ALCOA, Tenn. — If you're wondering how to talk about the pandemic with your kids, a new children's book can help.
Educators at Alcoa Intermediate School wrote "Let Your Eyes Smile, Corona Style!" The picture book brings the very real struggles of kids during the pandemic to life in a creative way.
This isn't your usual children's book. Every turned page is a window into the world as we know it, highlighting the uncertain reality of the pandemic and how kids are getting through it.
Kip Jones, a counselor at Alcoa Intermediate, and David Grant, an art teacher at the school, joined forces to write and illustrate the book in only three weeks.
They had wanted to work on a project together for quite some time, and this book seemed like the perfect fit.
"This has been tough on a lot of kids as well as parents, but something like this book can help relate what they've been going through," Jones nodded.
The goal is to help kids understand and deal with the novel coronavirus during this historic time and how parents might explain it.
One page reads: "He said, 'well, it's kid of like the flu with muscles, but it's super sneaky and it's spreading all over the world.'"
"It's okay to have feelings that are difficult to deal with, and the book kinda helps," Grant said. "It's just one way of bringing up a conversation."
The main character in the book, Ella Jane Palmer, is based on Jones' future granddaughter who is due in November.
In the book, Ella's soccer games get cancelled, school ends, her dad has to work at home and her mom is worried about going back to work as a nurse.
There's some familiar faces for Alcoa throughout the book too. Teachers, principals and even Grant and Jones.
Grant aged Jones and his wife in the book, so they could look "the proper age" if their granddaughter was experiencing the pandemic right now.
Jones said Grant "did an excellent job." All the drawings were completed digitally.
Alcoa Schools was one of the first districts across the U.S. to head back to the classroom for the fall semester. Jones and Grant knew the kids at AIS would need all the support they could get.
They're hoping the words help kids find hope now and reminisce in the future.
"Students can pick up this 20 years from now and see what this time was like during this pandemic, so it could be a nostalgic type book too in the future," Jones said.
You can purchase the book here on Amazon. They have copies of the book in their school library because it was initially written for Alcoa Intermediate students, but they realize families all over the world can relate with the message.
Jones has written several books in the past, which were published by Boys Town Press. They feature a variety of issues featuring the character Willie Bohanon. Those readings are able to be distributed throughout schools in the United States.
Grant is also working on other projects and a book called “Adventures of Alseeya School,” set in a place called 'The Steamy Mountains,' but he has not published it yet.