Coping with COVID-19: This Difficult Time Reminds Me of Many of My Favorite Children’s Books.

Stack of kids books

As I’ve written about many times, I’m a huge fan of children’s literature and young-adult literature. I read these books as a child, and I continue to read them as an adult.

I love this literature so much that I’m in two book groups where we discuss kidlit. In fact, I just set up a Zoom meeting for each group, so we can “meet” despite COVID-19.

And these days, I’ve been reminded of many novels that I’ve read throughout my life.

I’ve been thinking about works for adults that I’ve read, such as The Decameron, The Magic Mountain, Blindness, Station Eleven, and The Stand.

But it’s children’s books that really fill my imagination these days—perhaps because I’ve loved these books for so long, and read them all so many times.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. How I love these masterpieces of American literature. At their heart, these novels are about the life of a family, alone, in their different houses.

From the first time my father read me Little House in the Big Woods, when I was still too young to read for myself, I’ve loved the description of Laura and Mary playing upstairs in the cozy attic. They spend their time amid the immense stores that Ma and Pa have laid in, for the winter. I feel that same sense of coziness now, when I see our pantry and fridge full of food. In ordinary times, I try to maintain a more just-in-time attitude toward supply, but these days, I love seeing the packed shelves.

I think about On the Shores of Silver Lake, and how excited the family was to have a visit from the Boast family. New people to talk to! I can relate.

Thinking about The Long Winter makes me so grateful for food supplies and internet connections, for electricity and running water, for mail deliveries and public transportation (I’m not riding the subway or the bus, but it comforts me to know they’re running).

And I’ve been thinking about many other novels, as well. I’ve been reminded of All-of-a-Kind Family where the children are under quarantine for scarlet fever.

And The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Goodnight, Mr. Tom, when children face dramatically changed circumstances due to the “Blitz,” the nightly bombing of London during World War II.

And The Railway Children, where the children’s circumstances take a swift and mysterious reversal.

And Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! and Ramona and Her Father, where a family copes with a parent’s job loss.

I’m also reminded of the chapters in The Dark Is Rising, when Will and the people of the village take shelter at Greythorne Manor. It’s one of the cruel things about this pandemic: when we most want to gather together for comfort, we must stay far apart.

All of these books are so, so, so good. It’s a comfort to me, to have them with me in my memory, and to remember the ways in which my experiences, and the experiences of my time, reflect common experiences of humankind throughout history.

My friend Sarah Lyall (also a member of one of my kidlit reading groups) wrote a wonderful piece, “A Reader Looking for Remedies Thinks Back to Other Difficult Times.” I made a cameo.

What books have you been thinking about, in these difficult days?

Right now, we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, and it will continue and change for a long time. While everyone across the globe is affected, it’s hitting people differently in different places. Countries are experiencing it at different times, and within the United States, states are being hit at different times. The crisis affects individuals very differently, too; people’s fears and challenges vary dramatically. Wherever we are, we’re all so grateful for the healthcare workers and other essential workers who are doing such important work, so courageously, during this time.

I’m writing from my own experience, at this moment, in New York City.



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