One year later. We have been living through a pandemic for one year. And while we remember the before, the now includes new routines (like masks and social distancing), that have almost become second nature.
For many of us, we have not seen loved ones for the past 12 months; and if we have, we haven’t been able to embrace them as we normally would or host them inside our homes for a party. We are cautious in our proximity to others, connecting primarily through a screen, which isn’t a substitute for the human contact we crave. Our kids have similarly managed the pandemic the best they can, and for that, we should applaud them.
One of the marvelous things about humans is our resilience – our ability to keep going in the face of extreme difficulty. We’ve all been tried over the past year, some in greater measure than others. But we keep going. We’re coping and finding ways to spread love through porch deliveries to local friends and old-fashioned snail mail to those far away.
As with many things, our family has found solace in books during the pandemic. Books that remind us: this lifestyle, this isolation, and longing and hoping for a universal vaccine, is only temporary. Below are my top picks to share with your children.
And the People Stayed Home by Kitty O’Meara
When people stay home (as so many have over the last year), the hours are filled with reading, listening, playing games, and resting. In the stillness, we were allowed to listen to others and ourselves more deeply. With an emphasis on the natural world and healing, this book felt especially poignant for our family over the last year. The audiobook version read by Kate Winslet is wonderfully done.
Finding François: A Story About the Healing Power of Friendship by Gus Gordon
Alice lives with her grandmother in France. She loves their weekly outings to the market, where she waves to her favorite shopkeepers. Yet Alice longs for a friend her age. Because she is without siblings or peers, Alice concocts a plan and sends a letter off to sea. Soon she is surprised to receive a reply from François, who lives in a lighthouse with his dad. Together the two begin a correspondence.
Suddenly, Alice’s grandmother dies, and Alice’s world shifts into darkness. Although not pandemic-specific, this book beautifully depicts grief and loss and friendship all rolled into one. Gus Gordon is a lesser-known but nonetheless masterful children’s bookmaker.
If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug by Katie Sedmak
Animals of land and sea make ways to connect without touching, from sharing air hugs and chuckles to being a good listener or simply watching the same sunset (or show via Zoom?).
This rhyming book so accurately depicts social distancing and the ways we’ve had to do without physical hugs from so many. Have you received an air hug in the past year? I know I have!
Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham
A once-bustling and colorful city becomes gray and quiet. Those who were once outside are now inside. Commonplace events become obsolete as children and adults navigate a new (and seemingly) drab existence.
Perfectly paced and emotionally rich, Outside, Inside captures the complexity of how our world shifted in the spring of 2020. Don’t be surprised if your kids ask for this on repeat.
Share Your Rainbow: 18 Artists Draw Their Hope for the Future by Various Authors
What is your rainbow? Nearly 20 kid-lit artists and makers join together to depict what it will be like when “ordinary” and “normal” life returns. Will you soar down a roller coaster on a hot summer day or share food with friends at your birthday party? Will we be kinder to our earth and more inclusive in our play?
With 100% of this book’s net proceeds going to World Central Kitchen, this is a great book to get or give.
The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts
“The Great Realization does not seek to negate the suffering of so many. All I want is to offer up a message of hope and optimism.” So begins the author’s note to his readers, as he unspools a new bedtime story for this season of change.
With an increase in big businesses, less face-to-face communication, seemingly every child owning a phone, and other unsettling parts of modern life, a virus came and changed everything. People began to shift their priorities, and the world seemed to heal, if only for a little while.
The World Made a Rainbow by Michelle Robinson
“The light couldn’t shine if it never knew dark.” Remember the early days of the pandemic when windows began to fill with tissue paper rainbows? Soon sidewalks and fences donned chalk renditions of the same. It was a way to stay connected with others, even when we couldn’t see them.
Rendered with bright hues and joyful rhyming text, this book reminds us to search for hope even in the darkest days. This book is especially fun to pair with a craft activity.
We’re Better Together: A Book About Community by Eileen Spinelli
Have you ever tried being on a teeter-totter by yourself? It’s just no fun. Playgrounds and families, communities and schools, are designed for the collaborative experience of many people making the organization work. When we help each other (by taking sick soup to a neighbor, feeding the cat, or helping someone search for their favorite blanket), we demonstrate love and concern for others.
Some of the most heartfelt things I’ve seen during the pandemic (people helping people) are demonstrated in some form throughout this book. Highly recommend this one.
While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin
Two woodland creatures, Hedgehog and Turtle, want to hug but are not allowed to touch (a sentiment kids can relate to). However, Wise Owl reassures the friends that they can show each other love in a myriad of ways. So together, the friends connect through waves, funny faces, stellar dance moves, letters, air kisses, and creating art. Through rain and shine, the duo discovers that they both feel loved even without a hug—an all-around sweet story perfect for today’s kids.
Ps. A non-book option we’ve been sending to friends over the last few months is this wonderful printable by Mer Mag. Such an easy craft and a simple way to brighten someone’s day!