Amanda Perlyn Jackson designed a free book for children to “see” the world from home. The mother and hotel executive made the best of her home time by writing and illustrating a book about a pretend journey for children. Perlyn Jackson, from Miami, created “A Virtual Hug for the World” to help support relief efforts during the pandemic. The characters “travel” to seven continents in seven days, always parting with a virtual hug for the places and people they have met along the way.
“During this tough time, I wanted to create a playful story to inspire kids and their parents to share kindness and connectivity with the world while using their imagination. I have always loved photographing my travels and drawing or painting them. This is my second book of illustrations, but the first I have written and illustrated entirely on my own.”
Jaffe: So here you are at home with two boys. How did the book evolve?
Perlyn Jackson: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I took a photo of my boys in front of a world map hanging on the wall of the baby’s nursery. It’s also shown on the back of the book. When I looked at the image, I imagined them traveling around the world together on a journey. This led to creating pretend trips for fun, which turned into a story that I ultimately wrote and illustrated.
The book was drawn completely by hand using colored pencils on paper, which I later scanned into the digital book. The whole process took about one month working late nights, weekends, on my days off from my main profession.
Jaffe: What reaction have you gotten? Can you measure it?
Perlyn Jackson: My heart is truly glowing with the response I have received. Many families, and even adults without kids, have told me the book has inspired them during these particularly difficult times. A few families, who had to cancel travel plans, told me it encouraged them to get creative at home to make mock trips to celebrate where they would have been, through food, music and other cultural learning.
I have received almost 4,000 visits to the website, www.virtualhugfortheworld.com/, in less than 10 days since launching April 23.
Jaffe: What is your favorite page in the book?
Perlyn Jackson: I truly had fun illustrating and writing every page, but I have a particular heart for when they virtually visit Tanzania. My husband and I went to Africa for our honeymoon and some of the experiences they pretend to have are based on our real memories. This includes climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting local villages to donate books and soccer balls. I hope one day Bennett and Sawyer will live this out for real.
Jaffe: What’s in the future? Will you turn this into a hardback book months out?
Perlyn Jackson: My primary goal was to share the story and give free and easy access online, but I would happily welcome a publisher to print hard copies!
Jaffe: As a temporary homeschooling mom, what’s your takeaway from this pandemic? How do you think your children will benefit or sacrifice from being at home?
Perlyn Jackson: This situation has caused much of the world to slow down and appreciate the little things, spend more time with our families, and rekindle connections we might not have otherwise. Viewing things from kids’ eyes can bring a sense of levity to tough times. It reminds us of the power of positive thinking and that it’s OK to believe in a little magic. I think my little ones have learned more than they sacrificed at their age.
Jaffe: Is there anything in the Jewish realm that can relate to this book?
Perlyn Jackson: If you dig a little deeper, the heart of my message is really aligned with the concept of tzedakah and charitable giving, whether is through our pockets or simply our hearts. The book is free, though readers are invited to make a donation through the website. Proceeds benefit charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.