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Guelph author pens new novel focusing on the life of pre-teens during the pandemic
KITCHENER -- A Guelph author has written a new book about the pandemic and its impact on pre-teens.
Eric Walters says the novel, titled “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” focuses on the things young people have felt and experienced over the last few months while also offering real-life lessons about hope and resilience.
“I realized there was a lot of confusion, a lot of anxiety,” he says. “I thought there was a real need for a book to help them understand the realities they’re in.”
The book tells the story of pre-teens who are adjusting to online school, missing their friends, and facing the loss of traditional end-of-school events.
All of those experiences are familiar to Maddie Badger, a 13-year-old from St. Augustine, Florida.
“Everyone that’s probably in my grade at this time misses their friends and going on to high school,” she says. “They might not see [their friends] again if they’re moving or going to a different highs school.”
Badger and her mother were just a few of the students, teachers and librarians who were asked to read the book ahead of its release.
Walters says that feedback was critical to shaping the feelings reflected by the main character in the story.
“A couple of my younger readers said: ‘I think she needs to be more anxious. Can you change that because that’s how we’re feeling.’”
He also touched on the moments that have been lost.
“They’re missing their eighth grade dances, end-of-year- parties, yearbook signings and things like that,” says Maddie’s mother Kristen Badger. “This book really addresses some of those issues and brings them back into the light.”
The author also says pre-teens face particular challenges during the pandemic.
“They’re continually having to adapt to a situation that they don’t understand, that’s changing,” he says. “That is anxiety-provoking for them. They pick up how their parents are feeling, how their teachers are feeling.”
Walters wanted the book to reflect the difficulties pre-teens are facing, but also offer some hope.
“I want kids to know it’s okay to be anxious,” he says. “But it doesn’t stop you from being happy or moving forward or enjoying the things you can enjoy.”
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” was written and published electronically in a very short period of time.
“We’re redefining the paradigm on how stories are written,” says Walters. “To go from conception of a story to digital release in 41 days is totally unbelievable.”
Some of the royalties from the book will be donated to Hope House, a poverty relief agency based in Guelph.
“We know demand is increasing. We saw about double the number of households register in April compared to March,” says executive director Jaya James. “This will allow us to get more food, more hygiene items, and to be able to offer more services.”
Walters says a paperback version of his book will be available in September.