Explain coronavirus to your kids with this book drawn by The Gruffalo illustrator
Free digital book answers questions about the science of viruses and the rules of physical distancing
Kids around the world have a lot of questions right now.
Like, why is school closed? And why can't they visit their grandparents? And why is everyone so grumpy all the time?
A new book — Coronavirus: A Book For Children — answers those questions and more in a language kids can understand.
And it does it with the help of illustrations by Axel Scheffler, the artist behind Julia Donaldson's beloved children's book The Gruffalo.
"Families and children are worried. They're scared and they want some good facts about the virus," Scheffler told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"I don't know what kids hear, but there's so [much] wrong information and rumours and fake news about the virus, I think it's very important to give them something they can rely on."
The book is available to download for free from publisher Nosy Crow in 45 different languages. Since it was released two weeks ago, it's been downloaded more than a million times.
"I did not expect that. That's really mind-boggling," Scheffler said of the book's massive popularity. "I think there's a great hunger for information."
It was written by Nosy Crow staff members Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts with the guidance of experts in the fields of infectious disease and child psychology.
"We were very aware that many parents and carers are struggling to explain the current extraordinary situation to children, many of whom are frightened and confused," Wilson, Nosy Crow's managing director, said in a press release.
"We thought that the best thing we could do would be to use our skills to produce a free book to explain and, where possible, reassure children."
The book breaks down some of the scientific facts — like how germs work, how viruses spread, how our bodies make antibodies, and what vaccines do.
But it also touches some of the more intimate aspects of pandemic life, assuring kids that it's normal for them and their families to cycle through a lot of different emotions right now.
And it asks them to help out by being kind to their siblings, doing their schoolwork, and giving their parents space to work from home.
"Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story — this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them," said Graham Medley, an infectious disease modelling professor at the London School of Hygiene, who acted as a consultant for the book.
"This book puts children in the picture rather than just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with."
For Scheffler's part, he says he hopes his familiar drawing style provides some comfort and "helps children to cope with a situation which is completely new and unique for all of us."
But perhaps most important of all, he says the book gives children hope — assuring them that everything will go back to normal one day if we all work together.
"Like many picture books, it has to be kind of a happy end," Scheffler said.
"Hopefully, one day soon this will be over and ease the pressure on children, because they can't go on like this. The pressure on families is too big, I think. So we hope to give them a little bit of a positive feeling."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Axel Scheffler produced by Jeanne Armstrong.