For years, longtime friends Sasha Quinton and Thomas Hegbrook talked about collaborating on a picture book about resilience. But living an ocean apart and raising young sons alongside high-profile day jobs—she’s the president at Scholastic Book Fairs, he’s the director of U.K.–based independent publishing group Little Tiger—prevented the project from taking wing. That is, until 2020.
“It was the worst, best kind of serendipity,” says Hegbrook, who spoke with Quinton and me from his home in England via Zoom. He’s talking, of course, about the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of which required many parents—and children—to tap their reserves of resilience.
“For my own little guy, we had just sold the house that he had lived in his entire life,” says Quinton, speaking from New York. “His dog had just died, he was in a lockdown. So there was tremendous change in this little soul’s life, and I didn’t have something that could help to teach him—I was looking at Mister Rogers videos about how to talk to a child about death, and those sorts of things, but, the softer, more social, emotional side of [coping with loss], I didn’t have something that could help me to articulate, we’ll be OK, you’ll be OK.”
The Wind May Blow, to be published by Tiger Tales on Aug. 3, is a gorgeous and compelling 36-page picture book that will fortify readers of all ages who experience tough times. Featuring lyrical writing by Quinton and layered acrylic artwork by Hegbrook—with peek-through pages emphasizing key words of painted-in text—it tells the story of a child in a red hooded sweatshirt who finds the inner strength to triumph over adversity.
“On the day you were born the sun rose brilliant and bright and beautiful,” the story begins, accompanied by a picture of the child in his crib, being minded by an attentive gold-and-white puppy. The child and his canine companion, who live by the sea, grow older, healthy and strong. “Time flew and you grew while roses bloomed,” Quinton writes, “but one day the sun may go, the wild wind may blow / your heart may not be still, the wild wind may blow you low….”
Fat raindrops from a furious storm pelt child and dog; the sea swells, and their yellow umbrella blows inside out. (“Into each life some rain must fall,” quoth Longfellow, but this is next level.) Drawing strength from lessons imparted by a narratorial guardian—“Know that…you are strong enough. / Know that…you are smart enough. / Know that…you have all you need to make it through”—the child and dog build a raft, sail the squalling sea, and arrive safely on the other side of the storm.
“Everything was considered on the basis of Is this universal enough?” says Hegbrook, who drew inspiration from Max’s journey in Where the Wild Things Are, “and does it become too lonely?, which is why, partly, we made the dog a feature. Obviously, the focus was to make sure the message is there for children, but [we did hope] it could speak to adults as well.”
Communicating primarily through WhatsApp, Quinton and Hegbrook exchanged innumerable text messages, photos, and files to ensure their words and images blended seamlessly in service of the book’s hopeful message.
“I think, for myself, it was almost a surprise the first time when life didn’t go well,” Quinton says. “When things came along that were hard—and it is a 100% guarantee that every one of us will go through something that’s incredibly difficult, whether it’s the death of a parent or a pet or the loss of a job, etc.—it was something I almost felt unprepared for.
“You have to find that skill to move through it with strength,” she says, “and also know that it’s not forever, that it will pass. Part of what [The Wind May Blow] is about is to help to teach children that yes, something will come that is incredibly difficult, but you will get through it, and there will be a brighter day ahead. No storm in the history of the world has ever lasted forever.”
“I couldn’t put it better than that,” Hegbrook says. “Comfort is probably the key for me when it comes to my hope [for readers of this book].
“The only other thing I would add is that it’s all relative,” he says. “The storm in the book is relative to what is a storm to you. I think that’s the point. It need not be some huge life event if it’s something that’s [troubling you]. So, for me, a family should be able to read this book anytime, not just in case of pandemic.”
Editor at large Megan Labrise hosts Kirkus’ Fully Booked podcast.