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South Florida Mom Writes Children's Book To Take The Fear Out of COVID Mask Wearing

Shannon McDonald, author of 'Remember To Smile," and her daughter, Sloane
Chelsea Victoria Photography
Shannon McDonald, author of 'Remember To Smile," and her daughter, Sloane

Shannon McDonald's own kids were the inspiration for her book, "Remember To Smile."

When the parents of 5-year-old Sloane approached her with a protective face mask and explained why she had to wear it, she took it in stride.

“We purposely picked masks that she liked,” said Sloane’s mom, Delray Beach attorney Shannon McDonald. “One has unicorns and is pink; one is the face of a kitty cat. And I think she honestly looks at it as an accessory.”

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But getting Sloane’s 3-year-old brother, Sean, to put on the mask? That was a somewhat harder sell.

“To try to explain this to him is tough,” McDonald said. “So it’s better to show him. And that’s where the book kind of comes in.”

The book is McDonald’s own, published over the summer.

Within the 26 colorful pages of “Remember to Smile,” McDonald presents a panoply of situations where kids — and mythical creatures — can show off their individuality through their choice of mask.

Other than one reference to "germs," the book includes no details about why mask-wearing is so important right now. That was intentional on McDonald's part; she said she wanted to keep the message "focused on fun."

There are mask-wearing mermaids, unicorns and astronauts; masks are worn "sitting on a log" or "making s'mores with your wiener dog." The dog in question would be Rudy, the McDonald family's dachshund, who plays a starring role in the book.

Once she knew how she wanted "Remember to Smile" to look, McDonald decided to self-publish. She said it was important for her to have it finished in time for the new school year.

She pieced together the various scenes herself using licensed clipart from Etsy, a website where graphic artists and illustrators sell their work. She then uploaded the finished product to bookseller Barnes and Noble's online self-publishing service.

Although the book is chiefly for small kids, McDonald said the central message of "Remember to Smile" is for everyone.

"We can make the best of it," she said. "Especially when it's for the betterment of the community and keeping other people safe — that we need to do our part and help everyone."
This interview is part of “Intermission,” WLRN’s series looking at how South Florida’s arts community is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve also been hearing from people who are NOT artists by trade, but who are tapping into their creative side during COVID isolation.

If you’ve got a story for us, please send an email to talktous@wlrnnews.org, with the word “Intermission” in the subject line.

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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