NEWTOWN >> Hey kids! The Zebra-Striped Whale is off on a new adventure, this time with a story about mask-wearing.
In her latest children’s book, borough ice cream store owner Shari Faden Donahue sends everybody’s favorite whale on a quest through the sea as he hears from his aquatic friends on the perfect mask to wear.
Entitled “A Mask ... You Ask?,” Donahue said the picture book is designed to help children ages two to eight with the idea of wearing a protective face mask to guard against germs and to keep them safe during the global pandemic.
“The need for masks can be daunting for children – and certainly comes with its own set of challenges,” said Donahue. “With some help from the Zebra-Striped Whale, children will be assured that they are not alone in their feelings.”
Through whimsical pictures and text, the pages spring to life as smelly fish, friendly octopus, sunshine dolphin, funny duck, teeny mermaid, crabbie and smarty starfish show their own unique masks to the Zebra-Striped Whale.
After listening to his friends, the Zebra-Striped Whale is not quite convinced. “Oh no, a mask is not for me. It will get in my way when I want to swim free,” to which Crabbie replies, “To wear is to care. We are counting on you to be brave in a mask.”
While reading the book, Donahue said young readers will take pride in knowing that – even in a mask – they will remain uniquely themselves … and truly one-of-a-kind just like funny duck, smelly fish, crabbie and yes, even the Zebra-Striped Whale.
“I don’t want them to feel like they are melting into society. I want them to understand they are still their own unique self behind their masks,” said Donahue.
Through the colorfully illustrated pages of the book, designed by Donahue and her husband, Tom, they will also learn the importance of wearing a mask, with teeny mermaid explaining at the beginning of the book that “masks help us protect one another from germ spread” and funny duck, holding a bottle of hand sanitizer and declaring, “Be a germ fighter. Quack. Quack.”
At the end of the tale, the Zebra-Striped Whale finds the perfect mask to wear as all of his aquatic friends reveal their true faces behind their masks.
“I just want kids to understand that not everyone loves masks,” said Donahue. “Sometimes you have to wear them, but you can still maintain your uniqueness. You’re still one of a kind and you’re still yourself.”
In the throes of the pandemic last summer, Donahue took a chance and began work on the new book, inspired by her young grandchildren and the thought of them going back to school having to wear masks.
“I know how I feel in a mask. How are they going to feel? That was the impetus of doing this book,” said Donahue.
“We started with some freehand art and it just took on a life of its own,” said Donahue admitting that through the entire process she quietly worried that by the time her book came out it might be irrelevant.
“It’s kind of ironic that today there’s even more of a need,” she said with an understandable sense of relief. “I’m looking outside the window and everyone is wearing a mask. At one time it wasn’t like that. So at least for the time being there’s still a need for the book.”
Donahue, a book author/illustrator and publisher, made a splash 20 years ago when she published her first Zebra-Striped Whale children’s book, inspired by her father who was an avid reader.
“A Mask, You Ask?” is the fourth in the series, which has included “The Zebra-Striped Whale with the Polka-Dot Tail” (2001), “Zebra-Striped Whale Alphabet Book” (2012) and “Zebra-Striped Whale Polka-Dot Power” (2018).
The character also inspired the opening of the Zebra-Striped Whale Ice Cream Café, which she and her husband opened in 2004 in historic Newtown.
Inside their 12 South State Street store, the imagery of the Zebra-Striped Whale is everywhere from the Zebra-Striped Whale sundae to the vibrant colors and images of the store’s decor
With its assortment of premium hand-dipped ice cream, freshly prepared crepes, real fruit Smoothies - not to mention shakes, malts, floats and a full espresso bar - ZWS truly “mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”
Tom can often be found behind the counter using a frozen granite slab to make the store’s signature “Whirlwinds” by hand-whirling an array of gourmet toppings into its luscious ice cream, yogurt and sorbet.
ZSW makes you wish you were a kid again with its fun, elegant, eclectic atmosphere with free Wi-Fi, thematic party packages for children and adults, a children’s library, original art exhibit, beautifully-wrapped chocolate pretzel gift trays and ice cream cakes.
Donahue has a BA in Psychology from University of Pennsylvania and MBA in Marketing from Drexel University. She and her husband, Tom, co-illustrators of the title, have resided in New Hope for more than 25 years.
Donahue also founded Arimax Books Publishing in 1992, and consults with talented writers and illustrators who wish to publish their own children’s picture books.
“A Mask … You Ask?” may be purchased at the Zebra-Striped Whale Ice Cream Cafe, the Newtown Book Shop, and through Amazon. The book retails for $18.