*Editor’s note: Every Friday Penta runs a travel feature called Great Escapes, a guide to some of the most beautiful and fascinating places around the world. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, we’ve decided to focus on escapes closer to home—or, more accurately, in the home—asking notable people about the art, literature, habits, and more that are helping them through this difficult time.
“Now more than ever, we realize how important it is to have honest, open conversations with our children and to help alleviate their worries and answer their questions,” says children’s book author Nadine Haruni.
Her Freeda the Frog series includes five books that attempt to work through issues such as divorce, and the recently released Freeda the Frog and the Two Mommas Next Door , which discusses a family led by two mothers. The series has won several Mom’s Choice Gold Awards for excellence in family-friendly media.
Haruni, 50, writes from experience as a divorcée herself and the mother of five children in a blended family. Adding to her unique perspective, she’s also a practicing workplace attorney by day, and her entire business has shifted online as a result of Covid-19-related closures. She stopped commuting to her New York City office and is conducting all of her court appearances virtually.
“I had to make lemonade out of lemons,” she says about her writing work. All of her in-person appearances were canceled, so she shifted to doing virtual storytimes and interviews to connect with the kids and families who resonate with the messages in her books. With the extra downtime, she’s working on a novel that was, figuratively, “sitting in a drawer collecting dust the last few years,” and she says that the Covid-19 crisis might inspire a future book about working through illness and major medical issues.
“All of my books are meant to open up a conversation, to help kids be more socially aware and promote acceptance,” she says. “I am hoping Two Mommas Next Door can be helpful for all parents and children to open up (the) conversation… that parents and families do not all need to look the same to have love.”
Penta caught up with Haruni to learn about her favorite children’s books she’s returning to often.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go , by Dr. Seuss. “ Dr. Seuss is my idol as far as authors go because his books often have a (sometimes hidden) message that he tried to relay in a fun and colorful way. This book is appealing to little kids obviously, but to grown-up kids, too—because of its more mature and inspirational message. I am hoping some bigger kids or grown-ups will resonate with the messages in some of my books like I did with Dr. Seuss.”
Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch. "Unless you are made out of stone, it is truly impossible to read this book without crying! I must have read this book to my son no less than 100 times and got teary each time I did. It is about a parent’s love for their child, but then as the story plays out, their roles seem to reverse.”
Where the Wild Things Are , by Maurice Sendak. “This book really encourages kids to let out their feelings, unleashes the power of one’s imagination, and demonstrates a picture of family love.”
The whole Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. “While the series is geared toward older kids, they have become beloved by bigger kids and grown-ups, too. I like how the books really take you away to another place and dimension as it plays out this fantasy. The novel I am working on is also in the young adult fantasy genre and J.K. Rowling really inspires me.”
Goodnight Moon , by Margaret Wise Brown. “In this book, the bunny is saying “ goodnight ” to various inanimate and living objects in the bunny’s bedroom. It makes me smile because this is something my daughter used to do all the time when she was very little. She really loved this book too, so I think this may have inspired her to actually practice this habit.”