Adults may already find COVID-19, and the idea of pandemics, a bit tough to deal with.
What more the kids?
“Actually, when COVID-19 landed on our shores (Singapore) on 23 January 2020, one of my children reacted with a lot of fear and exhibited psychosomatic symptoms,” shares author Hwee Goh.
“My pep talk to her was that whenever she feared something, she should find out all she could about it so that she could face it with knowledge.
“She has now become a news junkie and knows much more about COVID-19 news than I do, and I can see that she takes care of herself because she knows how this virus behaves.”
It turns out the young ones are more resilient, aware and understanding than we give them credit for. 😊
Aside from watching and reading the news, there are other things families can use to cope with the current situation. And that includes books.
There’s one book in particular that can help: It’s Hwee’s Invisible Enemies: A Handbook on Pandemics That Have Shaped Our World, which was released only recently. It’s illustrated by David Liew.
Hwee, a former TV news journalist and editor, also wrote the children’s book series The Plano Adventures (I have a post about it here), as well as the Timmy & Tammy Discover Series: Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Wildlife Wonders and Singapore’s Sports Stars. She is a mum of four teenagers (two boys and twin girls).
Her above experience with her child is “the root of the book”, she says.
“The next day I went running at the gym, thought it through, and contacted my publisher. David, as a historian, was my natural pick for this book because I adore his work!”
Know your “enemy”
Invisible Enemies is for kids aged eight years old and above. A fun and intriguing read, it highlights the histories and facts of modern pandemics such as COVID-19, SARS and the Spanish Flu that our little ones will appreciate.
Concepts such as super spreaders and the Theory of Germs, as well as the role of scientists in pandemics, are just some of the things they'll be excited to learn more about as they leaf through the colourful pages.
Working on it, Hwee and David found themselves in their element.
“I had to concurrently collect every day’s news while I researched the early chapters of the book,” Hwee recounts.
“It is very much like being a news journalist; it is what I did for 16 years. I properly started in mid-February and sent in my final draft in late April. David and I had to work simultaneously because I could not send him the whole book to illustrate – it would delay the book further. So my editor and I sent chapter by chapter to him. It is the best feeling seeing my stories come alive, galvanising me along to the end of the book!”
What surprising or amazing things did she learn?
“Actually, the more I researched, the more I felt this is so old,” she ponders.
“Humankind has faced pandemics forever! If my young readers knew this as well, they would understand and process this better.”
Their parents would, too. Hwee lists four other aspects about pandemics – and our role in them – from the book that are just as (or even more) eye-opening for both young and old alike.
#1 All the modern pandemics of the 20th and 21st century have been zoonotic in origin
“This means that we as humans are infringing on animals’ habitats, and continue to trade and eat what we should not,” Hwee points out.
“New viruses that cross over from animals have proven to be aggressive, and we have not the immunity. This is actually very scary to me. So while I want to assure my young readers that we can fight this, I do hope they grow up to be aware of the ferocity of a new invisible enemy the next time it arrives.”
#2 We live in an entirely new world of information
“Social media has made everything more immediate, more looming. Pandemic news can be harmful, depressive, not useful to our state of mind. So when I talk about providing an armour of knowledge in this book, it is also about building a constant decisiveness on how to approach the news.”
#3 There are tools used for pandemics, and the better we use them, the better we will fight and overcome them
“It’s a point strongly made throughout my book. Every single person has a role to play because it is the only way. The ability of a virus to spread is only as strong as our ability to cut off this spread.”
#4 “Keep calm and go on”
“David has enabled me to do this with an otherwise heavy topic. We need to live, love and laugh despite this.”
It does give us a lot to talk and think about. So have Invisible Enemies on hand to guide you. 😊
After being enlightened by Invisible Enemies, which books are you and the kids looking forward to next?
It’s good to be informed, but it’s also good to escape as well. 😊 And books provide that.
Maybe Hwee can suggest some titles for our stay-home reading list. What’s she engrossed in at the moment?
“Very glad you asked! From a bookish child who only read ‘real-life’ fiction, I have moved to the other spectrum and now read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy,” she admits.
“I just finished YA Queens Sarah J Maas’ Crescent City and Cassandra Clare’s Chain of Gold.
“I’m now reading Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay and it’s amazing. I have James Islington’s third book (The Light of All That Falls) in my ‘next’ pile.”
What about you – what’s on your bedside table and shelf? 📚