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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020 2 months ago

Winter Garden resident pens children’s book about COVID-19

Melissa Iris Gonzalez wrote ‘The Magic of 6 Feet Away’ about the view through a child’s eyes of the coronavirus pandemic.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

In a time when it’s already difficult enough for adults to process the societal changes brought on by COVID-19, it can be even tougher for children to understand.

That’s why Winter Garden resident Melissa Iris Gonzalez decided to use her writing skills to create a book for children that can help them process their own emotions during the pandemic.

Gonzalez penned “The Magic of 6 Feet Away” just a couple of months ago, inspired by a conversation with her neighbors who have young children. Her neighbors, she said, were sharing their frustrations with juggling work and homeschooling their children. Perhaps more frustrating, they told her, was that they could see their children also were struggling. They didn’t know what to do.

“That night I went to bed and really contemplated — ‘What does it feel like through the eyes of a child to have to go through this pandemic where the entire world is upended?’” Gonzalez said. “I really thought through, ‘What can those frustrations sound like through the eyes of a child, and how can I pull that together to really create something formative that children can learn from?’ The next morning, I just brain-dumped, got it all out of my head and turned it into ‘The Magic of 6 Feet Away’ so that a child gets to have their say, so to speak.

“Any time you see the world through the eyes of a child, it’s a very different glean, so I thought it would be appropriate to put it into a children’s book, and it took off from there,” she said.

Although Gonzalez loves writing, she has worked in the finance industry for the last 16 years. She has penned poetry and short stories, and in college, she even studied early childhood development. Her love of writing and background knowledge in the field of child development were useful tools as she wrote her new book. 

Gonzalez used Blurb, a website that allows authors to self-publish and provides publishing contacts and resources, as well as illustrations. She was able to reach out to Amazon and pitch her book. Much to her excitement, Amazon picked up “The Magic of 6 Feet Away,” and it’s been available for purchase since April.

The story is narrated by a young boy who is going through the coronavirus pandemic, and he takes readers through his adventures and his views. Everything is written through the eyes of a child.

“The very first page is, ‘My mom and dad say I have to stay 6 feet away, I can ride my bike all day, but I’ve got to stay 6 feet away,’” Gonzalez said. “That really leads up to the rest of his world. What does it look like? ‘Well, people are wearing funny masks, and I don’t really understand it, I miss my friends, and I want to be with them, I miss my teachers.’ I really thought it was important to add the teachers. These are the folks who spend 80% of their time with our children, and so I really wanted to give an homage to them.”

The story speaks of how the boy gets upset when his friend comes over but his dad doesn’t allow them to see each other. Toward the end, the magic of 6 feet away kicks in when the boy realizes there are some positives in the pandemic, such as getting to spend time baking with his mom or fixing things with his dad.

“It really takes a full circle on his journey,” she said. “I just thought this is a really good way for parents to have a conversation with their child and show them, ‘Hey, look, this little boy is going through the same thing that you are, and here’s how he handled it. Here’s some ideas for you.’”

Although Gonzalez is thrilled to be a published author, she is even more excited the book is available on Amazon. Anyone anywhere in the world with internet access can order the book, and the storyline is applicable to children everywhere. Eventually, she would love to have it translated into different languages for that purpose.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “On Facebook is where I receive the most comments, feedback and, frankly, buys. I kept getting notifications from people saying, ‘Hey, I bought the book, here’s a picture of it, it arrived today and we’re so excited.’ I just thought, ‘My goodness, there are so many people (who) need this kind of information.’”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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