A Child’s Eye View of the Coronavirus
Each children’s book has two audiences. For the children themselves, Are We Really Safe Now? answers the title’s question with an emphatic “YES!” and a victory lap.
Of course, the second audience of any children’s book are the parents, teachers and family members, who read the books to the children. For most adults reading the book, the cheerfulness of Are We Really Safe Now? is tempered with memories full of melancholy and a dose of the true reality of what we have all been through collectively.
There and Back Again
Children thrive on routine. The COVID-19 pandemic yanked children out of their routine due to forces they could barely understand — in some measure because the facts were genuinely too much to expect them to understand, and to some extent because parents wanted to shield them from the scary truth. Over time, the “new normal” became the “new routine” … and then the vaccine changed everything again. Can you blame our children for feeling a little whiplash?
Facing the Cost of Fear
One of the ways to calm children’s fears and anxieties is through reading to them, (or where possible for them to read to themselves,) books that discuss their fears. In this particular case, Are We Really Safe Now? offers us an opportunity to view the pandemic through the eyes of our children, and to reflect on the part this period of time played in disrupting our children’s lives, and our responsibility to be proactive and set it right, calming the fears that engulfed us all for so long.
What Ave and Mason Went Through:
Our story follows Ava and her brother Mason through the ups and downs of the pandemic. Missing their friends, their beloved grandparents and especially their hardworking mum, who is a nurse, caring for the sick, on the one hand – and on the other hand excited at the new reality of getting to spend more time with dad at home. Learning through their computers on Zoom classrooms was challenging and difficult to follow at times. Suddenly doing chores at home was not such a bind as it had been pre-pandemic! The excitement of learning to do things around the house like tighten cupboard screws, change a lightbulb, or even change the kitty litter suddenly became ‘fun’ things to do! Who would have thought.
Midway through the book, Grammy and Gramps get vaccinated, heralding a return to a certain new “normal.” In spite of this medical intervention, nobody is quite sure how to let go of the nagging fear that over a year of ‘don’t hug’ has left imprinted on our hearts. We are witness to the heartbreak Ava and Mason feel as they hesitate to hug their newly-vaccinated grandparents, something they quickly get over! We are sad to see them quake with fear at returning to school. As Ava wipes down the swings because she is so afraid of touching germs, our hearts feel for her and all the children who had the same anxieties.
So who made our children so afraid? Well we all did and that includes you and me. No matter our age, we all felt the fear. Maybe it was the right thing to do at the time, but the right thing to do now is to try and undo it — which is exactly what Ava’s and Mason’s parents, with smiles on their faces, set about doing.
Are We Really Safe Now? revels in the child’s-eye details of this process — a classroom that hasn’t changed a bit, a school uniform that no longer fits because more than a year has passed since the children wore their school uniform and suddenly we see how much they have grown! Life is very different now, for better and worse.
Ultimately, though, Are We Really Safe Now? ends on a positive note. Children are adaptable, and “returning to normal” doesn’t mean the lockdown time was in vain. The kids are back at school, but Mason wants to keep helping Dad fix things around the house, and Dad says he can’t do without his best helper. It has been a tough year, but the growth that happened during that year was real. Ava’s fears of breaking ‘social distancing’ rules, as her mother and teacher hug is a mixture of both tragedy and at the same time touching. Thank goodness we are slowly getting some kind of ‘normalcy’ back again.
To conclude, Are We Really Safe Now? remains steadfastly upbeat and the bright and cheery illustrations depict happy smiles on every adult face. They seem confident and in control — feelings that were in short supply after March 2020, as every parent knows.
You can find Are We Really Safe Now? available for purchase on Amazon.com.