Sheltering in Place: My Kids on Their Lives Now & Books They Recommend

by Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books

I hope everyone reading this post is doing well in these strange and sometimes scary times. My two kids–O., age 9, and M., age 6–had spring break in mid-March, followed by an additional week off. I interviewed them for the blog back in 2017, and I thought it would be a good time to check in with them about their experiences these past couple of weeks.

As I write this on Sunday, March 29, their school is putting the final touches on the remote learning setup, which begins on March 30. It has been a tough couple of weeks, though we are all in good health and adapting to our new lives together. On one hand, we’re enjoying neighborhood walks and family board games more than ever before. My kids are learning new skills, including folding laundry, vacuuming, and chopping vegetables for dinner. On the other hand, my kids very much miss their friends and their teachers. They’re also picking fights with each other and for most of the past week, M. has had a few meltdowns a day.

My colleagues and I have made the adjustment to working from home, and there have been some fun moments sharing books-in-process with my kids and soliciting their feedback on titles, photo choices, and more. I’m enjoying seeing my colleagues thanks to Zoom meetings, and my kids have had a few chances to say hello in those meetings as well. I’m finding comfort in my work, knowing that we’re making great, informative books that will reach the hands of readers this coming fall and beyond.

For this interview, I found my boys had trouble focusing on the questions, so rather than doing it in one conversation, we did this a little bit at a time over the past several days.

How are you doing?

O: Fine. Bored.

M: Pretty good. No, actually, just good.

Hole is to Dig
Digging a hole in the backyard just because.

What do you like best about being at home?

O: Board games! Actually, reading!

M: Playing Powerline.io [a video game]. Other favorite things I like to do are going on walks if there’s no chance of rain or less than a 100% chance of rain, and seeing cats in the neighborhood.

M and cat
Taking a rainy walk with a neighbor’s cat.

What do you like least about being at home?

O: Not seeing friends.

M: I would make it so coronavirus was only as weak as just a common virus.

What kinds of books are you enjoying right now?

O: Humor. Fiction.

M: Pretty long books like Mercy Watson. Also picture books and books about Burmese pythons.

Boys with books
With a couple of their book recommendations.

Do you have suggestions for what other kids your age might like to read right now?

O: The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer: for kids who kids who like fairy tales and have good imaginations. [He just finished the first book, The Wishing Spell, and is eagerly awaiting the next two books in the series, which are en route from our beloved Red Balloon Bookshop, which is still taking phone orders and online orders.]

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman—especially the story “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers”: for all kinds of kids, but not if they’re feeling scared.

The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America’s National Pastime by Alex Irvine, illustrated by Tomm Coker and C.P. Smith: for kids who are into baseball. Especially if they can’t start their season on time.

I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon: because it’s interesting. Especially for kids who like to be in nature and might have their own garden while they’re not in school.

Pick-your-own-adventure books: for kids who are feeling lonely. Because they keep you occupied.

First flowers
“Mom, I picked you the first flowers of spring!”

M: A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim: if a kid feels kind of sad or if they like doing chalk drawings on their driveway.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goede: for kids whose favorite drink is water. [This is coming from a kid who drinks lots of water!]

Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem by Kate Messner: for kids who like snakes and if they like to look for wild animals in the forest.

Do Not Lick This Book by Iran Ben-Barak and Julian Frost: for people who like to learn about germs and if they wish they could go in their own teeth and see their shirt up close.

A Is for Another Rabbit by Hannah Batsel: for kids who feel kind of sad because it can make them laugh.

Any last thoughts you want to share with teachers and librarians about what it’s like to be a kid right now?

O: It sucks. It’s depressing. It’s unwanted.

M: [Teachers and librarians should] help them feel better.

And that’s it for the interview! If you’re looking for resources for the kids in your life, check out Lerner’s ongoing Help at Home series.

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