Former London, Ont., principal partners with teen illustrator for kids' book about the pandemic

When retired London, Ont., principal Shannon-Lee Kelly decided to write a children's book about the pandemic, she wasn't having much luck finding an illustrator until she met H.B. Beal Secondary School art student Adrianna Stekar.

Six Feet Apart, released last month, about 'how we were going to thrive' despite COVID-19

Former Thames Valley District School Board principal Shannon-Lee Kelly teamed with H.B. Beal Secondary School student-illustrator Adrianna Stekar, 16, of London, Ont., for a children's book on hope despite the pandemic. (Submitted by Shannon-Lee Kelly)

When Shannon-Lee Kelly decided to write a children's book about the pandemic, the retired London, Ont., principal wasn't having much luck finding an illustrator.

But then Kelly heard about Adrianna Stekar, a 15-year-old H.B. Beal Secondary School art student with a lot of promise.

"So I called her mom and dad, and introduced myself," recalled Kelly, who had worked for the Thames Valley District School Board.

Kelly told the family she wanted to write a rhyming book called Six Feet Apart, and it would be about hope in the face of a worldwide pandemic.

"That no matter what was happening in the world, that by coming together, we were going to get through it," she said. "We were not only going to survive, but we were going to thrive."

The cover of Six Feet Apart, a book published last month. (Submitted by Shannon-Lee Kelly)

A nervous Stekar agreed to work with Kelly, and although she'd never illustrated a book, she was eager to get started.

"There's a lot of bright colours, lots of big eyes on the children," said Stekar, now 16. "There's lots of diversity too, which is great."

"She had the maturity and the poise," Kelly said of the student. "I came back at her with lots of edits, and she was always patient and kind and co-operative.

"I couldn't be more impressed."

The book, published by London, Ont., author-turned-publisher David Carruthers, was released five weeks ago and is available to purchase online.

The response has been outstanding, said Kelly, pointing to people all over Canada and in countries as far away as Vietnam and Australia who have purchased it.

"I'm really impressed with myself and I'm really happy with the job I've done," said Stekar.

One of the pages from Six Feet Apart, illustrated by Adrianna, an art student in London. (Submitted by Shannon-Lee Kelly)
Emily Carr Public School principal Shannon-Lee Kelly tells London Morning what it was like working on her COVID-19 book with 16-year-old Beal student Adrianna Stekar who did the illustrations. 7:53


Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna.