In the early days of the pandemic, many wondered how they could fill their newfound free time through business closures and home ordering.
For Jacqueline Elaine Mannina and her family, they found comfort in an old family recipe, which gave Mannina some inspiration.
She sat down and wrote “A Children’s Book for COVID-19: Cooking Pizza in Quarantine” in March 2020, and it was published a year later.
“When everything just shut down, I was sitting at home and I really realized, you know, we’re living in a historic time that we may never see again in this day and age. Hopefully not. I sat there and I was like, wow, I’d like to write a report of almost what happened during quarantine,” Mannina said.
Mannina is a 21-year-old Houston native who is about to enter her senior year at Washington & Jefferson College, hoping to graduate with a major in English and a minor in Education.
Mannina found inspiration in her sister, Gianna, a character from the book, who was out of class when schools closed.
“I started thinking, this is really going to be something that affects kids across the board,” Mannina said.
The book tells the story of the Pepperoni family and how they come together to make pizza to pass the time while stuck at home, but it is not a traditional pizza.
This is a pizza that you can make with a piece of bread, some sauce and a slice of cheese. Once it’s put together, just pop it in the oven.
“My grandmother made this easy pizza recipe… It’s super simple, but it tastes really good and it’s special,” Mannina said. “She would make this for her kids and her neighbors in Dunlevy, PA.”
When the pandemic started, Mannina, her father, and her sister used the recipe to spend time together and share with their neighbors, which matches the story of Mannina’s book.
“In the book, the family gives pizza to their neighbors and helps them get through this unprecedented time,” Mannina said.
Mannina’s family calls the recipe “Franny’s Pizza,” named after her grandmother, Frances Mannina.
The book begins with a dedication to Mannina’s grandmother, as well as to her mother, Elaine, who died of cancer four years ago. The mother in the book is named after Mannina’s mother.
Each page features a short stanza with rhyming lines, accompanied by an illustration. Liz Beatty did the artwork for the book.
Mannina had the book published through the Pittsburgh-based Dorrance Publishing Co. Mannina provided the words and Dorrance provided the illustrator.
“I was very involved. They asked me, ‘What colors do you want? What do you want the cover to look like?’ Those kind of things. I had to approve each illustration, which was fun,” said Mannina.
There were minor changes to the artwork along the way. Initially, none of the characters wore masks, but after the audience was asked to start masking, masks were added to the drawings.
It took a whole year for Mannina to put pen to paper and the book came out. Though it came at a time when COVID-19-related restrictions and masks were beginning to be lifted, Mannina thinks the book’s message may still resonate with kids trying to process over the past year.
“I’m glad it came out then, because now we have hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mannina. “COVID was so devastating to so many, yet I think this will still help children emerging from the pandemic.”
Even with the difficulties of the pandemic, Mannina found the positive side of sitting at home.
“Before the pandemic, I think we were always on the go with life,” she said. “It made me really sit back and enjoy that time with family… You can sit back and you can make memories at home with the ones you love.”
“A Kid’s Book for COVID-19: Cooking Pizza in Quarantine” is available at Barnes & Noble Stores in South Hills Village, Robinson, Cranberry, and Morgantown. It is also available online through Amazon, Target, and Walmart.