Young adult illustrates a children’s book about a popular Marian devotion


According to her mother, Mia Sasscer drew before she could speak. When she was a bit older she would draw on paper, staple the pieces together and write words at the bottom to make little booklets. As a teenager, she crocheted eco-friendly yarn into scarves and sold them, saving money to pay for her art education.

Today, the latest illustrations of the 21-year-old parishioner of Notre-Dame de la Vallée church in Luray can be found in “Our Lady Undoer of Knots”, a children’s book recently published by Tan Books. Devotion to Our Lady Who Unties Knots, patroness of people facing difficult problems, was popularized by Pope Francis.

The book’s author, Sylvia Dorham, was Sasscer’s neighbor. Dorham’s daughter and Sasscer’s sister practiced ballet in the same studio, where Sasscer often brought his sketchbook and drew while waiting. “That’s when she pitched the idea to me,” Sasscer said. Their first project, a collaboration with a group that fights human trafficking, was a manual called “Avoiding the Octopus: A Family Guide to Staying Strong Against Human Trafficking.”

For “Our Lady Undoer of Knots”, Dorham sent the text to Sasscer with suggested illustrations. Sasscer would start with line drawings on paper, then scan the drawing into the computer to touch up the lines and add color. She would send the finished page with the words positioned around the illustration to Dorham for review.

Their finished project tells the story of a boy who turns to Mary when he gets into trouble or causes an accident. “I thought it was quite a character,” Sasscer said. When Sasscer read picture books growing up, illustrations of children talking to Mary depicted them as angelic, not like the exuberant boy described by Dorham. Sasscer’s simple and expressive images bring this quality to life.

She hopes readers will enjoy the book’s message. “I love how it encourages young kids to go to Notre Dame with whatever issues they have, even something as simple as ‘I had a fight with my brother and we don’t get along’ “, she said.

Going forward, Sasscer plans to complete her studies at Sessions College for Professional Design online and continue illustrating books like “Our Lady Undoer of Knots.” Sasscer’s faith drives his art. “I still think the act of creating is somewhat sacred,” she said, quoting a quote from JRR Tolkien about creating humans in the image and likeness of the creator. “I think it’s cool that the reason people are creative is because God is creative and we reflect God.”

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