SPIKEYS! A Bilingual Storybook to Help Discuss the Coronavirus to Children

When does a simple sneeze become a big deal? What is COVID-19? What is a pandemic? When will it be safe to meet our friends again? And what can we do about it so far?

These are just a few questions that curious kids tend to ask given the sudden restrictions imposed for their safety. With the overwhelming amount of information floating around, SPIKEYS, PRICKLES & PRONGIES: A Coronavirus Discovery Story is a story book that puts together validated research in a familiar package to provide Filipino families a guide.

In clear language, science writer and award-winning children’s book author Natasha Vizcarra narrates how Tita Baby catches the virus, quarantines herself, and is vaccinated. By peeling back the science behind Tita Baby’s story, the author sensibly explains how viruses spread, how they affect us, and how we can keep each other safe and healthy.

“I was pretty excited when Tahanan Books reached out to me to write a book about the pandemic. When I got that email, the world was pretty much in the dark with this virus. Most countries were in various versions of lockdowns. There were no vaccines yet, but many scientists were racing to develop one. It felt good to help clarify the pandemic to kids and their parents through the book.

Grounded in scientific studies and real world events, the book has two main sections: the narrative part (fiction) and the backmatter (nonfiction). The author set the story somewhere in Manila early in 2020. She imagined this story began in Intramuros about a week or two before the Manila lockdown in March. “I set it in Manila because that’s in the vicinity of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Luzon.”

“The research supporting this story was tricky,” Vizcarra recalls. “I kept up to date by reading reports from news outlets that I trusted (AP, Reuters, AFP, NYT, WashPo) and attended press briefings arranged by SciLine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”

“Writing this book felt like aiming at a moving target. It was hard work, but I’m proud of the quality of reporting that I put into this book. It was also quite exciting to me as a science writer. I didn’t mind monitoring the research because it was fascinating and inspiring to witness so many scientists all over the world work as fast and diligently as they could to understand the disease and develop a vaccine.

This COVID story is brought into vivid focus through the lively color illustrations of well-loved artist, Jamie Bauza.

“I was excited but scared at the same time; I was excited to work with Tahanan Books, but I knew it would be quite a task to research and depict the information properly and accurately.

Though accustomed to doing her own research for book projects, she appreciated that the editors provided specific references to work from. “I had to study a number of photos of cells, bacteria, and viruses for the book, and a lot of them weren’t “cute.” But I still wanted to draw them properly. The biggest challenge was keeping the balance between being accurate and being artistic.”

To our young readers, Bauza says, “I hope that they don’t lose hope! Times are extremely difficult right now, but we will all get through this together.”



NATASHA VIZCARRA is a science writer, editor, and children’s book author. She began her career as a journalist in the Philippines, where her work appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, and the Philippine Graphic Magazine. Natasha edited the Philippine Junior Inquirer for seven years, and has been awarded the Don Carlos Palanca Award and Salanga Writers’ Prize for her children’s stories.

Natasha writes about earth, climate, and conservation science out of her home in Colorado, USA, where she lives with her husband, Chris, and their kooky cats Rico, Pepe, and Krakee. Learn more about her writing at www.natashavizcarra.com.

JAMIE BAUZA is an illustrator and graphic designer. Her book Sandwich to the Moon was a National Children’s Book Award/Kids’ Choice finalist in 2014. Her latest picture book is Magtanim Ay Di Biro (2021).

Jamie loves drawing her favorite subjects: plants, food, cats, sleeping people, and silly dancing. Besides picture books, her work appears in calendars, murals, packaging, and apparel. When not drawing, she tends to her garden, plays with clay, and takes pictures of her cats Kiki and Popo. She lives in Manila. See more of her work at www.jamiebauza.com.

EUGENE EVASCO is a prolific writer and translator. His Filipino translation of E.B. White’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, was a 2015 National Book Awards finalist for translation. The author of over a hundred titles, his newest children’s book is Papuntang Community Pantry (2021). He lives in Taguig City, Metro Manila.



Missed the book talk during the 2021 Philippine Readers and Writers Fest with National Book Store? You can still catch the program online through this link: https://fb.watch/al0SOphoIV/

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