The imperfect and perfect timing of a children’s book about choice

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Ben Romano’s timing could be considered really, really bad – or perfect.

The DC resident started writing a children’s book at the start of the pandemic. He had never written one before, but that didn’t matter. He had an idea, an idea that he thought was important. And as a songwriter, he knew he just needed to find a way to convey his thoughts to others.

He started looking for the right words to teach children that they have autonomy and the power to make decisions. The ones he chose flowed in lyrical rhythm, à la Seuss:

I see lots of choices everywhere, floating out there in the big open space.

Some choices are big, some choices are small.

So many choices, I can’t choose them all.

Once Romano found the words for the book, he started looking for an illustrator. It took time – time that saw him get married, lose his job and start freelancing. For the book, he considered using a service that provides free illustrations, but ultimately decided against it. He was hoping to find someone to collaborate with when he browsed TikTok, saw a video featuring Emma Adams’ work, and thought, “This is her.” He contacted Adams about the book and they began discussing characters and settings.

Then the country changed.

A leaked draft notice let the public know that the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and suddenly the book took on a different weight. Suddenly, Romano was trying to publish a children’s book called “I Have a Choice” at a time when people across the country were losing their right to choose.

Romano could have chosen to see this as a reason to get discouraged. Instead, he chose to see it as a reason to act with more urgency.

“It was like a synchronicity,” he told me one recent afternoon. “There was this concept of choice that was so important, and then this moment happened, and it became all the more important.”

Adams said she was “immediately intrigued” when Romano told her about the concept of the book.

“It felt like an important message that everyone could relate to in some way,” she said. “So, Roe vs. Wade was knocked down, and it became something much bigger in my mind. This book emphasizes the importance of having a choice and what it means to exercise that right. I think that’s a message that many need to hear right now.

“Right Now” marks a difficult time in the country for children’s literature. In recent years, Republican lawmakers and parents have pushed to have books that tackle controversial topics, or just make them uncomfortable, swept off the shelves and kept away from children. An article in the Washington Post on Wednesday detailed book blocking legislation that had already taken hold in many states and explained how “the increase in book challenges, bans and clandestine takedowns, all of which have reached historic highs over the past school year, are also eroding students’ reading freedom.

Excerpt from this article: “The start of the 2022-2023 school year will usher in a new era of education in parts of America – an era in which school librarians have less freedom to choose books and school children have less ability to read books they find intriguing, experts say.”

She wrote a book on body safety for children. Will it overtake the adults?

Few issues are more controversial right now than abortion rights, and trying to get a book that seems associated with this topic into the hands of young children will be no easy task.

In this sense, Romano chose a terrible time to try to publish his first children’s book.

But in another sense, one who considers the divisions the nation’s children are witnessing, he couldn’t have picked a better time to remind people of the power of choice.

When Romano started working on his book, he hadn’t considered book bans or abortion rights. But the 28-year-old now acknowledges that these two issues – both of which have seen choices made by people – will affect how his book is received. The reaction to previews of the book he shared online has already shown him.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘This is important right now,’ and ‘People need to see this now,'” he said. “That sense of urgency is about the moment we find ourselves in.”

A comment on a Facebook page he created for the book reads: ‘So excited that you are creating something so important! I want to read this book to my granddaughter and let her know she has choices in this world where it doesn’t. doesn’t always look like it.

None of the book’s pages deals directly with abortion. They show a young girl going about her day and making choices, like what color shoes to wear. Having his family consist of all women is a choice he and Adams made.

Romano, who took his wife’s last name, a Virginia rabbi, when they married in October, said he believes women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies and that he hoped the book would help parents have difficult conversations. with their children.

Days after the Supreme Court opinion was leaked, Romano created a GoFundMe page raise funds to publish the book. This crowdfunding page describes the book as offering “a new way for children and families to think about and talk about choices in their homes.”

“It’s not so much about right or wrong, good or bad, it’s about feeling good about the choices we make and understanding that we have the ability to choose in difficult situations,” reads on the page. “Let’s give our next generation the means to be thoughtful in their choices. To be okay with who they are and proud of what they are becoming.

Romano hopes to publish the book next month.

He’s already accepted that whether people buy it or ban it is out of his control. It is their choice.


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