It’s a scary time. All around the world, people are staying indoors, wearing masks, and social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID virus. It’s a constant fear that weighs heavily on everyone’s minds.
We talk a lot about the anxiety caused by COVID, but not enough attention is paid to how fear of the Coronavirus is affecting children.
It’s a complicated subject that is difficult to explain to children: that there is a dangerous disease out in the world.
Luckily, there is The Big Thing.
The Big Thing by Angela Meng and Alexander Friedman
The Big Thing, by Angela Meng and Alexander Friedman (illustrations by Alvaro Gonzalez), is a children’s book that tells the story of Bea, a young schoolgirl who is struggling to navigate her childhood in the wake of Covid-19.
Over the course of its dozen-and-a-half pages, The Big Thing weaves a sweet tale that chronicles how Bea’s world has been turned upside down.
Through child-friendly anecdotes (like not being able to see grandparents in person), Meng and Friedman spell out how Bea’s world has become different, and how this form of difference is scary.
They elegantly simplify the complexities of COVID-19 in a way that is not only understandable for an elementary audience but also very relatable.
In this way, The Big Thing functions both as a tool to relate to children, and also as a way to show adult readers how their children might be viewing the pandemic.
The Pandemic Gets Inside Our Minds
A lot of what’s written about the pandemic is what we need to do. Stay inside. Wear a mask. On the other side, we hear a lot about what happens if we don’t. You’ll get sick. You’ll go to the hospital. You could die.
This information is true, but it can cause information overload and bring on a great deal of anxiety.
In The Big Thing, Meng and Friendman examine how the anxiety of the pandemic affects children. Bea doesn’t just have to social distance; she has to deal with a lot of the fears that come with COVID-19.
She worries so much about getting sick — or her family not having money, that it makes all her favorite activities no longer enjoyable. Her favorite color (blue) looks grey. Her mom’s cupcakes no longer taste sweet.
It’s a great illustration of how anxiety and depression can zap our favorite activities. These feelings are never specifically named as depression or anxiety, which keeps the picture book from veering into too-complex topics (and keeps the focus on child readers).
Additionally, this allows adult readers to see clearly how the mental anguish from this disease can manifest themselves in children — something that isn’t always articulated across traditional media channels.
Meng and Friedman set up the problem: Bea is worrying because of The Big Thing — Covid-19. This problem is causing Bea to no longer enjoy the activities she loves.
This doesn’t go unnoticed by Bea’s teacher, who teaches her about the idea of a Silver Lining — basically that there is a positive to each negative.
Bea is drawn to this idea, and immediately goes about finding the silver linings in her new living situation — she gets to spend more time with her parents, the sky is clearer because of less pollution.
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And by focusing on the silver linings, Bea starts to worry less.
No Longer Afraid
By the end, Bea comes to a healthy understanding of The Big Thing. She still worries, but she’s no longer crippled by fear. She understands that staying away from her friends and grandparents isn’t forever, and she is excited by the progress that the superhero medical workers make against the disease.
It’s a truly sweet story that is relatable for children around the world (and, let’s be honest, quite a few adults who may be suffering from Covid-related anxiety).
In Support of UNICEF
One of the beautiful things about this book is that the proceeds go to UNICEF — the United Nations International Children’s Fund. UNICEF provides humanitarian relief to children worldwide and is currently focused on providing medical aid to children affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
By purchasing a copy of The Big Thing, you can help children like Bea around the world, providing relief from the Coronavirus — be it from psychological distress or viral infection.
How can I purchase this book?
The Big Thing is available on Amazon Kindle, hardback, and paperback.
On Kindle, it costs $2.99. For hardback, it’s $15.99, and for paperback, it runs at $7.99
How long is the book?
The book has 17 pages. Each page is fully illustrated and offers sweet narration perfect for young children.
Who is this book for?
This book is targeted at elementary schoolers. The vocabulary is easy to comprehend, and the authors do a great job of breaking down complicated concepts into digestible actions that are grounded in specific feelings.
Depression is shown through blue looking grey. Anxiety is shown through “worrying so much dessert doesn’t taste good.”
These are heady concepts that the authors cleverly break down into ideas that anyone can quickly grasp and relate to. Young readers impacted by the coronavirus can see themselves in
Bea’s shoes, and learn to find the silver linings in their own lives.
Who else might love this book?
Honestly, adults ought to give The Big Thing a read. Sometimes, very complicated and difficult situations need to be simplified down. Seeing the anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic from a child’s eyes can be validating. It allows all of us to understand “it’s normal to be scared.” “It’s normal to be so scared that you’re upset.”
These are real feelings, for kids and adults alike.
As an adult, reading The Big Thing, I found myself relating to how Bea’s favorite colors seemed grey. I appreciated hearing these concepts simplified and said aloud, and it made me realize how scared children must be.
Adults are scared. Kids are scared. It’s important for adults to have empathy with our younger members of society, in order to best help them through this pandemic.
The Big Thing helps kids process their emotions and helps adults shepherd them through these difficult times.