“Before, we didn’t have children’s books about difficult issues”: author of picture book on Dr Fauci talks about impact of COVID on children

Before the pandemic, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Marvel Girl were some of the most well-known superheroes.

But the pandemic has shone the spotlight on a different kind of superhero who doesn’t have a pseudonym, the ability to fly, or even a cape.

These heroes are frontline service workers, transport workers, supermarket cashiers, doctors, nurses and hospital staff.

When schools, daycares and businesses closed and life as we knew it came to a screeching halt, millions of people connected with Dr.Anthony Fauci.

Dr Anthony Fauci has been caught up in the politicization of the pandemic.

Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, regularly updated Americans throughout the pandemic under the Trump and Biden administrations.

Fauci has, perhaps inevitably, been caught up in the politicization of the pandemic, especially around business closures and evolving mask-wearing advice.

He told the “Sway” podcast in an interview broadcast Monday: “It is essential as a scientist that you change your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves. “

“And that’s the reason why I say that people who criticize me about this are actually criticizing science,” he told interviewer Kara Swisher.

After relations deteriorated between Fauci and President Trump, he was appointed Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden last December.

“Before, we didn’t have children’s books about difficult issues. ”

– Kate Messner, author of “How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor”

Kate Messner’s Biographical Picture Book, “How a boy from Brooklyn became America’s doctor” (available June 29), features a portrait of the veteran doctor for children.

Fauci, 80, has worked on the AIDS pandemic, Ebola and Zika crises, and has served as an advisor to seven US presidents.

While writing the book, illustrated by Alexandra Bye, Messner interviewed Fauci on Zoom ZM,
end of 2020 (Read MarketWatch’s interview with Dr Fauci here.)

MarketWatch spoke with Messner, who has written several award-winning children’s books, to better understand how Fauci could inspire the next generation of scientists and how the pandemic will shape their future.

Market surveillance: Each generation grows up with some sort of tragedy that shapes the course of history. For example, my generation largely grew up with the scars of September 11 without a full understanding of its significance for generations to come.

Do you think the current generation of children understand the importance of COVID-19? And what purpose do you hope your book will serve children?

Kate Messner: I don’t think anyone is going through something as traumatic and something that is truly an upheaval in everyday life as COVID-19 has been, and that is not changed in one way or another. .

“I hope this book is a tool to give real information about vaccines at a time when there is so much misinformation.”

– Kate Messner, author of “How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor”

Before, we didn’t have children’s books that deal with difficult issues. The fact that we have these stories now is really a huge plus for the kids because kids have never been unaware of what’s going on in the world. When something stressful, scary, or awful happens, it affects everyone.

No matter how much we try to isolate the children from the bad things that have happened in the world, those things are happening, and they are around them and they are part of the reality of the children.

I hope this book will be a tool for providing real information about vaccines in an age of so much misinformation, and for sharing the life story of a scientist and public health official. so kids get this idea that those experts they see on the news aren’t that different from them.

These are people who were curious and who grew up wanting to make a difference.

“Before, we didn’t have children’s books about difficult issues,” Messner said. She has worked hard to make her book accessible and factual to young children, she told MarketWatch.

Simon & Schuster Books for young readers

MW: How did you come into contact with Dr Fauci? Why do you think he was willing to take the time to speak to you in November as COVID cases grew exponentially?

KM: I emailed her first around March 2020 and then again around September.

When I sent this email I thought it was probably a long shot to ask for an interview with the busiest man in America.

But I also asked because I understand something that I think Dr Fauci also understands very well: education is so essential in public health.

“This ability to get along with a lot of different people is something you see at many different times in Dr. Fauci’s career.”

– Kate Messner, author of “How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor”

MW: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Fauci when you spoke to him?

KM: The most interesting thing was how easy it is to draw a line between who Anthony Fauci was as a kid and the job he does today.

When he grew up he went to a pretty, elite prep school, but also lived in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. He drifted between worlds, played stickball, and hung out with the neighborhood guys after school, but then was perfectly at ease talking about classical literature and philosophy with his high school students.

This ability to get along with a lot of different people is something you see at many different times in Dr Fauci’s career – not just with the COVID-19 pandemic, but going back to the ’80s in the AIDS crisis.

He is said to have protesters outside his office who were furious at the government’s lack of response [to the AIDS crisis] and Dr Fauci was one of the first people to actually initiate dialogues and said, “Oh, come in, let’s talk about it”.

“The most interesting thing was how easy it is to draw a line between who Anthony Fauci was when he was a kid and the job he does today,” said Kate Messner.

Simon & Schuster Books for young readers

MW: Like any other public figure, Fauci has received his fair share of criticism for his handling of the pandemic.

Are you worried that negative coverage of him might make kids think twice about pursuing a career in the field or potentially give them the wrong idea of ​​what a typical career in public health is?

KM: It’s a little strange, to be honest, to see a scientist and a civil servant turn into a lightning rod for the far right like Dr Fauci did.

Dr Fauci has been the head of NIAID for over forty years and has advised seven presidents – four Republicans and three Democrats – so it’s unfortunate that his work has been politicized by some people.

We have seen an increase in anti-science attitudes in recent years, and I hope that will improve so that children who want to pursue careers in science and public health are not discouraged.

MW: Children’s books tend to have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. What was it like writing about the end of the pandemic when we are still so far from the finish line?

KM: When I started working on this book, none of the vaccines had yet been approved and we didn’t know what the end of the pandemic would look like.

By the time we finished work on the text in January 2021, it was pretty clear that we were going to start to see some improvement in the situation.

Dr Fauci had been vaccinated, President Biden had been vaccinated, my mother and father had been vaccinated – there was just a general sense of hope that we might be on the verge of turning a corner.

So this is where the story ends, on a hopeful note, with the approval of the vaccines. At least that’s the end of this chapter.

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