When young Melanie and Karl are told by their parents they cannot go to school due to the COVID-19 lockdown, lethargy sets in.
Unable to meet their friends, the two potter around the house, until Melanie picks up a book and her younger brother, out of boredom, badgers her to share the story.
In a fictional rendition of current circumstances, communications professor Ġorġ Mallia has written a story about the much-forgotten inner world that can be tapped into with some quiet time and a book.
In L-Avventura Msaħħra ta’ Melanie u Karl, the siblings both get sucked into another dimension where they are confronted by ecological destruction caused by greed.
They are also led to discover truths about themselves and their past that instil in them a responsibility for the environment in their own world.
The book, in Maltese, is published in PDF format, and is available to children for free.
It is the first in a series which is targeted at 8-12-year-old readers.
Mallia, who wrote the story in a week, said he hopes the book will encourage other authors to follow suit.
“Everybody’s in an unprecedented situation,” Mallia said.
“Various publishers were offering discounts, others were letting audio books go for free, but I thought there’s no real book that explores the situation that the children are in right now so why not write one.”
By the end of the book, Karl, who was never quite into books, is left excited about the number of adventures suddenly made possible to him through reading.
Asked how children should be encouraged to read, Mallia said that parents should make an effort to expose their children to books by having them around and through activities like bedtime reading.
The one thing not to do, he points out, is to force children to read.
“I work very hard to get parents not to pressure children into reading. The whole point is if they are enjoying something they will do it,” he said.
An English version of the book will also be available to children at a later date.
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