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BookWatch: "We used to don’t have any kids's books that talked about tough matters": The writer of an image e book about Dr. Fauci talks concerning the results COVID has on kids

Before the pandemic, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Marvel Girl were some of the most famous superheroes.

But the pandemic has put a different breed of superhero in the spotlight who have no aliases, no flying skills, or even a cloak.

These heroes are front line workers in the service industry, transportation workers, supermarket cashiers, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff.

When schools, daycare and shops closed and life as we used to know it abruptly came to a standstill, millions of people listened to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is involved in the politicization of the pandemic.

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, kept Americans briefed throughout the pandemic in both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Fauci may inevitably be embroiled in the politicization of the pandemic, particularly with regards to business closings and changing advice on how to wear masks.

In an interview broadcast on Monday, he told the Sway podcast, "As a scientist, it is important that you develop your opinions and recommendations based on the evolving data."

"And that's why I say that people who criticize me are actually criticizing science," he told interviewer Kara Swisher.

After Fauci and President Trump's relations deteriorated, he was named President Joe Biden's chief medical officer last December.

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"There used to be no children's books that talked about difficult topics."

– Kate Messner, author of "How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor"

Kate Messner's biographical picture book "How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor" (available June 29) features a portrait of the veteran doctor for children.

Fauci, 80, has worked on the AIDS pandemic, Ebola and Zika crisis and served as an advisor to seven US presidents.

While writing the book, which was illustrated by Alexandra Bye, Messner interviewed Fauci about Zoom
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End of 2020. (Read the MarketWatch interview with Dr. Fauci here.)

MarketWatch spoke to Messner, who has written several award-winning children's books, to better understand how Fauci could inspire the next generation of scientists and how the pandemic will shape their future.

Market observation: Each generation grows up with a tragedy that shapes the course of history. For example, my generation has largely grown up with the scars of September 11th without fully understanding the significance of this event for generations to come.

Do you think the current generation of children understand the meaning of COVID-19? And what purpose do you hope your children's book will do?

Kate Messner: I don't think anyone is going through something as traumatic and really an everyday upheaval as COVID-19 and is in no way changed by it.

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"I hope this book will be a tool to give real information about vaccines at a time when there is so much misinformation."

– Kate Messner, author of "How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor"

There used to be no children's books that talked about difficult subjects. The fact that we have these stories now is really a huge plus for children as children have never been ignorant of what is going on in the world. When something stressful, scary, or terrible happens, it affects everyone.

No matter how hard we try to protect children from bad things that have happened in the world, those things happen and they are around them and they are part of children's reality.

I hope this book will be a tool to give real information about vaccines and tell the story of the life of a scientist and public health officer, at a time when there is so much misinformation, so that children can get the idea the ones these experts have that you see on the news are not that different from them.

They are people who were curious and who grew up wanting to make a difference.

“There used to be no children's books that dealt with difficult topics,” says Messner. She made an effort to make her book accessible and factual for younger children, she told MarketWatch.

Simon & Schuster books for young readers

MW: How did you get on with Dr. Fauci got in touch? Why do you think he was willing to take the time to speak to you in November when cases of COVID were growing exponentially?

KM: I emailed him first in March 2020 and then again in September.

When I sent this email, I thought it would probably be a long way to get an interview with basically America's busiest man.

But I also asked because I understand something that Dr. Fauci also understands very well, in my opinion, that education is so important in the field of public health.

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“This ability to get along with many different people shows up in many different places in Dr. Fauci's career. "

– Kate Messner, author of "How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor"

MW: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Fauci when you spoke to him?

KM: The most interesting thing was how easy it is to draw a line between Anthony Fauci as a kid and his work today.

Growing up, he attended a pretty elite school, but also lived in a working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn. He drifted between worlds, playing stickball and hanging out with the neighborhood boys after school, but then he was perfect for talking to his high school students about classical literature and philosophy.

This ability to get along with many different people is something that you find at many different points in Dr. See Fauci's career – not just in the COVID-19 pandemic, but back to the 1980s in the AIDS crisis.

He had protesters outside his office angry about the government's lack of response (to the AIDS crisis) and Dr. Fauci was one of the first people to actually initiate dialogue and say, "Oh come on in, let's talk."

"The most interesting thing was how easy it is to draw the line between Anthony Fauci as a kid and his job today," said Kate Messner.

Simon & Schuster books for young readers

MW: Like any other public figure, Fauci has received his share of criticism for his handling of the pandemic.

Do you fear that negative coverage of him could lead children to think twice about a career in the field, or possibly give them the wrong feeling about what the typical career in public health is like?

KM: To be honest, it's kind of strange to see a scientist and civil servant transform into a lightning rod for the far right, like Dr. Fauci did.

Dr. Fauci has headed NIAID for over forty years and has advised seven presidents – four Republicans and three Democrats – so it is unfortunate that his work has been politicized by some people.

We have seen an increase in anti-science attitudes in recent years, and I hope that changes so that children pursuing careers in science and public health are not discouraged.

MW: Children's books usually have a very clear beginning, a middle, and an end. What was it like writing about ending the pandemic while we're so far from the finish line?

KM: When I started working on this book, none of the vaccines were approved and we didn't know what the end of the pandemic would be.

When we finished work on the text in January 2021, it was pretty clear that we would begin to see some improvement in the situation.

Dr. Fauci had been vaccinated, President Biden had been vaccinated, my mother and father had been vaccinated – there was just a general feeling of hope that we might be around the corner soon.

Here the story ends hopefully with the vaccines approved. At least that's the end of this chapter.

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