It’s hard for little ones to understand why they are no longer allowed to play with their friends or see their teachers in school. And it’s hard for parents to explain the pandemic without frightening children with talk about viruses and danger. Which is why the authors behind The Big Thing decided to create a storybook that explains the situation in child-friendly terms, while also teaching kids a life lesson about resilience and finding the positives in every situation.
Extreme times call for extreme measures, and the book was written, illustrated and translated in record time. When the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect two writers, Alex Friedman (a former senior business executive, CFO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and White House Fellow), and Angela Meng (a former journalist, investment banker and model) got together with Uruguayan illustrator, Alvaro Gonzales, and two translators to create a story that would help children, parents and teachers across all cultures.
Working together during lockdown via email and messaging apps, they crafted the story to explain to children around the world what was happening and to help them find the positives in their changed world. Created by a multinational group of people hailing from China, the US, Uruguay and Nicaragua, the book is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Chinese.
The Big Thing is told through the eyes of Bea, a brave and adventurous five-year-old girl. It begins with Bea learning about Covid-19, what it is, where it came from, how it spread and why we need to stay home. From there it explores Bea’s feelings as she struggles with being cut off from her school, friends, and grandparents. Through Bea, the reader experiences up close the lives of those growing up in the time of coronavirus. Then, through the help of her teacher, Bea learns about the idea of a ‘silver lining,’ and how to find them in her new day to day existence. Suddenly, she can see the positives that were hiding right before her eyes.
“We had this idea on 1 April over a WhatsApp message” says Alex, “and within a month it was finished thanks to the work of some truly talented and special collaborators. It was a deeply healing experience to do something creative and positive for children and parents, across nationalities, in a time when it is easy to feel helpless. Now our mission is to share this hopeful message as far and wide as we can.”
To assure the story would resonate with people from all around the world, the authors chose names that are simple to say in many languages and words that can be easily translated. “A global pandemic requires a unified global response” say Alex and Angela. “This is not the time to blame others or work in isolation, but to recognize we are all as one, regardless of where we live or what language we speak. Only together will we manage through this pandemic and only together can we find the silver linings in this difficult time”.
“More than ever, we need ideas, books and arts that unite us, lift our spirits and help us through the difficulties – that is the big thing we need to collectively combat,” says translator Jill Peng. “I enjoyed translating the book for kids and families in China, not only because it's a lovely book, but because it sends a very important universal message”
“The Big Thing” is free to read and download online and is also available on Amazon in Kindle and printed copy. Proceeds from the printed copies are donated to Covid-19 charities around the world.