scientist knuck bump

Virus, The,Written byMiguel Chen, Illustrated by David Buist, 32 pgs.

The Virus, written by Teenage Bottlerocket’s bass-playing yogi Miguel Chen, is a beautifully cartoony, hopeful, and honest story. The book was created to help children, preschool-aged and up, understand (and see the bright side of) the current pandemic. It is a simple (true/generalized) story of how parents heard of COVID-19 from the news and then suddenly everything drastically changed. These changes are exemplified through Buist’s bold (and “Cartoon Network”-esque) illustrations of closed schools and empty workspaces. It briefly covers how families were worried but—staying true to his Buddhist philosophy—Chen offers a positive perspective by appreciating the extra time spent with loved ones. (I am reminded of the popular Buddhist saying, “Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional.”) Chen offers children the best two messages they could possibly receive during this uncertain and tumultuous time: “Things are going to be okay,” and “We have each other.” The sentences are short and straightforward, and the illustrations are humorous (scientists fist-bumping) and diverse (mixed-race families/characters of different ethnicities), creating an appropriate balance of being comically lighthearted but also relevant and relatable.

Although the book is simple, it can very easily be the basis for important and therapeutic talks a caregiver can have with any concerned school-aged child. Chen was able to tackle an important issue like the pandemic and avoid even the slightest politicization of it. At first, I thought the book may have benefitted from including facemasks on characters. But now I see that by mainly focusing on the school/work closures and stay-at-home orders, it actually feels like a more accessible and more widely applicable message. By optimistically looking forward to when scientists discover a cure, Chen gives his readers some much-needed reassurance. Giving children a feeling of safety is of the utmost importance during a crisis; and with the combination of reassuring children that the virus is temporary and that we are all in this together, Chen succeeds at this. Books are often a “go-to” tool for many parents/caregivers struggling to help their children understand complex issues. I also appreciate that this was published so recently and in such quick response to the advocacy and acknowledgment for children to have an understanding to this life-changing, worldwide event. –Rosie Gonce (Zarfling Platoon Books & Games, zarfling.com)

We're a happy family