The flawed and perfect timing of a children’s book about choice

Suspension

Ben Romano’s timing could be considered really bad – or perfect.

A metropolitan resident started writing a children’s book early in the pandemic. He’s never written one before, but that doesn’t matter. He had an idea that he felt was important. And as a songwriter, he knew he just needed to find a way to pass on his ideas to others.

He began to search for the right words to teach children that they have independence and the ability to make decisions. The ones he chose were flowing with a lyrical rhythm similar to Seuss’s:

I see plenty of options all over the place, floating out there in a wide open space.

Some choices are big, some choices are small.

So many options, I can’t pick them all.

As soon as Romano found the words for the book, he began looking for an illustrator. That took time – the time that made him marry, lose his job, and start doing independent work. For writers, he considered using a service that provided free illustrations, but ultimately decided not to. He was hoping to find someone he could collaborate with when he swiped through TikTok, saw a video showing Emma Adams’ work and thought, “She’s the one.” He reached out to Adams about the book, and they began discussing the characters and the scene.

Then the country changed.

A leaked draft opinion let the public know the Supreme Court is about to overturn Raw vs. WadeSuddenly the book took on a different weight. Suddenly Romano was trying to publish a children’s book called I Have a Choice at a time when people across the country were losing their right to choose.

Romano could have chosen to see this as a cause for frustration. He chose instead to view it as a reason to act with greater urgency.

“It felt like synchronicity,” he told me one afternoon. “There was this very important concept of choice, and then this moment happened, and it became so much more important.”

Adams said she was “immediately moved” when Romano told her about the concept for the book.

“It felt like an important message that everyone could relate to in some way,” she said. “then, Raw vs. Wade It flipped, and it became something much bigger in my mind. This book emphasizes the importance of having a choice and what it means to exercise that right. I think it’s a message that many need to hear right now.”

Now represents a rough time in the country for children’s literature. The past few years have seen Republican lawmakers and parents lobby for books that address controversial topics, or simply make them uncomfortable, clutter shelves and keep children away. An article in the Washington Post on Wednesday detailed book ban legislation that has already prevailed in many states and addressed how “growing challenges to book, bans and secret clearances, all of which have reached historic high levels during the past school year, are also undermining students’ freedom to read.” “.

From this article: “The start of the 2022-2023 school year will usher in a new era of education in some parts of America—an era in which school librarians have less freedom to choose books and schoolchildren less able to read books they find interesting, experts say.”

I wrote a book about body safety for children. Will you outgrow the adults?

There are few issues that are more controversial at the moment than abortion rights, and trying to get a book that seems related to this topic in the hands of young children will not be an easy task.

In that sense, Romano picked a bad time trying to publish his first children’s book.

But in other words, taking into account the divisions that the nation’s children are experiencing, he could not have chosen a better time to remind people of the power of choice.

When Romano started working on his book, he wasn’t thinking about banning books or abortion rights. But the 28-year-old now realizes that these two issues — both of which have seen choices taken from people — will affect how his book is received. The reaction to the book previews he shared online has already shown that.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘This is important now,’ and ‘People need to see this now,'” he said. “This sense of urgency is about this moment we are in.”

A comment on the Facebook page he created for the book reads, “So excited that you’re creating something so important! I want to read this book to my little girl and let her know that she has choices in this world where it might not always seem like that.”

None of the book’s pages directly address abortion. They show a little girl going about her day and making choices, like what color shoes she should wear. That her family consisted of all women was a choice he and Adams made.

Romano, who took his wife’s last name, a Virginia rabbi, when they married in October, said he believes women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, and that he hopes the book will help parents with difficult conversations. with their children.

A few days after the Supreme Court opinion was leaked, Romano created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the book’s publication. The crowdfunding page describes the book as offering “a new way for children and families to think and talk about options in their homes.”

“It’s not so much about good or bad, right or wrong, it’s about feeling good about the choices we make and understanding that we have the power to choose in difficult situations,” the page says. “Let us enable our next generation to be thoughtful in their choices. To be okay with who they are, and proud of what they will become.”

Romano hopes to publish the book next month.

He has already agreed that whether people buy it or block it is out of his control. This is their choice.

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