A story takes flight

Sister trio shares childhood memories in new book

Devin Blomquist | Boulder Weekly

On a late spring night, three little girls were readying themselves for bed when they noticed Mother Eagle perched on a tree in their backyard.

“Come on an adventure,” she said to them. And with that, the girls climbed through the window and onto Mother Eagle’s back. Before they knew it, they were headed for the moon.

Now, the adventure for those three sisters, Alice, Mae and Zahara Porter, is charting a different path — they’ve recently published a children’s book they’d never really intended to write.

Mother Eagle began as a Christmas gift from the trio of sisters for their mother. But, Alice Porter says, after seeing Mae’s illustrations for the gift, she thought they had to share them. Before long, the three sisters from Lyons began transforming their gift into the makings of a children’s fantasy book.

“When we were little, our grandma used to tell us stories about Mother Eagle,” Alice Porter says.

Whenever the sisters had a problem, whether it be they were afraid of the dark or something had been broken, their grandmother would try to help solve those problems through Mother Eagle stories. A few of their favorite and most memorable childhood tales from their grandmother have become the basis for their new book.

When they were younger, the three girls shared a single bedroom. In it, they pushed all of their mattresses together to make one big bed on the floor, Alice Porter says. Each night, when it was time for the storytelling to begin, the sisters would climb into the big bed with their grandmother — Alice would lay on one side of her, Mae on the other, and Zahara on her chest.

The stories would just come to her grandmother, Alice Porter says, and she based them on the stories her father had told her about Grandpa Turtle and Grandpa Catfish.

The sisters spent much of their childhood living with their mother and grandmother on a farm in Lyons. During this time, the four of them would often partake in Native American traditions like the sweat lodge, a purification ceremony that, in the Porter sisters’ experience, incorporated spirits like Mother Earth, Father Wind and Brother Bear. Though their own Native American heritage comes from their father’s lineage, Alice Porter says, the traditions they all took part in played a role in the characters and the stories their grandmother would tell.

This Native influence can even be seen in some of Mae Porter’s illustrations for the children’s book. The cover of the book shows one sister donning an intricate feathered headdress, while the other two each have a single white and brown feather tucked behind their ear. All three of the girls also appear to be wearing face paint, either under their eyes or on the chin, as they soar confidently through the sky atop Mother Eagle.

“I got a bunch of pictures of us when we were little,” Mae Porter says. “And so all of the characters are based off of certain photos that we have.”

Once Mae Porter had finished the illustrations, Alice and Zahara Porter collaborated on the text, weaving together a couple of their grandmother’s tales to create a story that follows three young girls on an adventure to a distant planet.

Their grandmother’s influence didn’t end with the stories. Alice Porter says her grandmother also helped with the writing process as well. She would recall certain details if the sisters’ memories proved to be lacking. The trio even asked her to write the foreword.

“Our grandma’s voice comes through in the story that we wrote,” Alice Porter says.

The story doesn’t end there. Alice Porter says she hopes to continue the storytelling tradition when she has her own children. But for now, she says, her job as a paraprofessional at Academia Ana Marie Sandoval allows her to tell her own stories to her students. One student recently came up to her and asked, “Miss Alice, will you read me your book?” which was an awesome experience, Alice Porter says.

Mother Eagle has been dropped off at Trident Booksellers and Café and the Boulder Book Store, where they will have a book signing in April. The sisters also have the intention of getting it on the shelves at the Tattered Cover Book Store. Currently, they are focusing on local bookstores, but they are interested in making it available online as well.

So far, a lot of the book sales have been through word of mouth by friends and family, Mae Porter says, and the sisters are happy to accommodate such customers who approach them on a whim.

“I have like 20 [books] in my trunk at all times,” Alice says with a chuckle.

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