1048 Covid in the classroom

Don’t Stand So Close to Me
by Eric Walters

Victoria: Orca Books, 2020
$10.95 / 9781459827875

Reviewed by Valerie Green

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Eric Walters book Don’t Stand So Close to Me is very pertinent in today’s world and will help children better understand the new realty of a world-wide COVID-19 pandemic.

The children in this story slowly learn how to adjust when their lives are turned completely upside down. Thirteen year-old Quinn understands the seriousness of the virus situation better than most of her schoolmates because her father is an ER doctor. He has been discussing the virus with his family weeks before there was a total lock-down.

Eric Walters’ story begins on the day when Quinn and her school friends are in a meeting trying to organize the upcoming school spring dance. Their thoughts are far away from any impending danger. Their meeting is suddenly interrupted when an emergency assembly is called and the principal, Mrs. Reynolds, announces that the spring break will start immediately and last for three weeks instead of one. At first the students think this is wonderful news until they slowly begin to realize why exactly this has to happen.

A teacher arranges desks in the Covid era. Photo by Paul Chiasson. Courtesy CTV News

Later back in the classroom, their own teacher, Miss Fernandez, tries to explain to her class why they will now have to practice numerous strange protocols such as wearing a mask and staying socially and physically separated. Knowing that Quinn is the daughter of a doctor, she asks her to explain the situation to her friends by drawing circles of how easily a virus can spread from one person to another.

But, as time goes by, the children soon become bored away from school and they miss one another. Isaac, the class clown who lives next door to Quinn, also slowly understands the seriousness of the situation. He and Quinn are only allowed to socialize from a distance in their own driveways. Isaac’s mother is the Chief of Police and is the one enforcing the new physical-distancing bylaws and she is rarely home.

Quinn’s father always seems to be on duty in the ER at the hospital and when he does come home he has to live in the basement after showering and changing his clothes. He no longer can eat meals with his own family.

All the kids in Quinn’s school have various problems to deal with. Reese, Quinn’s best friend, cannot visit her grandmother in a care home. The usual spring break trips for most families are all cancelled. Eventually online classes become the norm.

Eric Walters

Author Eric Walters has accumulated a cast of young teenagers, each with their own descriptive personality. They all need to deal with the pandemic in their own way while everything in their lives is so different and they learn to adjust to this new normal. His description of each of the students makes me wonder if he has used part of the various personalities of students he has known — especially his own three grandchildren, Quinn, Isaac and Reese, to whom he dedicates this book. I believe this possibility makes the story even stronger and more relatable.

But Quinn, ever the leader of her group, is determined to bring some joy into all the despair and sadness around her. Her ideas carefully thought out with courage and determination in order to save the spring dance as well as bring the whole community together, will definitely inspire young readers to accept their lives during this COVID pandemic and become better people in the process.

Eric Walters who has a degree in psychology and is a family therapist who worked in an Emergency Department during the SARS outbreak, is well qualified to tell this story. He is also a published author of over 100 novels and picture books and is a popular speaker to students in schools across Canada. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

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Valerie Green

Valerie Green was born and educated in England where she studied journalism and law. Her passion was always writing from the moment she first held a pen in her hand. After working at the world-famous Foyles Books on Charing Cross Road, London, followed by a brief stint with M15 and legal firms, she moved to Canada in 1968 where she married and raised a family, while embarking on a long career as a freelance writer, columnist, and author of over twenty non-fiction historical and true-crime books.  She is currently working on her debut novel Providence, which will be published soon as the first of The McBride Chronicles, an historical four-generational family saga bringing early BC history alive. Now semi-retired (although writers never really retire!) she enjoys taking short road trips around BC with her husband, watching their two beloved grandsons grow up and, of course, writing. Editor’s note: Valerie has recently reviewed books by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Alan TwiggLeslie HowardD.B. CarewCaroline AddersonDean UngerJody HedlundDora Dueck, and Tara Moss.

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Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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