Remote schooling, cancelled playdates, and an entire year of isolation made the world turn upside down for children.
In this time, three Mascot authors decided to write picture books about the pandemic experience to help children process their difficult emotions, appreciate the rekindled unity and human spirit, and learn to be hopeful in some of the darkest days.
Learn more from them below on why they wrote their book, what the publishing process was like on a timely schedule, and what their readers will take away from their books.
Why did you decide to write your book?
Erin Harrington, the author of The Quarantine Kid: I decided to write The Quarantine Kid because of the dire situation that our world was in. I have three small children whose lives were turned upside down with no school, no sports, no playdates in person, and masks on their faces most of the day. It broke my heart to see them have to adapt to this new way of life. It certainly had its moments of ups and downs. They missed birthday parties; they were depressed; they were robbed of their typical childhood, the life that they knew. It was an enormous change for them, but it was wonderful to see them learning to adapt and cope with their new normal.
Jordan Morrison, the author of Not Nice, Virus!: I woke up in the early hours one morning last spring trying to balance caring for my toddler (daycare was shut down) and a professional working from home all while my husband was in the ICU taking care of COVID patients. In the middle of this, the book idea just came to me. I had been talking with my toddler so much about the virus and I thought if I could help other parents and children have these conversations, that would be something I could personally do to give back in this time. During an unprecedented mental health crisis, in the nation with the pandemic being just one of many stressors, I felt it important to create a conversation starter and outlet for emotions.
Toni Wengerd, Giving Hope: A Child’s Journey Through a Pandemic: During the shutdown last spring, I started writing about the activities that my family was doing. I wrote it to read to my younger children since they may not remember anything about the pandemic. I also wrote it to share with extended family, who we were unable to see due to the pandemic. I had never given a thought to publishing it or turning it into a children’s book. Through feedback that I received after I shared the initial writing, I was able to transform my prose version of our family activities into the journal format written from the perspective of my children. Then I added the emotions to each journal entry to give children the opportunity to identify with the many different feelings that they may have had during the pandemic.
What was the publishing and writing process like considering it might have had to move quickly with the timely content?
Erin: I had to get the book written, illustrated, and published in a very timely manner due to the uncertainty of the times and keeping it relevant. My illustrator, Yana Zybina, is absolutely magical. Her work is brilliant and she is fantastic to work with. Mascot Books worked as fast as they could to get it published and in the hands of children as soon as possible. The entire process was incredible.
Jordan: The publishing process was easier than I thought. I have never published a book before, let alone in a pandemic, so I had no idea what to expect. Everyone I worked with was very timely and easy to work with. The most challenging part was finding an illustrator because of the style and personal nature of the work. Once we found Rachel, it was smooth sailing.
Toni: The publishing process was a huge learning experience for me. I didn’t know anything about publishing and had never imagined that I would need to know anything about publishing. I had to do a lot of research and learn a lot about the process, and I am so glad that I did. I was thrilled that it could move as quickly as it did because I believed there was a true need for a story like this that children could connect to, not just right now, but in the future as well. The writing process was also a growing experience. I had to be willing to revise and rewrite repeatedly in order to get my writing to a level worth publishing.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Erin: I really hope that children and their families see my book as a way to cope with the times, remember this as a piece of history, and realize that we are all in this together. This is one time when everyone can say they were all in the same boat. It is a book that can bring people together. That is my purpose for writing all of my books. We need to be more united as a world and as human beings. We need to love more, criticize less and work together.
Jordan: For adults reading to their children, I hope they are inspired by the message of hope and renewed human spirit that the pandemic has sparked in much of us: be kind to one another, spend time with your loved ones, and appreciate others who sacrifice their personal safety to give you comfort. For children, I want them to have a positive way to deal with emotions around the pandemic (not being able to go to school or have birthday parties or see family members, etc.).
Toni: I truly hope that this story is not just a story for the pandemic. The end of my book offers a “dear reader” section that encourages readers to journal, write or draw to process their emotions in a healthy way. This is a strategy that can be used any time we are faced with difficult situations, and I hope this book will spark future conversations about how to brave challenges.