Helping kids get perspective on the new “normal”
A new children’s picture book by Ace Stryker, MBA ’16, and his wife, Lacy, helps kids to find a new normal during COVID-19.
Life isn’t normal for anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, and kids are struggling to come to terms with a new everyday reality every bit as much as adults. Ace Stryker, MBA ’16, and his wife, Lacy, published a children’s picture book that is helping, judging from the warm, enthusiastic reviews they’re getting. The book, Has Anyone Seen Normal? A Coronavirus Tale, is available for free download via the book’s website.
“The theme of the book seems to resonate with a lot of folks out there,” says Ace. “It’s tough to feel connected to others in a lockdown situation, but it’s been a nice surprise to see so many people come out and say, ‘This is our experience, too.’
“Obviously, there are real victims who have suffered physically from the virus or financially from the shutdown,” notes Ace. “But there are many others, especially those like us, with kids, whose challenge is just to navigate the chaos and define a new ‘normal’ without getting too discouraged. Hopefully this book helps a little. And if the readers heed our invitation to donate to charities engaged in the groundwork of COVID-19 response and relief efforts afterward, so much the better!”
In his day job, Ace works for Intel as a solution architect, while Lacy spends her days with their four children full time. Of course, right now, Ace is working from home: “Our guest bedroom/office is full of all sorts of hardware I brought from the office to keep working!” he writes. The family lives in El Dorado Hills, Calif., outside of Sacramento.
In the Q&A below, Ace responds to several questions about the book:
Q. How did this book come about? What inspired you and your wife to create it?
Ace: After the California governor issued a statewide shelter-in-place order, Lacy was sharing with me the challenges of juggling the needs of our kids, their schooling, the house, and so on. She kept referring to how she “normally” did that stuff. I made some offhanded remark like, “Well, Lace, I think normal is dead.” My 9-year-old son, half-listening, said, “Oh no. Who’s Normal?” My wife thought that was funny and ran with it. She put together a few sentences that later expanded into the book manuscript as new ideas came to her.
Q. What was the process like? Was this an entirely new activity for you and Lacy to collaborate on?
Ace: We have four kids at home, so as you can imagine we had to be very disciplined to get anything done. We initially set aside three nights a week after the kids were in bed that we would work on it — first going through the writing and editing, which took five or six drafts, then the illustration. Toward the end, we were getting really excited about it and working every night. This is very much a new thing for us; we have talked about wanting to try our hand at children’s picture books for about a year, but have never put together a whole project before.
Q. What role did your own social distancing play in facilitating this?
Ace: Social distancing was a blessing and a curse — it gave us a level of focus that would have been hard to achieve amid the regular chaos of kids’ soccer games and piano practice, but at the same time, when we needed a break and wanted to blow off steam doing something else, our options were very limited!
Q. Who is the writer and who is the illustrator?
Ace: Lacy did most of the writing and I did most of the illustration, though we definitely both played a role everywhere. Whenever she was writing I was sort of acting as her editor, and when I was drawing she was my art director, giving feedback on what was working and what wasn’t.
Q. Who is the inspiration for the little girl in the book?
Ace: There wasn’t any conscious decision to base the girl on anyone, but in retrospect she looks an awful lot like my 3-year-old daughter. That same daughter spent the first couple weeks of shelter-in-place asking every day, “Is the zoo still closed?” and wondering why her brothers weren’t at school.
Q. How are your children coping with the drastic changes in their day-to-day lives?
Ace: All four of our kids have been dealing with these changes in their own ways, but mostly they’ve adapted pretty well. There’s still plenty of homework to keep the kids busy (although I’m sure they wish it were more like an extended spring break), and we get out of the house as much as possible to hike, walk around the neighborhood, or play games in the yard.
Ace and Lacy invite readers who like it consider donating to a charity that supports COVID-19 response and relief efforts, and suggest several options. According to the book’s Facebook page, it was downloaded more than 600 times on day one (April 21).