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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Williams

We are truly living through, as it is officially referred to in Switzerland, an extraordinary situation. As the world grapples with the COVid-19 virus, many parents are grappling with how this is impacting their children, which means more than just trying to figure out continuity for education during this crisis. It also means addressing any concerns or anxieties that their children might be having right now.

I remember the first time I realized, as a young teen, that "normal" life could be completely upended by events with a world-wide impact. I felt very unsettled as I learned about World War 1 and World War 2, and realized that adults didn't really have things figured out to the degree I assumed they had.

For the first time, I felt fear on an existential level.

My life-long interest in history is, in my opinion, directly rooted in the desire of young-me to deal with that existential fear by assuring myself, through learning about history, that the world had always encountered crises - the Black Death, world wars, and yes, even pandemics - and somehow humanity had managed each time to find a way through, and forward.

I think the most important thing we as adults can give to children and young people right now is that knowledge. To help them understand that humanity and society has periodically faced challenges on a global level, and has managed to survive, and find ways to thrive again, after they pass. It's important for young people to believe that there will be a "normal" again after this crisis passes, however long it takes for that new normal to arrive.

Books can help with this, so I'd like to recommend a book for middle grade readers,
the wonderful Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams. In this book, a contemporary young teenage girl, Sadie, finds an old diary when her family moves into a new home. The diary was written by a girl about her age during the flu pandemic of 1917-1918. The book tells two stories, the contemporary story of sisters Sadie and ZuZu, and their friend Bella, and that of Helen, who wrote the diary during the pandemic.

I've always loved this book, for a variety of reasons, but one of them is particularly relevant in this moment: it lets young readers know that even though sometimes big, scary things like pandemics happen, they also pass. As Sadie, ZuZu and Bella discover what happened to Helen after the last diary entry, young readers learn that there is life to look forward to after significant events, like pandemics, end. That there is, indeed, a new normal.

Wishing everyone safe, and well.

cover of the middle grade book Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams

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