Allison Hurtado/AFN

Wondering what happened in the 14 billion years the universe has been around? A local author hopes her children's book can put it into perspective.

Erika Gronek, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and mother of one, was up late one night with her young son when she came up with the idea for the book, "And Then There Was You." Gronek always had an interest in anthropology and she wanted her son to have a firm grounding in science and history as he grew. She also wanted to answer in a simple way the question: "Where did we come from?"

"I wanted it to be a complete picture for Adrian," Gronek said. "I was looking for an origin story and where the start of things came from. The best place to start is the actual beginning. The actual beginning is 14 billion years ago."

Gronek, who has degrees in political science, anthropology, educational technology and leadership, and a master's degree in educational technology, used photography and photomontages to create the images for the book. She said overall it took about a month to put the 17 pages together. Now, she has a book with many layers that she hopes will be a keepsake for her son and many other children.

The book carries the theme of a spark throughout. It begins with a spark that sort of ignites the creation of the solar system and the world and then returns as lightening that sets off a chain of events in the earth's creation.

The book tells the story of dinosaurs and their extinction. A flame appears a few pages later when two human hands create the spark of fire. The book shows how humans evolved after that spark to the civilizations and families they have today and ends with the spark surrounding a sleeping baby and the simple line: "And then there was you."

Gronek said she wrote lines of the story while at the gym and worked on the images whenever her son, Adrian, was napping. She took a lot of photos of his toys and used many others from traveling and the zoo.

While she has gotten a very good and emotional response from mothers about her book her most exciting and unexpected response came from a college professor in Maine. A friend of hers was taking a history class when she first read the book and realized it went along pretty well with what her professor was teaching. She gave the book to him and he loved it.

Gronek says there is a big push happening for "big history." Big history doesn't teach small periods of time but tries to cover larger patterns in the earth's history. In 17 pages Gronek's book covers many of the most important points in big history. So much so that she has been invited to be on an Elementary Education Committee with a few other authors during a big history convention this summer at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

"It's interesting to have my book accidentally tied to something I totally understand," Gronek said. "To me big history is so obvious. That's how I view the world. I see the world kind of putting blinders on a lot so I think their initiative to study history in its entirety is a valid one."

Part of the blinders Gronek said she sees are schools not teaching evolution. She hopes her book contains enough scientific facts and hidden layers to be applicable to anyone. The spark that's in her book could be a big bang, but it can also be a divine spark.

"It's science. It's there. It's truth to be known, let's not hide it," Gronek said. "I don't think it's in conflict with religion. There is nothing sacrilegious about science. To me it's just so obvious and complete all at the same time."

Gronek has plans for a few more children's books. For now, she's just having fun sharing her keepsake book with her family and friends. The book is available on and

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or




(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.