AN AWARD-WINNING illustrator has helped to bring to life a new children’s book about friendship, loneliness, imagination and self-acceptance.

Simon and Rosie is set during the coronavirus pandemic and is for children aged three to seven years old. Since launching online in early June it has had more than 4000 unique page views.

It aims to provide a gentle introduction to conversations about Covid-19 with young children.

Gillian Johnson, who lives near Salisbury, has illustrated the book which has been written by history teacher Lucy Moonen, the eldest granddaughter of Watership Down author Richard Adams.

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Simon is a lonely park bench, useful but unremarkable for the people that sit on him as they go about their busy lives. Everything changes when Rosie arrives. Their friendship blossoms as Simon is transformed through Rosie’s imagination. But Simon is devastated when Rosie can no longer visit him.

“I was delighted to do it,” said Gillian said: “When I read the story it really resonated for me. I felt I could absolutely see this little girl and the park bench and I felt something truthful in the experience. Immediately I wanted to do the illustrations.”

“I loved the story and could visualise the girl in the park,” added Gillian, who is also an author herself and has published more than 35 books for children and adults.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the book Lucy said: “It was inspired by a walk in the park with my daughter, who told me that one of the benches “has eyes”. The idea grew from there, and Gillian and I felt that releasing something uplifting for parents and small children under lockdown was a good idea, and a way to do something positive in a difficult time.”

Salisbury Journal:

She added: “It’s great that it has has a positive reception, and we are really proud of the work. We now just want to make sure it reaches as many people that will enjoy it as possible, raising money for the fabulous NHS, and to help teachers and parents begin to talk through children’s thoughts and emotions in response to lockdown."

It can be downloaded for free at here, along with colouring sheets and Key Stage 1 PSHE curriculum links.

It is also raising funds to thank NHS workers. Donations are welcomed via