Barbara DiLorenzo was in the midst of planning other stories when she experienced an actual lockdown during an author visit to an elementary school. "The school librarian quickly locked the door, shut off the lights, and pulled the shades. We huddled in a corner for forty-five minutes, not knowing whether an intruder was in our building," she writes in her Author/Illustrator note. She wondered whether the children were as scared as she was. Even when they learned there was no active threat, "everyone felt the impact of what might have been."
Sensitively, the story itself — for readers ages five to seven — only alludes to a lockdown experience. A grandfather picks up his granddaughter, Ava, from school, and notices that she seems down. He asks her what's wrong, and she doesn't want to talk about it; he doesn't push any further. His demeanor throughout the story models how caretakers can help a child work through difficult emotions. He has brought a picnic and paints, and he takes Ava a nature preserve where, when she says she just wants to be alone, he replies, "That's okay. I won't talk. ... We can both be alone. Together."
His ability to be present to her exactly how she is allows her to start to be present to herself, as she uses her senses to become aware of the trees, birds, cool air, and earth around her. When she does eventually open up about her fears during the day's practice lockdown at her school, her grandfather tells her about the "Duck and Cover" drills he had to do as a child in school during the Cold War. He doesn't push her to feel better but does put things into perspective: "... even though the word is scary, it's also a beautiful place."
In her closing note, DiLorenzo offers specific advice that expands on this modeled way of helping a child handle a scary experience: "Listen well. Talk when you're ready. Offer companionship. Stay close to someone you love. Do something creative (art or music or a science experiment) using all your senses. Spend time in nature. Breathe. Notice beauty."
The book's dedication is one that all our hearts echo:
To all the brave children
who feel overwhelmed sometimes.
You are not alone.