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Corona children’s book takes the load off kids

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JORDAN MOSHE

Facts, figures, and statistics overwhelm us, making the thread of reality difficult to follow.

If COVID-19 is too much for an adult to wrap their head around, how on earth can you teach your young children about the virus in a way that makes sense to them? By using your imagination, and thinking like a child.

That’s what Corona goes Viral has accomplished. Written by Asif Segal, the locally published children’s book skilfully handles the subject in a way that children can appreciate by making it simultaneously fun and informative. It’s about as comprehensive as a children’s book can get, making it a useful educational tool at home or in the classroom.

Segal’s book is entertaining and well-researched, its rhyming narrative following the adventures of the thrill-seeking Corona, a youngster who wants to make a name for herself in the big world. Tired of her boring life with mommy Flu, daddy SARS, and uncle MERS, she is bitten by the travel bug, and sets out in search of fame and stardom.

While the character names are immediately revealing to adults, their roles as members of a family make their connection interesting and understandable to young readers. Young Corona’s journey (whether she’s befriending a dog or boarding a train) similarly speaks to the actual events in which the virus spread, but it is accessible to children without the challenges parents and teachers so often encounter when engaging with youngsters.

This accessibility is helped in no small part by the book’s vibrant illustrations, all of which collectively depict Corona’s story in a way that children can follow alongside the text. Simoné Kur’s artistic flair brings to life a grinning, green-bodied Corona (complete with tutu and pigtails) and her assorted virus relatives, all of them imitations of their real-life microscopic equivalents, although far more memorable, clothed, and smiling.

Beyond capturing the journey of transmission, the book finds a way to illustrate the various health protocols which have become routine activities for all of us. Handwashing and social distancing are simplified, and their importance stressed, making them part of the everyday routine for children and encouraging them to modify their behaviour, whether they’re sneezing or washing their hands.

In an effort to concretise its contents, the book includes interactive pages following the story, giving children a space where they can engage with the material. Pages for colouring in characters and writing down what they learned about Corona encourage further thinking, and make the relevance of what has been read long-lasting without being didactic or superfluous.

If it achieves anything, however, Corona goes Viral restores some much-needed normality to the lives of children. As scary as a virus is, the book attempts to show youngsters that they can play an active role in confronting the situation without being afraid and without trivialising a very important subject. Moreover, the narrative ends on a positive note, hinting that the time will come when Corona will stay at home after having had her fill of world travel.

Parents and educators alike will find a useful tool in Corona goes Viral, whether they are seeking to broach the subject with their children or solidify an existing basic understanding. Best suited for ages five and up, this book is sure to set a trend of children’s Corona literature in South Africa, and begin a viral literary following.

  • Corona goes Viral is available for purchase at Exclusive Books and on Kindle.

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