The Rainbow Connection / The Happy Mask

Here are two stories very much of our COVID times both kindly sent for review by Little Steps Publishing.

The Rainbow Connection
Vanessa Parsons and Angela Perrini

During the first lockdown in particular, rainbows were an uplifting symbol of hope and a means of saying thank you to the countless key workers who have bravely continued doing their jobs throughout the pandemic. Vanessa Parsons’ story, though set in Australia, is one that youngsters everywhere will relate to. It’s narrator is a little girl who shares with readers her year’s experiences, mostly rainbow related.

Her elder sister creates a lovely chalk rainbow across the family driveway; she spots rainbow drawings in the windows of houses when she walks James, the family dog; her Grandma wears a rainbow badge during a video call. 

Then their new neighbours leave a rainbow hued thank you card. This prompts the narrator to respond with a box of chalks to the newcomers. And so it goes on with more and more people finding innovative, creative ways to use rainbows as a means of communicating positivity. 

The narrator’s family celebrate her little brother’s fourth birthday with a rainbow cake; there’s even rainbow bread in the bakery. And an old lady who lives nearby really surprises everyone with her funky new hair colours.

As the lockdown weeks turn to months, everyone takes advantage of the small things we’d normally take for granted, like being able to go for walks, but most of all they look forward to the return of normal life.

With a recipe for rainbow cake and a promise of 10 per cent of author royalties going to NHS Charities Together, this is a lovely story to share both now, as well as later as a post pandemic memory, be that at home or in nursery/ KS1 classrooms.

The Happy Mask
Aimee Chan and Angela Perrini

Maggie is bored and grumpy about staying indoors during a lockdown but the answer is in her own hands: she can do as her dad says, put on her mask and they can go for a walk to the shops. Eventually after a bad tempered explosion aimed at her dad she changes her mind, puts on what she terms her itchy mask and out she goes into the front garden to wait for Dad to join her. 

She peers over the fence into the next door garden and waves to Holly and baby Tommy but rather than smiling, he starts crying. Who is this strange-looking person peering at him?

But then a game of peek-a-boo reassures the little boy and by this time Dad is ready to leave. Maggie tells her dad about what just happened, complaining about her mask again and commenting, “And masks make people look mean.”

Dad has an idea and goes indoors again returning with a mirror and some marker pens and before long Maggie’s mask is transformed, her mood too. 

Comments from others on their walk lead to more masks being personalised by their owners. One such belonged to a friendly old lady sitting waiting for a bus who tells Maggie she’s trying to remain upbeat despite having not seen her grandchildren for ages. The girl’s suggestion excites the old lady and she gets to work using Maggie’s markers and mirror. 

What do you think her Dad might draw on his mask when they arrive back home after their walk?

Certainly this should bring a smile not only to young listeners but also their adult sharers: both are likely to have felt very much like Maggie and her Dad during lockdowns. This makes the story a great conversation starter as it gives both the child’s perspective and that of a parent.

Illustrator Angela Perrini uses a lot of different perspectives in her urban environment, showing effectively how social distancing is maintained between Maggie and her neighbours. Then in interactions with others outside her immediate family, there’s mention of hand sanitiser being used.

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