baseball back and forth to each other from Texas to Afghanistan and write the date on it."

Indeed, Meghan was thrilled to share news "Archie loves the book". The two-year-old has a "voracious appetite for books" and when they read the Bench, Meghan said it feels "amazing" to say "Mummy wrote this for you". Meghan added "a lot of special detail and love" went into the book. 

It was particularly touching to hear Christian say, as he worked on the book, he did so whilst visualizing "the father he wished he had" and "the father he hopes to be someday".

The book is filled with "small moments" familiar to the Sussex family including Meghan's favourite flower, her late mother-in-laws favourite flower and rescue chickens. It is ultimately a "love story", the Duchess says. "It's really just about growing with someone and having this deep connection and this trust so that, be it good times or bad, you know that you had this person and you can go back to this place you shared together. I really hope that people can see this as a love story that transcends the story of my family."

The Bench is now a number one New York Times Bestseller for children’s picture books. It remains available at countless online retailers including Amazon. 

In a special message published on Archewell, Meghan wrote: "When I first wrote these words — as a Father’s Day poem to my husband shortly after the birth of our first child, Archie — I never anticipated they would become something enjoyed in the homes of families around the world. My words echoed what I was witnessing at the time — the love I watched blossom between my husband and our baby boy, and the both simple and sacrosanct moments I imagined they would have for years to come. As I put pen to paper then, I felt it was uniquely our story that I was capturing. It became clear to me that the story of The Bench may have been for my husband and son, but it wasn’t simply about them; it was reflective of what so many other mothers and partners see in their other halves; the growing bond that I was in privileged observation of was universal. The tenderness of the relationship between Harry and Archie, also role-modeled by millions of other families around the world, reveals, in its subtle quietude, that the moments of being as much as in doing, matter. They illustrate that when we teach our sons that there is strength in vulnerability, power in kindness, and beauty in showing emotion, that we create the basis for a more equitable world for everyone — not simply for boys and men but for women and girls." 

Meghan concluded: "On this Father’s Day, we celebrate you: those who lead by example, who lead with love, and who recognize that the dad you are for your son today, defines the man he becomes tomorrow".

15 comments:

  1. Just have to add -- I can't think of a favorite children's book of mine in which the images are not at least 50% of the pleasure. Thinkin of a few of my favorites like Winnie the Pooh, where the Wild Things Are, Curious George, Peter Rabbit, The Wind in the Willows, the illustrations are what I remember. These illustrations are wonderful -- seemingly simple and one-dimensional, they convey the personalities so well. The two dogs are just amazingly "real," and the children have such personality!

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  2. Charlotte thank you so much for your summary. I listened to the interview and was so pleased hearing the gaiety in Meghan's voice again. Both Meghan and Christian have a beautiful rapport.

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    1. Yes, beautifully said. The gaiety in Meghan's voice soothes compared to the continued campaign against her, which I hope she is able to ignore. I am so thrilled for the success of her book. Hearing her explain the care taken with the smallest details further opens it's meaning to us. She is so attentive to everything.

      Thank you, Charlotte.

      R

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  3. Father's are so important and I don't think that has been emphasized enough in this world. So, I love that this book is about father's and their children! The illustrations are just wonderful!

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  4. I have been commenting less frequently (no particular reason); however, as always your acute sensitivity, respect and touching content on this blog are exemplary, Charlotte. You are a treasure. Thank you.

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  5. Meghan sounded so good, and I loved her purpose behind the book. I have an entirely selfish hope of seeing Harry with his two children today, but, as I said, it is just a bit selfish. I know they are having the best Father's Day ever!

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  6. Meghan uses words so powerfully and eloquently. One example: “the growing bond that I was in privileged observation of was universal.”
    No wonder her book is a NYTimes best seller.
    I’m so glad for this, yet another beautiful success for M&H.
    Renee

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  7. I really love the book. It captivates the bond between a father and his son. We do need more bond like this. Meghan you really are one in a million. I admire you very much ❤♥

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  8. It is simply magnificent, it is well conveyed the message and the emotions that Meghan wants to share. I send him my congratulations because before being a popular success, it is first of all a personal success achieved.
    I really like the photo of Meghan with the family of this soldier, I have the impression that it is him who is represented in the book ... Like what, the representation is really universal. well done.
    Thank you very much Charlotte.

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  9. I would love this even if it sold 100 copies -- it's a lovely sincere universal sentiment with a wonderful illustrator! I'm so glad she distributed 2000 free copies, too.

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  10. I can't wait for the copies to arrive in our local bookshop. I plan on buying at least 3 copies, one mine, one for my partner and the other for my brother.

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  11. I love this love story! ♥
    Thank you for this informative post, as always. Beth.

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  12. Carla Hayden from the US Library of Congress says that in 8th grade, Meghan wrote a book, "A Face without Freckles Is a Night without Stars." She shows an ADORABLE drawing of Meghan in the book. I would love to see that published. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/meghan-markles-first-book-sits-154900217.html

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  13. I'm so happy Meghan and Harry have found peace. Happy Father's Day to all dads celebrating today 23rd June in Poland. Anna

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  14. So glad Harry went to the WellChild awards tonight in London. He remains committed to his U.K. charities. No surprises there then. LRB

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