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Derry teacher whose children's book about pandemic comforting young minds in Italy

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Author Eithne Gallagher

Author Eithne Gallagher

The cover from her book The Cloud-Swing

The cover from her book The Cloud-Swing

An illustration from her book The Cloud-Swing

An illustration from her book The Cloud-Swing

Author Eithne Gallagher

A Londonderry-born grandmother has been easing the fears of Italian children with a sweet and poignant book on the coronavirus lockdown.

Author Eithne Gallagher (62) lives just outside Rome with her husband Barry. The mother-of -three, a former teacher, wrote The Cloud-Swing as lockdown measures put in place to curb the deadly coronavirus pandemic shut down the country.

The book was picked up by one of Italy's leading children's book publishers and distributed online in their 'emergency' section for children coping with the restrictions. It is now also being used in online teachings in primary schools in England.

Speaking from her home in Bassano Romano, Eithne says Italy is still very much in alert mode. "We are still pretty affected by the coronavirus," she said.

"We went out of the house yesterday for the first time since March 8. We were able to go to a bar and have a cappuccino, sitting at distance. But that is the first time we have been able to do that for over two months.

"We couldn't move out of the small area that we live in. We couldn't go to any other villages nearby. Luckily our daughter Aisling was here and she was able to go out and do our shopping for us once a week. The whole place came to a standstill. Our daughter Tess had a baby in February and we couldn't go and see our grandchild.

"In Bassano we have seven cases of coronavirus. Five of them are now cured and two remain in hospital. This area has not been impacted badly at all, but the laws stopped everyone going out. And I think that's why it wasn't so bad. If you were going out of the house you had to have a form with you that you printed out from the town hall's website, it explained why you were going out and where to. If you went out and didn't have that with you, you would get an immediate, heavy fine."

She says she wrote The Cloud-Swing to take children in isolation on an adventure.

"In 2012 I decided to give up my work as a teacher and take up educational consulting full-time," she said. "That led me to write nine children's stories for Oxford University Press.

"During lockdown I wrote a couple of short stories for adults and I was sitting thinking about a big oak tree that is outside my window here. I was thinking of how privileged we are, because we live in the country and in open space. I was thinking of families who live in apartments with little children and the idea came to me for the children's book.

"The story is about a little girl, Margherita, who is looking out of her bedroom window and she wishes that things were back to normal. And all of a sudden she looks out and sees this cloud-swing and she hops on to it.

"It takes her out of her bedroom and she goes to visit all of these places all over Italy ... but it's the same thing everywhere, there is no one out and about.

"She thinks of her little town of Bassano Romano and of the people singing at six o'clock in the evening and she wants to be with people, with her people and she wants to be home.

"So, the blustery breeze blows her back to Bassano Romano and she realises that magnificent places that have no people in them aren't that beautiful and that it's all about being with people that matter to you."

You can download The Cloud-Swing at galluccieditore.com/bacheca- delle-storie/

Belfast Telegraph