‘Brave Maeve’ penned to help kids cope with COVID pandemic

Debbie LaPlaca
Katie, Maeve and Roxy Leeson

A Massachusetts mother-daughter duo, Roxy Leeson and Katie Leeson, have written a children’s book to help parents, teachers and caregivers talk about life during a pandemic with young children.

“Brave Maeve” uses examples from four-year-old Maeve’s day-to-day life with her mom and favorite stuffed animal to explain what life was like before the loss of normalcy caused by COVID-19.

Through the story, the illustrations by Nick Hausman, and questions posed to the reader, the book encourages young children to talk to grownups about the ways COVID-19 has changed their lives, how they feel about those changes, and identify the people who are working to keep them safe and happy.

“It arose out of the pandemic,” Maeve’s mom Katie Leeson said. “It’s such a unique time for all of us. We felt like we needed to find a voice that spoke to resiliency and explain the response to the pandemic in a way that feels safe and secure.”

Katie and her mom, Roxy, noted that a number of really good articles were written last spring for adults on how to cope with COVID, how to organize your life while working at home and homeschooling your children, and what to say to children. But, they said, no one had written a book just for young children.

“We know that just because a child isn’t talking about their COVID experience doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it,” Roxy said. “We also know that young children are magical thinkers. If they don’t have an answer to a question, they will think one up. Often, their answers are either incorrect, worse than the reality of the situation, or place themselves as the perpetrator. We hope this book will be a healthy conversation starter for adults and children.”

Brave Maeve was written to help parents, teachers and caregivers talk to children about life during the COVID pandemic.

The story begins with, “My name is Maeve. What’s your name? I live in a yellow house with my mom and my favorite stuffed animal, Margaret. What color is your home? I’m four-years-old. How old are you?”

The story continues with Maeve exploring topics such as schooling and social distancing along with her favorite stuffed animal Margaret.  

“We have seen so many things well written for adults but to unlock a conversation with her age group, about how she might be feeling, we had to put it in her world view,” Katie said.

Roxy of Natick and Katie of Belmont wrote the book as a conversation starter for some of the emotions Maeve may be experiencing and to provide a memory of the time she’s living through.

“We like to think that young children can live in a bubble protected from fear, anxiety, and sadness, but they can’t. Life happens to young children too, including COVID-19,” Roxy said.

Roxy has been an early childhood educator for over 40 years – teaching, directing, and consulting to preschools across Massachusetts. A graduate of Wheelock College, she directed a preschool for 25 years and also volunteered at the Boston Medical Center program, “Good Grief,” which helps children to process grief and loss in healthy, age-appropriate ways.

“Young children don’t yet have an emotional vocabulary. Instead, they talk to adults through their behaviors, habits, art, play, and more,” Roxy said. “As the adults in their lives, we need to encourage and listen to all of their attempts to talk to us. As we do, we validate their feelings and can begin to teach them the words that describe their feelings.”

Katie, Maeve’s mother and one of Roxy’s two grown daughters, is a health care professional living the pandemic-induced work-from-home life with her vibrant preschooler.

The book is illustrated by artist Nick Hausman, of Belmont who is a father to a preschooler and kindergartener.

Hausman’s children went to nursery school with Maeve. Katie said when she learned he was making a career change from biotech to art and illustrating the book was a logical connection.