Mystic author’s new release is about setting the table

Mystic author’s new release is about setting the table

The Westerly Sun

MYSTIC — As an author for more than 20 years, sometimes Mystic resident Lisa Saunders is surprised how the smaller details in her books are what make the biggest impression on her readers.

Such was the case with her newest children’s release, “Once Upon a Placemat,” which is an expansion of a very short fairy tale she included in a previous children’s book, “Ride a Horse, Not an Elevator.”

Many children and parents have written to her over the years saying they or someone they knew learned how to set the table with the fairy tale, she said.

“I thought it made sense to expand it and make it a separate story,” she said.

The illustrated short story follows a grandmother as she tells her granddaughter about the unique and fun personalities of each of the utensils and how they found their places in the time-honored tradition of setting the dinner table.

In the story, the knife and the shapely spoon are married and Mr. Knife never trusted Mr. Plate after hearing the old nursery rhyme, “The dish ran away with the spoon.”

“So, put Mr. Knife with his sharp teeth toward Mr. Plate,” Saunders writes in the story. “That way, Mr. Knife can bite Mr. Plate if he gets too friendly with his wife.”

Saunders said she first started thinking of objects as having personalities when her grandmother told her a chair was naughty if she ran into it and stubbed her toe. Now a grandmother herself, she loves the idea of fairy tales offering bits of wisdom and teaching lessons in a fun way.

Along with teaching how to set a table, Saunders has a portion at the end of the book reminding children and adults to wash their hands before eating and to not share dishes.

After her second daughter was born with birth defects caused by congenital cytomegalovirus and later died from it, Saunders made it her goal to inform others about the virus and birth defect and how to prevent it. In 2015, she was intrumental in Connecticut passing a law to help mitigate the disease.

“I am hoping that they might learn about the number one viral cause of birth defects, which is spread through saliva and other bodily fluids. Sometimes I don’t think mothers realize that if they share a cup with their toddler, they could be endangering their developing baby if they’re pregnant,” she said. “The virus is usually harmless to their toddler but it’s not something a pregnant woman wants to catch.”

The book is a family collaboration between Saunders, her sister-in-law Marianne Greiner, who did the illustrations inside the book, and Saunders’ grown daughter, Jackie Tortora, who came up with the title and designed the front cover when she was 12 years old.

Her next book, “Images of Modern America: Mystic,” co-authored with Kent and Meredith Fuller, will be released on July 4 by Arcadia Publishing.

She is holding an author meet-and-greet event on Feb. 27 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at A Taste of New England at 12 Steamboat Wharf in Mystic.


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