When Janice McKay’s grandchildren started asking her why COVID-19 meant they could no longer have their regular visits, the clinical psychologist decided to write them a book to explain it.
The pair, now aged eight and 10, had been coming to grandma’s Lake Macquarie home on a Monday and Tuesday since they were babies.
However, hearing words like ‘coronavirus’, ‘social-distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ meant grandma could only talk via Zoom.
Villony Virus Comes to Town was born out of Janice’s sadness at having to move their regular games of Snakes and Ladders to a screen.
“I struggled to explain to my grandchildren the reasons why they could no longer come to my home”, Janice said.
“I felt heartbroken and I thought the best way to explain the situation was to write a book for them.”
In her 26-page children’s book, Janice attempts to explain a global pandemic to children aged between five and eleven.
Her strategies and ideas have been brought to life with the help of Belmont-based illustrator Jerram Fahey’s bold characters in bright primary colours.
While a creepy main character named Villony Virus is attempting to take over the town with its soldiers that can jump 1.5 metres and prefer older adults, there are some clever scientists in the book who are working hard to find a vaccine that will hopefully bring about a happy ending.
Janice says the book is filled with subtle messages aimed at opening the channels of communication surrounding COVID-19.
“The book provides children with some education about a pandemic and helps children realise that others may feel the same as they do,” she said.
“The book reassures children that they will be okay and it gives them hope for the future.”
Despite its simple language, Janice says the book is designed to be read to children.
“Children can learn some simple strategies about how to manage change and its associated stress,” she said.
“Parents and grandparents can draw and expand on the ideas in the book to assist them in communicating with their children about living with a pandemic.
“The book is designed to open up all sorts of questions about the virus.”
Janice says the book has been well-received by schools and parents within Newcastle, with online sales increasing.
“In the past, I have written other books for the children in my family, but this is the first book that I decided to publish in the hope that it may help others,” she said.
“It’s touching a bit of a nerve but I only hope it can help.”
Copies of Villony Virus Comes to Town can be purchased online.