The Viral "And The People Stayed Home" Poem About Quarantine Is Now A Children's Book

When quarantine first began, it felt like the world stopped turning. Then, Kitty O’Meara’s poem went viral, making us all feel more comforted. And now, we can share it with our kids thanks to the And the People Stayed Home children’s book, which brings her same positive outlook into a whole new format for a brand new audience. The book is now available for preorder and will release on Nov. 10.

And the People Stayed Home is a hardcover book filled with O’Meara’s original poem, now accompanied by vibrant illustrations of people all over the world during quarantine. The publisher’s website includes a teacher’s guide, perfect for educators or parents to print out and practice mindfulness activities, color with your kids, and more. You can also listen to a preview of the animated book by, narrated by the one and only Kate Winslet.

The irony that her words have become a book and been read by people all over the world, all during quarantine, is not lost on O’Meara.

“While in quarantine, I connected with people all over the world; and during a virus I went viral,” she says in an interview with Romper. “And I have to say that every moment of connection with people who were touched by the poem, and with the team at Tra Publishing, has been a pure gift. I love the way the book turned out. I cannot say enough about the translation of my words into this amazing, beautiful book. The illustrations are stunning and I had so much fun working with everyone on the team.”

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Kitty O’Meara was not a famous author before quarantine, but she had been writing since age 6, penning poems and stories for herself and her family. She later earned degrees in English literature, education, theater arts, and a servant leadership, and worked in copywriting, teaching, and eventually became a chaplain to patients in palliative care. And when she posted her poem on Facebook, she didn’t really think much of it at all.

“I didn’t even consider it a poem, really, as I work hours and hours on a poem. This was just a bit of unedited prose that popped out of my subconscious. I was considering what might happen while we all experienced quarantine and, in the voice of a storyteller, recounting the time of pandemic,” she says.

O’Meara was inspired to write And the People Stayed Home by something we all experienced — anxiety (thanks, coronavirus). Then, as she began seeing articles online about how the environment was doing well while all of us humans quarantined, all her chaplain training at helping people feel at peace combined with her love of writing.

“There seemed, understandably, to be a lot of anxiety in the world, but I’d also seen a few articles highlighting how various locations throughout the world had already perceived — improved air quality, clarity, and reductions in pollution. Wildlife seemed to be evidencing greater peace and presence in places. I think my imagination took my training and inclinations to offer peace, to write, to promote healing for ourselves and the earth and I just kind of tapped out what’s now called And the People Stayed Home.”

O’Meara says she often shares her writing on Facebook for her friends, and one of them asked if she could share the post. A few mornings later, a different friend sent O’Meara a video of Deepak Chopra reading her words, and she and her husband realized the poem had gone viral. That’s when Tra Publishing reached out about co-creating a children’s book. While And the People Stayed Home has only just become a children’s book, it was always meant to bring comfort. O’Meara hopes readers of any age close the book and feel cared for.

“It has always seemed to me to be written for children, or with our collective ‘inner child’ in mind. It’s simple and, I hope, comforting,” she says. “The poem invites us to listen more deeply. Listening deeply, every day, is how we surrender what we’ve come to accept as the ‘only’ way to do things and the ‘only’ way to create the systems we adhere to, and think differently. I have hope that we can then follow through with new ways of being, and caring for and healing the earth.”