Robert F. DeFinis is the author of the new children's picture book Lady P's First Day. It focuses on a child's first day of school during the Covid pandemic. A coach and educator, he is based in Pennsylvania.
Q: You write that you had to change your plans for this book when the Covid pandemic struck. What were your original plans for the story?
A: Originally, the storyline was going to be about facing your fears. One of the characters, Lady P’s brother Robbie, would be explaining all the things that could go wrong on her first day of school, while Lady P would counter with all the things that could go right.
The two main characters in the story are my children. As siblings often do, they tease and play with each other. I felt that providing a younger sibling standing tall and confident would be welcoming to younger readers.
Also, I want children to consider a different way to look at a difficult situation. I suppose these are also themes that emerge in the final version.
Q: What do you hope kids and their families take away from the book?
A: The Coronavirus Pandemic has been difficult for everyone. As we return to school, uncertainty and fears still linger. Educators and parents are doing their best to provide resources for children to understand what’s happening in the world, while also maintaining some sense of childhood.
I would like families and children to walk away from the book with hope. Hope that the school year will be safe and enriching. Hope that we find solutions to the pandemic. Hope that things we loved doing can happen again.
Q: As an educator and coach, what do you see looking ahead for this school year?
A: For me, I prefer to be on the optimistic side of things. I advocate for everyone to be aware and respectful to what’s going on with the pandemic. I also think that it’s extremely important to balance that with the mental health and well-being of our children and those that educate them.
It appears that the school year will not look the same. However, I do see society gradually adapting and embracing the change.
Some of my early readers of the book asked me why I don’t have the children wearing masks at the end of the book? Simply, I think we all would like to imagine things back to that point. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I want to provide the possibility that it could. Again, hope is important.
Q: How did you first get interested in writing children’s books?
A: As an educator, I have always enjoyed children’s literature. Every day someone is producing something that a child will pick up and read. That’s really cool. I also think that different books speak to different children. I like to write about things that are happening now. In real time.
I have always enjoyed writing as well. For the most part, I have done a good amount of academic writing. However, it was a goal of mine for many years to start writing children’s books. I had so many ideas that were on the shelf. The last six months have allowed me to take action and start this journey.
Also, having children at home provides me a great audience to bounce ideas off of!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on two immediate projects. First is an Instagram children’s picture book review page. I want to provide authors an opportunity to share their work and have it reviewed. This launched Sept. 1. There has been a great response, and I’m happy to give back to my new author community. The Instagram page is called RDF Book Reviews.
The second project is my next book. I will be exploring and writing about stage fright. I would like children to start to think about this topic and how they can develop skills for sharing their talents in front of an audience. I really enjoy writing about contemporary issues and development.
Q: Anything else we should know?
--Interview with Deborah Kalb