Noni Murdock, a Centennial Middle School student, and her grandmother Patsy Helmetag decided to write a children’s book together as a way to stay connected during quarantine. Squeakestered follows a family of mice who are stuck underground as a dangerous cat lurks outside. Throughout their time together, the mice learn how to develop their talents and grow closer as a family to survive their sequestering. The book is available on Amazon and half of the proceeds benefit EFAA.
What inspired you to write this book?
Noni: We started it out as a way to stay in touch in quarantine. We wanted to do something creative and engaging, so we decided to do a story.
Patsy: I’m alone with my significant other in Annapolis, Maryland and I knew I couldn’t see my family in Colorado for a long time. Noni is the youngest of my five grandchildren and I wanted a way to keep in touch with her, as we always have a good time and she has a great imagination. I told her if you can come up with the first sentence, let’s try writing a book.
In a lot of ways, Squeakestered might be seen as a how-to guide to survive the pandemic. What advice would you give to people who might be struggling with quarantine?
Noni: I would say that it’s really important that even if you can’t see people in person, to stay connected with others and interact with them socially.
Patsy: I feel that during times like this, creativity is a great reward. The arts are critical to our survival, whether that be surviving old age or sequestering. There is so much joy in creating and we certainly took advantage of it for this story.
In the book, the Squeakestered mice have to learn how to keep themselves entertained, with each mouse having its own special talent. How did you come up with each one?
Noni: There is a rabbit in the story that plays the viola that we came up with since I have been taking viola lessons over quarantine, which I thought was cool!
Patsy: We tried to think of the different things that would cover the spectrum of activity that they could have. There is a writer mouse who represents the two of us. The manicure mouse was there because that was something they could do while sequestering. The baker mouse was named after the baker on the Titanic who survived. Noni and her mom and dad do yoga, so some of the mice do yoga together.
What is your favorite memory of writing this book together?
Noni: My favorite part was we started the first sentence and decided that we were going to go through this journey together and create a story.
Patsy: In future years looking back on it, I think it will actually be being able to do things like this interview. That I get to do this with my grandchild and all of the money goes to good causes. Noni is not the person who needs to be taught to give, she just does it.
You both decided to donate the proceeds of your book to charity, including EFAA. What inspired you to make that decision?
Noni: I think that we decided that it was really important to take what we had made to give to a greater cause, and I really wanted to do something that would help support families that were having a hard time.
Patsy: The charity I chose, Seeds for Success, has been my favorite charity for years and my sister is on the board. It helps girls who live in federal housing who are underserved, and gives them mentoring, tutoring, and psychiatric support. It’s a small enough group that it makes a difference.
Feeling inspired? Start your own fundraiser for EFAA by visiting efaa.org/cares during the month of September!