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Author pens free book to help kids amid pandemic

By stefan Geller

sgeller@ lowellsun. com

The coronavirus pandemic continues to strike fear in the hearts of Americans, but Billerica author Shirley Holdman is particularly concerned with the effect it has on young children.

So concerned in fact that in April she wrote a children’s book on adjusting to life with COVID-19 and released it for free to get the message out to as many kids as she possibly can.

“ The thought was to give them something that is positive and that the parents could then work off of,” Holdman said. “ Some books make you think, and I hope this book does that.”

Titled, “ I’m Not Afraid,” the book tells the story of two young children, Jesse and Maria, and how they and their families are staying positive as they adjust to their new world.

As with many children’s books, Holdman’s only has seven main scenes in it, each with different underlying messages.

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children's book author shirley terrill Holdman, and her printer, neelam wali, owner of Printing and Graphic services, both of Billerica, with copies of ‘i'm not afraid,’ Holdman's book that was inspired by the coViD-19 pandemic to help kids cope with their fears.

Julia malakie / lowell sun

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In one scene, for instance, Jesse is writing a letter to his mother, which Holdman said is meant to create a dialogue about how we can be supportive of our loved ones during hectic times.

Thanks to sponsorships from the Kathi Glavin Higgins Scholarship Fund, Enterprise Bank, Stoneham Bank, and Printing and Graphic Services in Billerica — which published the book in July — Holdman was initially able to print 250 copies and distribute them across town at places like Town Hall and the office of the superintendent of schools.

She even sent some cop- ies all the way to California, Texas and Florida.

“ I thought it was a good idea because of the times that we are going through,” said Neelam Wali of Printing and Graphic Services. “ We just needed everybody to feel that things will get better. Being part of a printing company, I was happy to help out.”

More funding

After receiving such positive feedback, Holdman received even more funding from local donors, including the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, which she said is going toward printing 3,000 more books.

“ I have to give my heart to these sponsors because you can have the greatest idea of what you want to accomplish and do in this world, but if you don’t have support, it falls by the wayside,” Holdman said.

Holdman said she’s in the process of contacting school superintendents in nearby communities to get the books into their earlyeducation programs.

“ I am humbled and filled with gratitude because these books will be far- reaching. We never know how many hearts they will touch,” Holdman said. In addition to the commentary on the coronavirus, Holden said she made the children Black and Latino to be more inclusive and turn the conversation toward understanding the Black Lives Matter movement as well.

Neither Holdman nor illustrator Jay Mooers are receiving any compensation for the book.

Author Shirley terrill Holdman shows a page from her book, ‘I’m Not Afraid.’

JULIA MALAkIE / LOWELL SUN

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