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Challenge becomes book opportunity

Abby Scott and her children Tommy, Leo, and Jordie, of Carterton. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa efforts create children’s book

Erin Kavanagh-Hall

As covid-19 spread throughout the world and Kiwis prepared to hunker down at home for four weeks, Carterton siblings Tommy, Leo, and Jordie Scott had one pressing question – “will lockdown be fun?”.

Thanks to their resourceful and creative mum, the boys ended up having a blast during the national quarantine – and their adventures have been captured in an illustrated children’s book, now on sale nationwide.

Abby Scott’s first book, “Mum, will lockdown be fun?”, printed in Wairarapa, tells the story of the covid-19 lockdown from her three small sons’ perspective – focusing on the time they spent together in their family bubble.

During lockdown, Abby, a consulting officer with DairyNZ, stayed at home with Tommy, Leo and Jordie [then aged four, three and almost one], while husband Jase continued his work as an agricultural contractor.

Though initially daunted, she was determined to help her sons make happy memories while confined at home, so engaged them in a range of activities: from toasting marshmallows and drinking milo by a creek-side campfire at their Parkvale property, to setting up a backyard BMX track and water park, to making their own bird feeders.

Every day, she kept a journal of the boys’ escapades, which she eventually transformed into a rhyming story.

After some encouragement from whanau, support from a seasoned Wairarapa publisher, and vibrant coloured pencil illustrations provided by a dear friend, “Mum, will lockdown be fun?” was born, hitting the shelves at the end of last month.

For many Kiwi families, lockdown provided an opportunity to spend quality time together without the distractions of modern life – so Abby is hopeful her book will “bring back some good memories” for both parents and children.

“For me, lockdown was a nice change of pace – and a lesson about living in the moment,” Abby said.

“As a family, it was easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, and try and pack tonnes into each day.

“But I realised we don’t have to keep rushing out the door to keep the kids busy – they enjoyed themselves doing simple things, spending time with me, going for walks, and throwing sticks in streams.

“I realised I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity like lockdown to have time with my kids – so why not make it a happy and positive time?”

“Mum, will lockdown be fun?” is Abby’s first foray into creative writing – working in farming research, she’s used to more “technical” wording.

“I probably hadn’t written a story since 7th form English,” she said.

“Although, the kids and I read tonnes of books together in lockdown – so it felt quite natural turning my journal into rhyme.”

Her original plan was to include her rhymes in a photo book for the boys to keep as a memento.

However, she shared her writing with her aunt, children’s author and cartoonist Di Batchelor, who persuaded her to put together a children’s book – and introduced her to Di and Ian Grant of Fraser Books.

Passionate about supporting upcoming Wairarapa authors, the Grants assisted her with getting her book print-ready, and connected her with their distributor, Nationwide Book Distributors.

Abby’s long-time friend and cousin-in-law Mikyla Hull, formerly an art teacher at Masterton Intermediate School, did the illustrations, which she based on photos Abby provided.

“I never thought I’d be working on a book – it was all a bit surreal.

“Mikyla and I were complete novices, but we were excited to give it a crack.”

Eventually, Abby self-published “Mum, will lockdown be fun?”, which was printed by Lamb-Peters Print in Greytown – making the book “a total local effort”.

In Abby’s story, Tommy, Leo and Jordie initially lament the loss of their usual activities such as going swimming, fluffies at their local cafe, and fish and chips from Centreway Takeaways.

But their mum reassures them they can do all their old favourites “at home in their own special way”: creating an outdoor water park using a hose, water balloons and their trampoline, baking chocolate muffins [with flour delivered by their neighbour], and having a picnic with oven-baked nuggets and chips – wrapped in newspaper.

The boys also miss visiting family, particularly their grandmother, “Meme”, who “feeds the birds” as a ranger at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre.

So, Mum helps them make birdhouses using cardboard, string and hot glue, so they can feed the birds themselves.

“By the time lockdown ended, I think they were quite happy to keep it going!” Abby said.

She said her boys were thrilled with the book – though one particular page remains a bone of contention.

“There’s an illustration where they’ve got a muffin each – and whenever I’m reading to them, they always argue about whose muffin should be the biggest. It’s hilarious.

“They’re happy for now – though, when they’re teenagers, they’re probably going to be all, ‘oh, shame, Mum, you put us in a book!’”

“Mum, will lockdown be fun?” is available in Wairarapa at Take Note Carterton and Paper Plus.


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