PHELPS, N.Y. (WROC) — J.R.R. Tolkien, writer of the landmark “Lord of the Rings” series and universe once told a friend a story that “The Hobbit” began on a student certificate.
While it’s not exactly a kitchen notepad like Midlakes Elementary School teacher Debbi Socha, it puts them in a close enough category.
Socha — who has 25 years of teaching experience under her belt — who like many students and teachers faced many unanswered questions during “the deep pandemic,” and most of them can only be answered with “I don’t know.”
The title of the book is “How Much Longer?! (Instead of Are We There Yet?).” It is currently on sale on Amazon and the publisher’s website.
And true to her own experience, the premise of the book follows a young schoolboy who is at home, and watching the pandemic unfold, and asking his mom a series of questions… Many of which are answered with “I don’t know.”
She says she had the idea for the book one time when she couldn’t sleep, two weeks after school had first stopped in March of 2020.
“The story came to me as I was laying in bed, so instead of just forgetting about it, I got up and I went into the kitchen and wrote it on my kitchen notepad,” she said. “It was one those stories that just came to me, and I thought it was worth writing down my thoughts.”
Olympia Publishers, a publishing company certainly agreed. They picked up the book, and Socha — in what she called a “risk” — also went with one of their in-house illustrators. She had a significant hand in crafting the art, leading to the unique black and white style.
“They are black and white in the background, and the colored part is what’s important,” she said
She says the theme of the book is “uncertainty,” as her protagonists — the 7 year old boy and his mother — have to figure out when they go back to school. But like most great books, shows, any pieces of media that are for kids, there are also some themes for parents as well.
“I felt it was important to show that only kids have questions, but that adults can’t always answer those questions,” she said. “I wanted to show that adults have emotions, and say to children that ‘I don’t have the answers, but we’re going to work through it and do the best we can.'”
She also says that she hopes the book can help families spark conversations about the pandemic if they haven’t had them, and says that families can frame their discussions around the fictional family’s conversations.
Now, coming off of remote, to hybrid, to fully in person in 2020-2021, Socha says she and the kids are both excited and nervous for school to start, but is glad there seems to be a more dependable routine possibly in place.
“Kids are so used to routine if you set it up for them, it was nice to have everybody back at the end,” she said.
But Socha is dealing with her own uncertainly come the 2021 school year, but this time its pleasant: she’s never been a published author before.
“It feels surreal, I never really planned it before,” she said.