The Safe Return

Stories of reassurance and normalcy

When the pandemic began, I wondered how children would see this crisis. After 13+ months of masks, remote school, and limited activities, what children want is reassurance. One way we as parents can offer them this is through stories.

The Safe Return

I recently reviewed The Safe Return by Ashley Wheelock and Arwen Evans. This beautifully illustrated and written book offers a simple, but powerful story. We see children doing what children do: riding bikes, spending time with dad and friends, and dealing with falls and lost toys. The fact they are all wearing masks shows how life goes on, even in challenging times. You can flip the book and see the characters without masks, so the book can continue to be enjoyed after the pandemic is over. The Safe Return offers children gentle reassurance. It’s a needed story of normalcy.

It’s important for children to know what is going on in the world, but it’s also important that they know adults are working to keep them safe and solving the problems they are dealing with. We don’t want them to have a false sense of security, but we also don’t want to fill them with fear and despair.

It’s a situation I faced as a child 50 years ago during the Sylmar Earthquake. It was the first major earthquake I experienced. I lived in Reseda, which is 9.25 miles (14.89 kilometers) southwest of the epicenter.

When the initial 6.5 jolt hit, I thought little of it. I just went back to sleep. But when I woke up, I discovered earthquakes were something to fear. Plates, bottles, and glass had fallen out of kitchen cabinets and crashed on the floor. A crack appeared in our living room wall. When we can turn on the TV, we watched the destruction the earthquake caused. Our biggest fear was the weakened Van Norman Dam on the north side of the Valley. Residents east of Balboa Boulevard were evacuated. We lived west of Balboa, but we feared we might need to evacuate next. And when aftershocks hit, I became afraid.

I think what got me through it was my parents being together in the house with my brother and me. We weren’t always at home at the same time. My brother and I had school. Dad worked long hours. Mom was involved with housework and PTA. Because we had to stay together and ride this situation out, it offered me some comfort. And when we returned to school, the earthquake was an experience all of us could talk about.

The stories we shared enabled us to get through what we experienced.

It’s important that we find stories we can share with our children to show they can get through whatever challenges they face, whether it is surviving a fall on a bike or a pandemic. Books like The Safe Return and the stories we share of our own endurance can help. Kids need to know that even when the world is at its scariest, they have people who love and support them and can help them get through it.