In today’s world of unknowns, author Taylor Tomu, along with her team, published a free online book called "The Unwelcome Stranger."
Tomu: "This is an opportunity for us to have conversations at home, but also to have conversations as a community."
"The Unwelcome Stranger" strives to teach children about COVID-19, but it can also start a tough conversation about fears during the pandemic
Tomu: "At this very moment, we are seeing a lot of tension and a lot of issues surrounding the African American community."
Children's books aren't known for their diversity: only 9% are about African Americans, despite Blacks making up 13% of the U.S. population. So this story about a young Black girl dealing with the coronavirus is unique and also reflects a community often ignored.
Illustrator Nandi L. Fernandez said: "Showing a Black family is not something that is done very often. So that's what we wanted to show."
The story focuses on a young Black girl who notices changes in her life because of the coronavirus. There's chaos at the supermarket, Zoom calls with friends — even COVID-19 is its own character, an imaginary ghost called "the Unwelcome Stranger."
"It's just showing that it's something that is dangerous. It's something serious, but it's not something to be afraid of. ... We went with the purple to give him the right color and to show the purple that he leaves behind is just the disease."
In the book, the wise grandmother says, "We meet fear with knowledge,” and there are proactive solutions, like staying home, using cleaning supplies and wearing masks. And the book has intricate layers that reflect Black families: a multigenerational home and parents who are essential workers. Grief is not mentioned in the book, but it's one clinical psychologist Erlanger Turner says is important to discuss.
Turner: "How are they coping with grief? So, if they are impacted by this in terms of a family member, a loved one who dies from coronavirus? How are they going to be able to process the potential trauma that they may be experiencing?"
Drew Edwards, a co-author and CEO of the publisher Pangea Educational Development, said: "Parents are put in the unique position of having to be teacher, possibly for the first time, at least full-time for many folks. And so we wanted to make learning activities that were relevant to the moment now."
Cat Sandoval, Newsy, Chicago.
*For additional resources on parenting during COVID-19, check out the American Psychological Association.