Children and their parents can follow Nick the Mouse’s journey as he learns how to navigate through life during a pandemic in Jennifer Woolford’s book, “No COVID Please!”
Nick notices as adults around him hoard items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and food. He watches bits and pieces of the news surrounding the pandemic and gets nervous because he doesn’t understand what’s happening.
His mother explains to him that schools have to close, businesses might look different, and he will have to stay away from people for a while.
“It addresses the things that are true, but in a way that lets children know that how they’re feeling isn’t abnormal,” Woolford said. "Things are always going to get better and we’re going to get through this. When we do, we’re going to be wearing masks and taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other.
Woolford, a Westminster resident, developed the idea for “No COVID Please!” in August while waiting for her children to finish a hockey practice and she started to write a manuscript in the Notes application on her phone.
Her middle son, Finn, gave her the title for “No COVID Please!” to play off of her previous children’s book, “No Cheese Please!” In “No Cheese Please!”, Nick the Mouse doesn’t like to eat cheese. He is quite a picky eater, Woolford said, and has to try and convince his mother that not every mouse likes cheese.
“This [”No COVID Please!"] is the first thing I’ve written where it was totally electronic, because I usually always write with pen and paper," Woolford said. "The kids came out and I told them I just wrote a book, and they said ‘No, you didn’t, you don’t even have your notebook with you!’ … I read it to them and they said ‘That’s awesome, Mom, it will help so many people.’
“They’ve been really excited about it and they tell all their friends about it, too.”
When Woolford’s daughter Samantha was younger, she didn’t like to try different foods, Woolford said. That inspired her to write “No Cheese Please!” about a mouse who doesn’t like cheese, which is typically abnormal. She said she chose to name the character “Nick” because it rhymes with “sick” and she self-published the book in 2016.
Woolford contacted Allison Place Stumpf, who had previously illustrated “No Cheese Please!” and asked if she would be willing to illustrate a second book for her. Woolford originally discovered Stumpf, a Minnesota-based photographer, through Etsy when she commissioned her to complete a piece of art for Woolford.
Stumpf responded within minutes of reading Woolford’s manuscript and offered to illustrate a second time.
“I obviously like writing and that creative part of me really comes alive,” Woolford said. “To hear someone else be like ‘Well, I’m not really into the drawing thing anymore,’ and then something I wrote triggered her to get into it again, it’s super exciting.”
Woolford said she did not want to self-publish her book after a coronavirus vaccine was released for fear of the topic becoming somewhat irrelevant. She found a printing service in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who worked with her quickly to get the book ready to publish.
Those who would like to purchase a copy can email DarnWritePublications@gmail.com to order the book at a $10 pre-sale price before it is released on Amazon and in bookstores, where the cost will be $15.
Woolford does meet-and-greet events with Nick the Mouse, and those interested can contact her via email to set up virtual readings with the character.
“The funny part is, as the writer, I like to do all the creating stuff,” Woolford said. “The promotional stuff is not exactly my cup of tea, so I feel like I have all of these ideas coming and I feel like I need to wait to make sure people read this first.”