This month Lesley Koplow published a new book for young children living through the pandemic. Lilah in the Land of the Littles: A Story for Children in the Time of COVID tells the story of a pre-school age child as she navigates the isolation of quarantine. Lilah misses playing with her neighbor. Her mother is busy with work and her older siblings are busy with Zoom school. The book’s description of Lilah’s boredom, anger and disappointment will provide a helpful reflection of the experiences of many young readers.
In the story, Lilah’s mother gives her a ‘cup full of buttons’ and a ‘basket full of cloth,’ saying ‘Nana gave me these to play with when I was little.” Lilah makes a fort under the kitchen table, hidden from view by the family’s most beautiful tablecloth. One of the experiences many families have had during the pandemic is a deeper connection to family history – to objects, stories, and practices passed down through generations. The crisis has shaken people to their roots, and they have found the strength of generations there. Lesley Koplow illustrates this in a gentle way as the mother -who has exhausted all other possibilities – gives her daughter simple objects from her own past. The book is illustrated with collaged fabric scraps that reflect the theme of discovery and connection across time.
In her secret fort Lilah uses the buttons and cloth to build a paracosm, an imaginary parallel world in which she can explore her feelings and dreams. The play gives Lilah a way to escape quarantine in her imagination – she travels to a sparkling lake and and a forest. In her imaginary land “they walked around without masks, because Lilah had added a special ingredient to the flowers that border her town.” In this story, Leslie Koplow illustrates the therapeutic value of play for children during the pandemic.
I hope that educators will share this kind and powerful story with their classes this winter. The book is available in an ebook as well as hard copy – making it easy to share during remote learning. Many children have been home, inside for close to a year. Lilah in the Land of the Littles offers comfort to them while illustrating the value of imaginative play for their families.
Helen Frazier is the Institute’s Director of Early Childhood.