Some people just want to help others. Retired elementary school teacher Mary Lou Hall and retired RN Michele V. Conway responded to the pandemic by creating a children’s coloring book, Quinton’s Quarantine. The southern Idaho women used the project as a creative outlet and to help educate and entertain others.
“I think we both wanted something to do, and we decided, let’s do it,” said Hall, 71, who met Conway on an airplane. They bonded during a long layover.
Conway, a former UCLA medical center nurse, whom Hall describes as a very youthful 80, resettled to Boise, Idaho, to be near family, cementing the women’s friendship.
The duo spent about three months meeting at a picnic table in a nearby park, masks on and pencils at the ready, to work on their story. The result is what you might expect from two people whose careers were spent in service of others and rooted in scientific facts.
“It includes both a strong narrative and activity pages,” said Hall, who spent 25 years with the Meridian/West Ada School District.
In addition to a glossary with scientific terms, the book provides space for children to doodle their dreams and fears, or draw the faces of friends to remember them better.
The book also explains social distancing in an accessible way for children.
The story follows a boy named Quinton and his parents, who explain the pandemic, the importance of wearing a mask and washing your hands, and why he’s not able to be in school. Although Quinton misses his friends, he learns to navigate the strange new world with a little comic relief provided by his cat, and he discovers new ways to connect with his friends.
At some point, Hall and Conway found Indiana illustrator Eric Strong, a graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, whose portfolio includes nearly three dozen children’s books, more than 300 animations, and an assortment of comics, graphic design work, and cartoons.
They used Amazon’s self-publishing platform to get the book online, which can be purchased for $5.99. They’ve also approached local book stores like Boise’s Rediscovered Books, as well as local school districts.
They’re considering a sequel, says Hall: Quinton’s New Normal.
In the meantime, Hall has been thinking about substitute teaching again, because of the importance of “waking up in the morning and knowing that you’re going to have a purpose,” she said. ISI