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  • Hailing from a literary family, author Nancy Kunhardt Lodge recently released “The Crystal Navigator,” a children’s fantasy tale, which follows 11-year-old Lucy Nightingale and a talking corgi named Wilbur in their journey to find some of the greatest paintings in art history.
    Hailing from a literary family, author Nancy Kunhardt Lodge recently released “The Crystal Navigator,” a children’s fantasy tale, which follows 11-year-old Lucy Nightingale and a talking corgi named Wilbur in their journey to find some of the greatest paintings in art history.

Characters Navigate Through Trouble In New Children’s Fantasy Tale

Zach Sparks
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July 16, 2014

In the 1950s, the dynamic team of Mr. Peabody and Sherman showed kids the stimulating appeal of science. With her new book, “The Crystal Navigator: A Perilous Journey Through Time,” Pasadena author Nancy Kunhardt Lodge hopes her whimsical tale about a clever 11-year-old girl and a talking corgi can have a similar effect by making art exciting for children.

The proud recipient of a Ph.D. in art history, Lodge has always harbored an interest in art and writing. Lodge is the granddaughter of Dorothy Kunhardt, who produced “Pat the Bunny,” one of the bestselling hardcover children’s books of all time. Her grandfather Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and father, George C. Lodge, are also published authors.

A former instructor at universities in Boston and Washington, D.C., the Pasadena author has released five picture books and a chapter book. With “The Crystal Navigator,” she finally conceded a longtime urge to craft her own fairytale and complement it with poignant illustrations. “I came to the end of a chapter with teaching, and I wanted to write a story about a magical dog and a child who flies,” Lodge declared.

“The Crystal Navigator” is the first in a planned series of at least three parts. The initial installment involves the themes of friendship, fear, making mistakes and finding the magic that lives in every person.

Following a failed oral report and subsequent humiliation, Lucy Nightingale receives an assignment to explain the personalities of five famous authors. Lucy summons a magic Wise One to assist her with time travel. A loveable, articulate corgi named Wilbur (patterned after Lodge’s own dog) appears, and together they traverse to 15th-century Florence with the help of the magic Navigator device created by Wilbur.

"I wanted to write a story about some of the fears children face in school, specifically the fear of making a mistake and one child’s utter loss of confidence when her mind goes blank in the middle of an oral report,” Lodge said. “This happened to me and I thought, ‘My life is ruined! We’ll have to move to another town; I’m so embarrassed.’ But this child Lucy doesn’t give up. She gets another chance, and this time, she vows to get an A.”

Lucy and Wilbur’s journey pits them against a knife-wielding ogress and presents several challenges, including helping Michelangelo invent a hat with a candle on the visor so he can see at night, and assisting Leonardo da Vinci with entertaining an unruly teenager named Lisa while he tries to paint her smiling. Eventually, the Navigator strands Lucy and her Wise One in the wrong century, leaving them in a dire situation.

“Wilbur’s role is to put these challenges in Lucy’s way,” the author proclaimed. “The obstacles scare her, but they rebuild her confidence … I was able to draw on the wealth of wonderful incidents from the lives of these artists, some funny, some strange and some very sad. My hope was to bring these artists to life for children.”

In its short lifespan, “The Crystal Navigator” has made its way onto several summer and recommended reading lists, and Lodge has been invited to speak to four elementary schools about the book. Author Emma Walton Hamilton saw its potential when she served as a developmental editor on the early stages of the manuscript.

“Nancy is a dedicated writer, who has something of a children’s lit pedigree but works hard and has her own merit as a writer,” Walton Hamilton expressed. “She has a keen sense of lyricism and brings her extensive knowledge of art and art history to her story, her goal being to make it a valuable learning experience for young readers as well as a fun read.”

Lodge hopes her story resonates with youth around the ages of 9 through 12 and becomes a mainstay like “Alice in Wonderland” or “Wizard of Oz.”

“I didn’t want to teach kids anything, but I wanted them to learn by feeling the spongy grass, experiencing the exhilaration of flying through a star-crowded night, and by relating to Lucy’s happiness and her fear,” Lodge said. “Kids can memorize, but they learn best by engaging.”

Print and electronic versions of “The Crystal Navigator” are available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble and several other bookstores. Lodge will donate $1 to the Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Rescue Trust for every copy of the book sold on Amazon. For more information, visit www.nancylodge.com or go to the book’s Facebook page.


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