COVID-19 may no longer officially be a pandemic, but writers and artists will be working for years to come to create pieces that help us make sense of what we’ve been through.
The new picture book “The House We Sheltered In” is unique in a couple of ways: If you flip that same book around, you can read a different story, “The Masks We Wore.” Here’s the other unique bit: 14 different illustrators from across the country contributed to the pictures.
MPR News producer Emily Bright spoke with the four illustrators based in the Twin Cities metro area: Freeman Ng, Annie Kuhn, Alicia Schwab and Sara Nintzel.
Ng says the project started out in a mini picture book when he wrote the first poem and paired it with his own digital art. He uploaded it to a forum where readers could download the pdf and print it out and have the book at home.
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He said he wanted to celebrate the joys of homebound life during uncertain times. That’s when he decided to write the second poem and decided that he wanted it illustrated.
But he couldn’t offer them any money up front, only a share of the royalties. He cold-called over 200 illustrators and said the ones that agreed to do the project did so because they believed in its message.
Annie Kuhn, Alicia Schwab and Sara Nintzel, each from the Twin Cities, answered the call.
Schwab said she sewed 500 cloth masks in the beginning of the pandemic and when she was approached by Ng with this project, she was ready to keep helping.
“I thought ‘wow, this is something I can contribute to.’ It was in my wheelhouse, it was a great way to help kids process this long-lasting traumatic event we’ve all been through,” she said.
Nintzel was pregnant when she got the call. She already had two young boys, and her third child was born in 2020. She says she knew what it was like to look for literature for children to understand what was happening and how they could help.
Kuhn was living in upstate New York when the pandemic started and was a teacher who had to switch to online learning. She said her experience with the book helped her process the pandemic as an adult.
“The isolation factor was gigantic, adults needed help processing this too,” she said.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.
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