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Teen author explores grief in debut children’s book

This article originally appeared on Charleston City Paper

Lucy Mettler, a 17-year-old author, always knew she wanted to write a children’s book. Now, that dream has come true. With the publication of her children’s picture book Treasures of the Tide, Mettler has partnered with National Alliance for Children’s Grief to support children experiencing grief and create space for discussion amongst children, parents and grief professionals.   

Treasures of the Tide follows the beach adventures of siblings Gus and Willa Mae whose father passed away. The two kids visit the shoreline for the day where they discover the magic of the natural world and spend time with their grandfather. Mettler’s grandparents passed away when she was 7, and her experience of that time in her life influenced the story. 

“A lot of [the book] is inspired by my own experiences growing up here by the beach and the water,” she said. “That was such a big part of my childhood … going to the beach with my grandparents and my family. Almost every day we collected shells and did some of the activities in the book, like building sandcastles.”

Australian artist Nathaniel Eckstrom captures the essence of Charleston beaches in the illustrations. 

In the story, Mettler, who lives in West Ashley, explores themes of grief and loss, especially looking at how children can process these big emotions that are often hard to explain or understand. 

“When I was younger, I didn’t fully understand what death or grief was. I wanted to make something that crossed that barrier of understanding to help children through their grief, and I wanted to make something that can be applied to different circumstances and people.” 

Since stories were a big part of Mettler’s childhood — her parents used to read to her every night — writing a story a family could experience together was of utmost importance to her. 

Even the metaphor Mettler uses in Treasures of the Tide relates back to her own experiences as an avid shell collector.

“The shells are metaphors for people in Gus and Willa Mae’s life. That is one aspect of the book I’m really proud of because I wanted to create a metaphor that was easy for children to understand. Every shell is unique, just like people.”

She hopes that every reader can connect to a different part of the book and learn something from the characters — or just about different types of shells on the beach. 

“It’s something that everyone can interpret for themselves and take a minute to appreciate the people in their lives, and that’s all I want, for people to take a moment and spend time with their family.” 

To further connect with readers and share the book’s message, Mettler had the opportunity to make an impact while working with Linkages to Learning, a community-school program in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, that provides educational resources and support to students and families experiencing poverty. She read Treasures of the Tide to students and distributed free copies of the book. 

“That was special for me because it … felt like I was making a small difference,” she said.

It’s not just Mettler’s story that makes a difference, it’s also the fact that she’s a young writer who had a dream and made it possible. 

“I thought this would happen further in the future when I was older and had kids of my own or something, but it’s a pretty achievable goal as long as you are passionate about it.

“I think [writing a book] is something everyone can do. Some people think that writing is something you have to have a talent for, but I think even just journal writing is such a powerful thing … Just writing for yourself is really healthy and good for your soul.” 

Mettler hopes to write more children’s books in the future. Currently, she’s focused on penning her college application essays. 

Treasures of the Tide is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and