Rachel Haywood 
    artist, singer, scientist  

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Why did I write a book for children about a virus called Ezzy?

Ezzy was inspired during the initial first wave of the pandemic, whilst I was ill with what I thought to be a mild case of Covid-19.

I had pronounced fatigue and whilst unable to do anything but watch the unfolding pandemic on television, began painting a picture of my husbandís granddaughter surrounded by the flower-like projections on the coronavirus which was everywhere. I then began getting the idea for a book which explained to children how viruses behave. During the initial phase of the pandemic there was very little knowledge about the emerging virus, and scientists were basing their predictions and modelling on the behaviour of the flu virus. As the pandemic progressed, it was becoming apparent the coronavirus was behaving differently. Not only was its highly infectious and transmissive nature becoming evident, but also were its airborne or aerosol properties. The need to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, to keep a physical distance, and also to avoid close contact with other people in enclosed non-ventilated spaces such as pubs and resteraunts was becoming the recommended guidance in countries around the world. This was something people just were not used to since there had not been a pandemic for 100 years.

As a scientist and writer and illustrator of books for children, I came up with the idea of a book about a virus which was also educational and informative. I felt that people were not understanding the rules to prevent transmission of Covid-19 and so a book which tries to explain the virus to children, might also help explain it to their parents and grandparents reading it to them. So, I decided to write the book on two levels, that of a young child whose world is very visual and with scientific explanations for adults.

I needed a face for the virus. It didnít feel quite fair to use the face of my husbandís young grand-daughter (although her brother made it in as the bacterium), so I discussed my book with my friend Ezra. He offered his childhood face to be the face of coronavirus and ĎEzzy the Virusí was born.

Why have I written books for children about the adventures of two cats? As always, writing is cathartic and the author is often processing an experience, and more often than not a traumatic one. The George and Flora books pivot around the disappearance of a father. You might ask why write a book for children around what is a traumatic event for a child? Should we not protect children and give them cuddly stories. My books are cuddly on the whole. It's just that a parent disappears (and parents do disappear or are emotionally absent in real life). I think what I am tackling is that children are vulnerable to harm in a number of ways, and often find it very difficult to tell adults what is happening to them. Also, I ask the question, is the reality of the world and adult life kept too much away from children, who are then suddenly exposed to it?

The first book 'George and Flora and the Old Village Cat' is suitable for children aged 2-4 and here the kittens learn that there is another world outside their comfortable home.

In the second book 'George and Flora - Storytime' for 4-7 year olds, the Old Village Cat prepares the kittens for the world outside, alluding to some of the dangers out there that they must begin to prepare for.

In the third book 'George and Flora - Beyond the Cat Flap' for children aged 7+, George and Flora have left Oxfordshire and are getting to know their new home in Middlesex, and adjusting to a new life after their father disappears.

In the fourth book 'George and Flora Head to the Country' for children aged 7+, the cats discover the Yorkshire Dales, meeting a variety of animal characters and discovering the excitements of the circus. The different characters that the cats meet can provide an opportunity for children to learn about character, and discuss relationships with their parents (or Grandparents).