Kat and Dan Allman are a married couple from Reading with two children aged 2.5 years and 6 months. Neither of them have ever written a book before – Kat works in payroll and Dan works in digital marketing. Today, they pop into #TheRealm to talk about their new rhyming picture book Stuck Inside…
What Inspired the Book?
The idea behind our book came about one day when we had a particularly emotional day during lockdown with our 2.5 year old daughter, Ariel. We tried to sit down with her on a few occasions to attempt to understand her perception of the UK lockdown situation and her feelings surrounding it. However, as she has the attention span of a fish, we didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere with supporting her mental health and explaining to her in a calm controlled way why we were inside and why she couldn’t see her family and friends.
We decided that the best way to explain what was going on to her was with the repetition of a book. We turned to the internet but struggled to find a suitable book for her age group written like a bed time story. Like other books we have read, we wanted her to get excited about the book, and want to read it over and over until she was reading sections back to us. We incorporated rhyming throughout the entire story to help bring the message home.
Our initial plan was to write out the story on paper and draw the pictures ourselves (a stapled booklet) – as the story was only initially intended to be used for Ariel. As Dan’s addictive personality tends to take everything way too far, he decided he would “ask the internet” for help and see if any of his creative friends might be able to do a slightly better illustrative job of making it feel more like a credible book. This then led to the book becoming a bit more of a project that we wanted to make available to more parents, and this is where Lisa Johnstone contacted us saying she wanted to help. Lisa is a full time illustrator and has a three year old daughter herself, called Ember.
Lisa was very passionate about wanting to help and ‘do her part’ using her own unique skills to help families during this tricky time. She told us that all she’s good for during a crisis is drawing pictures. As we had never done this sort of thing before, she was extremely patient and really took the reins with the design side of the book. We would often throw round some ideas via a group Facebook chat, but she was definitely the illustrative mastermind. She took each verse of the initial story we had written and did a draft sketch of the page for us to review and provide feedback, but in all honesty we loved almost everything she sent us and changed very little.
We feel like we were the perfect partnership because Lisa fully understood our vision being a parent of a young child herself.
As we didn’t know how long lockdown was going to last in the UK, Lisa worked her little socks off and managed to turn the whole book around in about two weeks to ensure we could get it out to people and help as soon as we could.
About the Book
The book has been specifically written to explain to very young children the conditions surrounding UK lockdown. We wanted the book to be very specific to what has been happening in our country, from things like Boris’s daily press conferences, to Clapping For Carers on Thursday nights. We thought that by making the book appeal to a wider international audience this would dilute the original message that we wanted to get across to our daughter – who was the inspiration behind the book.
It also includes important topics such as hand washing, social distancing, self-isolation and keeping in touch with loved ones through the use of technology when it isn’t possible to see them in person.
Towards the end of the book we empathise with what small children (and adults) may be missing during lockdown such as hugs and cuddles.
We also wanted to end the book with a message of hope, particularly the fact that we will eventually all be together again – plus who wants to end a book for young children on a sour note!
We thought that the book may be a really useful resource for families with young children, teachers and carers and we wanted it to be as accessible as possible. We therefore made the decision to put the book up as a completely free PDF download on our website (so it could be viewed on most devices or printed – plus we could make it available immediately as we didn’t know how long lockdown was going to last). We then self-published it as a free e-book on Amazon/Apple and in-case anyone wanted to support what we had done, we set-up a fundraiser on the website raising money for NHS Group Charities.
We received quite a few requests early on to supply the book as a physical version. Again, we used Amazon self-publishing tools to make the book a print on demand physical copy where all profits were donated to our fundraiser. So far (including physical book sales) we have now raised over £1,500.
As parents, this is one of the most difficult situations that we have ever had to deal with. Like many other parents, we are constantly second guessing ourselves as to whether we have done the right thing for all members of our family who often have conflicting needs. We hope that our book supports families with their mental health, like it has done ours. Even after an emotional day, it’s the little moments like cuddles in bed with a calming bedtime story that keep us going.