With a new school year comes new books!

Hopewell Borough-based artist and children’s book author/illustrator,  Barbara DiLorenzo, has just come out with a new children’s picture book called One Thursday Afternoon http://www.barbaradilorenzo.com. DiLorenzo is the author of classroom favorites Renato and the Lion and Quincy: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

Like her previous books, One Thursday Afternoon carries a strong message along with its beautiful illustrations, this time about school lockdowns. “I wanted it to tell kids that, no matter what happens, there is someone there for you. Whether it’s simply to listen, as Grandad does in the book, or to be a comforting presence,” said DiLorenzo.

A difficult topic to thoughtfully broach, school shootings are very common in many communities. But for DiLorenzo, who recently experienced a lockdown, the situation was terrifying. She said, “I would hear a loud noise somewhere and jump, thinking it was a gun fire. I was really affected by it.” Her son, however, had a different reaction. During the lockdown, the author asked her son if he was ok, and his response was very nonchalant. DiLorenzo realized, “this was his normal.”

So, DiLorenzo took it upon herself to write about her experience to show kids that fear is normal. DiLorenzo explained:, “I feel like we cover books for kids for the first day of school, new siblings, bullies, but nothing to show kids how to deal with anxiety about lockdown drills. Usually there is an adult voice sharing how to best handle the situation, but for this topic I just didn’t know. I don’t have an answer, and I can’t say it’s going to be ok.”

Grandad plays an important role in the book as main character, Ava’s, confidant, staying by her side through all the rough moments of growing up. His character was written with a very specific goal in mind. DiLorenzo wanted  “to invite a conversation between a caregiver or adult and child. That way the child can say ‘here’s what’s on my mind’ and hopefully the adult is primed to listen. In the book, Grandad realizes he should be listening to Ava, not just telling her his opinion.”

Ava, was inspired by a girl DiLorenzo met during her work with HomeFront, the Central jersey anti-homelessness organization. “She’s got this, like, quiet determination. There’s something about her personality that’s really fun to see. The character doesn’t look like the real Ava, but her name was definitely a part of that character because I was thinking about her personality.”

With depth seeping through every page, DiLorenzo’s work still retains its peaceful imagery. This, too, was purposeful. For pre-readers, the author wanted to “show peaceful rolling hills and beautiful art that wouldn’t scare any children.” Not wanting to ignite trauma, DiLorenzo considered it crucial to keep her work gentle and appealing to kids of all ages.

With her beautiful artwork and thoughtful story, One Thursday Afternoon, which came out September 6, is an inviting new read. You can meet DiLorenzo at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival, October 8.

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