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Alum’s book gives kids perspective on new normal

Life isn’t normal for anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, and kids are struggling as much as adults are to come to terms with a new everyday reality.

Ace Stryker, MBA ’16, and his wife, Lacy, have written, illustrated and published a children’s picture book, “Has Anyone Seen Normal? A Coronavirus Tale,” available for free download.

Ace and Lacy Stryker at home with their four children.

“The theme of the book seems to resonate with a lot of folks out there,” Ace Stryker said. “It’s tough to feel connected to others in a lockdown situation, but it’s been a nice surprise to see so many people come out and say, ‘This is our experience, too.’

“Obviously,” he said, “there are real victims who have suffered physically from the virus or financially from the shutdown. But there are many others, especially those like us, with kids, whose challenge is just to navigate the chaos without getting too discouraged. Hopefully this book helps a little.”

Their effort has received glowing reviews and, according to the book’s Facebook page, had more than 600 downloads on April 21, the day it was released. The Strykers invite readers who like the book to consider donating to a charity that supports COVID-19 response and relief efforts.

Ace’s day job is with Intel as a solution architect; Lacy is a full-time mother to their four children. These days, Ace is working from their home in El Dorado Hills, California, outside of Sacramento.

The inspiration for the book came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order.

“Lacy was sharing with me the challenges of juggling the needs of our kids, their schooling, the house, and so on,” Stryker said. “She kept referring to how she ‘normally’ did that stuff. I made some offhanded remark like, ‘Well, Lace, I think normal is dead.’ My 9-year-old son, half-listening, said, ‘Oh no. Who’s Normal?’ My wife thought that was funny and ran with it. She put together a few sentences that later expanded into the book manuscript as new ideas came to her.”

Stryker said Lacy “did most of the writing, and I did most of the illustration.” They lent editing assistance on each other’s work, and went through five or six drafts before the illustration phase.

“As you can imagine we had to be very disciplined to get anything done,” Stryker said. “We initially set aside three nights a week after the kids were in bed … . Toward the end, we were getting really excited about it and working every night. This is very much a new thing for us.”

He said there was initially no conscious decision to base the girl in the book on anyone in particular, “but in retrospect she looks an awful lot like my 3-year-old daughter, [who] spent the first couple weeks of shelter-in-place asking every day, ‘Is the zoo still closed?’ and wondering why her brothers weren’t at school.

“All four of our kids have been dealing with these changes in their own ways, but mostly they’ve adapted pretty well,” Stryker said. “There’s still plenty of homework to keep the kids busy, and we get out of the house as much as possible.”

Janice Endresen, M.A. ’81, is an editor at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

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Gillian Smith