While Covid-19 brought distress to most, Laena-Mae Turner (8) used it as an opportunity to write a book, making her the youngest child in the world to write and publish a book on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having spent many weeks in and out of hospital throughout her life, having been diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease when only a few days old, the home-schooler is no stranger to living in isolation.
Laena-Mae Turner was only a few days old when diagnosed with Hypogammaglobulinemia; and having survived Tuberculosis at only three years of age and multiple illnesses due to her severely compromised immune system, she is an incredibly resilient young lady, with her optimism throughout the pandemic commendable.
The beautifully illustrated book and snapshot of COVID-19, through the eyes of a child, was both written and art directed by Laena-Mae and illustrated by Botswana-born Simon de Ruyck.
We Stayed for Months
Turner titled her book ‘Inside: We Stayed for Months and Days,’ and wrote it as a way to explain that the children of the world are in a shared experience and that together they would prevail.
“Given the fact she has been on a hard lockdown since the beginning of the year, and is still in isolation until 2021, there are many moments where she asks me when this will be over,” her mother, Candice Turner told the Benoni City Times (BCT).
To comfort her, Candice showed her daughter images of children around the world and how this is a shared experience among them all.
“When she saw some of the images of the children in Italy or Canada, for example, she would go away each time and paint or draw some images of those children in isolation and write a little story or a few lines to accompany each one.”
“She then would share them with her friends and tell them that the whole world was staying home and not to feel sad during these times.
“Being no stranger to isolation, she herself knew the intricacies and challenges of not being able to leave your home and wanted to explain that eventually things would improve and they would be able to see their friends again.”
Candice said writing this book was a way for Laena-Mae to connect with the outside world and come to terms with isolation and the entire Covid-19 experience.
“When children were able to go back to school, that was the most difficult time for her, as her friends would FaceTime her and chat about what they did that day, from going to a restaurant or seeing the other children at school again.”
“I think this hit hardest as she knew she would not be able to go anywhere and had to stay indoors, so she switched her focus then to drawing more images of other countries still in lockdown,” said Laena-Mae’s mother Candice.
“She wanted to write a book that would resonate with the children across the world, and would serve as a reminder for years to come of how the entire world went through a moment in time we never will forget. These truly are unprecedented times and her book is a snapshot of these moments, through the eyes of a child.”
The 8-year-old author said not being able to play with friends and staying home is only for a short while, and by staying home or by wearing masks, “we are helping the world get better from this terrible virus.”
“I wanted to write a book for all the children across the world that would make them realise that no matter how lonely it is to be stuck at home, that we are all so brave to live in this new world,” Laena-Mae said.
Her mother said Laena-May started working on the book in March and sent the first draft to publishers in early May.
“Many of the children in the book resemble friends or cousins, some are children she knows, others are children she saw photos of and developed her own narrative around what she believed their experience to be.”
Passionate little storyteller
The youngster has written a number of books over the years and one in particular draws experience from her time in and out of hospital and the message centres around bravery, understanding and being positive in times of uncertainty.
When asked by the BCT, what her dream is, Laena-Mae said she enjoys drawing and would love to design homes.
A percentage of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the SOS Children’s Villages South Africa for their Covid-19 appeal.
Laena-Mae has been donating her pocket money to this organisation for years and would like to offer more assistance by way of more donations.
The book will be available from mid-November 2020 online and on Takealot.