Jack Lydon, holding his growing draft of  “Vitamin C Man and Evil Corona.” Kate Lydon photo

Jack Lydon, 8 years old, sits at a kitchen table, notebook spread out before him. One hand clutches a pen that hovers over the page. The other is pressed to his forehead, an expression of deep thought as he endures the waves of creativity that have rocked him the past few weeks. 

Jack writes. 

“When the heroes arrived at the gathering they saw everyone running around. They settled them down and Vitamin C Man said, ‘Good people, this panic and terror you’re feeling is the dark work of the mastermind Corona.’ Everyone began running around again. In an effort to calm them down, The Exerciser began leading the group in yoga. When everyone finished, the heroes instructed them to go home and stay healthy!” 

And like that, Chapter 3 is underway and Jack’s book: “Vitamin C Man and Evil Corona,” is growing fatter by the minute. 

Now if he could just find someone to illustrate his magnum opus. 

Jack Lydon works on his book “Vitamin C Man and Evil Corona.” Kate Lydon photo

MR. SANITIZER AND PROFESSOR KNOW-IT-ALL

For a second-grader, Jack Lydon of Lewiston knows quite a lot about COVID-19 and its related complexities. You can kind of understand why that’s so: His mother is a nurse who works weekend nights in the middle of all that chaos. His father is a truck driver who works every day to keep the supply lines open. 

And though his parents may have a more active role in the crisis than most, they don’t try to keep much from their inquisitive son. 

“We talk a lot,” says Kate Lydon, the boy’s mom. “We talk every night before bed, we read some books, we talk about things, about how he’s feeling. He has a lot of questions. He’s a detail-oriented kid, he know the details about everything. And so I try really hard to give him the information he wants — while keeping it at his age level and not having it be too scary — but being honest. So he’s pretty much known exactly what was going on since the beginning.” 

The experts have warned that the COVID-19 crisis can have a deep psychological impact on kids. Routines have been disrupted. A child’s social circle has been whittled down to just a tiny handful of people. Confusion and uncertainty about the way the world has changed can wreak havoc on a kid’s development. 

What helps, those experts say, is for the child to find a way to manage his own fear and bewilderment by establishing new routines. 

Jack Lydon hears that. 

“I think he needed some fun outlet to process through the grief of not being with his friends at school,” his mother says, “the grief of not being able to have play dates or go to the park or visit my mom or my sister. I think just with all the emotions he was feeling, he found his outlet to be writing and he started this story. He started it maybe two weeks in, three weeks in to our quarantine at home. And he would ask me,’Mom tell me about coronavirus. So I know we got to wash our hands with soap and water. And I know we can use hand sanitizer. But what are some other ways that we’re keeping ourselves healthy? Like, let’s think about all the normal ways we keep ourselves healthy, right?’ So he’s been like probing me for factual information. This is what his 8-year-old brain is doing.” 

Jack didn’t want to create just any old story line. Like any good author, he did his research first and let his findings guide him. Although his characters exist in the realm of make believe, the world in which they do business is eerily familiar to the world we all live in, now that COVID-19 has come upon us. 

And oh, what characters Jack has invented to contend with it all. 

“He has a team of heroes, including The Exerciser. He has Vitamin C Man who kind of leads the team,” his mother says. “He has Mr. Sanitizer and Professor Know-It-All, who’s a scientist.” 

Whatever fodder the real world offers up, young Jack is more than happy to make use of it in his story. That wild run on toilet paper? Oh, yes. It’s in there. Jack calls it “The TP Mystery of 2020,” and it features people all over town “shouting for help from their toilet seats.” 

The story is funny. It’s insightful, and maybe even a little bit dark at times. 

“I can tell he’s just using it to process emotion about having his whole world rocked,” Kate says. “He talks about being out of school and missing friends. He talks about being afraid. He calls it an evil tool of darkness — this fear vapor, that Evil Corona is setting off in the world to make everybody afraid. He’s very intelligent emotionally, but just like any other boy, he has a hard time physically letting those emotions out. So his outlet is for sure writing.” 

Though young Lewiston writer Jack Lydon is still working on his book, he’s already looking for an illustrator to bring his characters to life. Kate Lydon photo

IN NEED OF AN ILLUSTRATOR

Jack writes and writes. His parents give him the encouragement and space to do so, and they also credit McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston, where Jack is a student, for fostering the kid’s abilities. 

Kate is particularly impressed with the concept of “looping,” in which a teacher will stay around to guide a student from one grade to the next. Specifically, she gives credit to teacher Kim Green, who has worked with Jack and his classmates through both first and second grades as their creative talents evolved. 

“Kim Green has done amazing things with their teamwork and their being a part of that community of the classroom,” Kate says. “And also writing and reading — she’s a super fan of writing and reading, and Jack has just exploded this year with his reading skills and his writing skills.” 

Jack himself has a shrugging approach to his art. When asked what motivates him to write about a virus that has taken so much from him, he says simply that he enjoys creating a fictional world and then expanding on it. 

“I think I could write other stories, too,” he pondered. 

His parents help him keep a writing schedule, Jack said, but he tends to write whenever the mood strikes. 

Does he have a goal for his book? Jack and his parents have talked about that, too. In the beginning, they opened themselves up to the possibility of having some local publication (hint, Sun Journal, hint hint) run chapters of the book. 

“Our original goal,” Kate says, “was just to have them publish a chapter every other week or something, or every week until the end of the quarantine just so that other kids his age in the area could read something funny and allow themselves to process through a little bit of what’s going on.” 

But there’s also the matter of getting artwork to accompany Jack’s prose; like so many established writers, Jack has no faith at all in his own abilities to draw the characters that inhabit his mind. For that, he’ll need someone with a knack for it. 

“He has me emailing the illustrators of his favorite novels to see if they’ll help him,” Kate says.  

Jack, as it happens, is a fan of Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” series, both of which feature simple, quirky illustrations to help tell their stories. 

It remains to be seen if and where Jack’s work will be published once it’s finished. It remains to be seen if his story will have drawings along with words. It’s natural to hope that it all comes together, though, because let’s face it: In a world in which we’ve all been chased indoors by something bad, it sure would be good to have some fresh superheroes on hand to set us free. 


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