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Stay Safe Little One: A picture book that brings hope to children during the pandemic

Claudia Amato and Jennifer Nozzolillo
Claudia Amato and Jennifer Nozzolillo.
Montreal - Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mothers Claudia Amato and Jennifer Nozzolillo, both graduates of Laurier Macdonald High School in St. Léonard, teamed up to publish Stay Safe Little One, a 12-page picture book told in rhyme about coping with a pandemic and how to look to the future with hope.

The story was written by Claudia, a mother of three children aged five, eight and 10 who  attend  the EMSB’s East Hill Elementary School in Rivière-des-Prairies and illustrated by Jennifer Nozzolillo, also a mom of three aged two, five and seven, one who attends St. Paul Elementary School in Laval of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. 

Ms. Amato describes the first months of sheltering at home back in March as challenging. She was concerned that her children were becoming fearful with all of the news and mixed messages they were hearing. To relieve the stress and make sense of the battery of information, Ms. Amato took pen to paper and scribbled down her thoughts.

Her writing rested idly on her night table for some time until her husband discovered it. He was  impressed. With his encouragement, Ms. Amato shared her story with their children. The result was so positive, she began sharing it with a wider circle of family and friends. 

A graduate of the John Molson School of Business Co-Op Program and specialist in market research and account management, Ms. Amato realized that she could help a larger audience through this difficult period by making her story into a picture book. She called upon her long-time high school pal Jennifer Nozzolillo, a graphic designer (graduate of Dawson College’s Graphic Design Program), inviting her to illustrate the book. Her answer was a resounding “yes.” 

Ms. Amato and Ms. Nozzolillo worked tirelessly online together from April to June designing, editing and self-publishing Stay Safe Little One, taking advantage of late nights and early mornings when their children were asleep. They took this labour of love on in addition to working from home and taking care of their families and homes.

Cheerful and beautifully illustrated, Stay Safe Little One explains what a virus is in the most basic terms that will easily resonate with children. It imparts two messages. First, it reminds children of basic safety measures to follow during the pandemic like hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and not touching your face. Second, it provides hope that one day things will be normal once again. All this is interlaced with suggestions of how to have fun at home. The story ends with a touching, upbeat conclusion that will leave readers of all ages feeling soothed and optimistic.

As we enter into another phase of uncertainty, both of these extraordinary moms are concerned about the future. “We need to give our children that hope that the book describes,” says Ms. Nozzolillo. “It’s a bit rough and bumpy now but everything is going to be ok. For now, we have to ride the wave.” 

Ms. Amato adds: “We are all fatigued from the last six months. It’s even more important now to repeat the messages, be respectful of the space you’re in and listen to our teachers and government officials. I’m really proud of our book and hope we can get the message out there to as many kids as possible.”

All proceeds from book sales will go to the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital’s COVID-19 Fund. “We chose this fund because it is local and they are doing incredible work, from community outreach and making people aware of safety measures to research, treating patients, and helping front-line workers who really are our guardian angels,” said Ms. Amato. “We don’t realize how much they are sacrificing. We want to help in any way we can.”

Stay Safe Little One is recommended for children aged five to seven,  but is being embraced by all age groups. It is now available in English, French and Spanish (and Italian soon) on Amazon, Moxo Kids (https://www.moxokids.com/  - Covid-19 section), or at Décor en Folie in Rivière-des-Prairies and Les Essentiels COVID in Westmount. It will soon be available at Indigo and Chapters Dix 30, West Island and Ottawa and Gatineau locations. The cost is $10.99. For information or to contact Ms. Amato and Ms Nozzolillo, visit StaySafeLittleOne on Instagram or Facebook or email Claudia_a18@hotmail.com and Jennifer.nozz@gmail.com. They are available for on-site an online visits and book readings.

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