> Skip to content

Article  •  19 February 2021

 

Locked Down: A note from the author

When Jesse O wrote Locked Down (then titled Staying Home) back in 2011, she never imagined that almost a decade later, the events of her novel would prove spookily accurate . . .

Locked Down (originally titled Staying Home) was first imagined in the late 2000s following several international influenza crises that threatened New Zealand. The newspapers of the day ran such perceptive headlines as 'Ministry warns NZ of possible bird flu pandemic' (2008), and 'NZ needs to be ready for "smart" flu virus' (2006). 

In 2009 one of these strains reached New Zealand. Twenty people died from H1N1, the swine flu pandemic, and there was a total of 3150 confirmed cases in the country. 

I remember the discussion that went on at the time about closing the borders. Thankfully, they remained open then, and life continued for the majority of the population. Words like pandemic and Tamiflu, swine flu, and bird flu were relegated to the past - and to the invented worlds of fantasy writers. However, it got me thinking, as writers do, What if . . .? And, How would we live?

To explore those two questions I conjured up a story of a family in a small provincial neighbourhood, and their daily life as they survived a lockdown. Staying Home, the resulting book, was published by Penguin in 2010 and went on to receive a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2011. 

However, the story didn't end there. 

In December 2019, a pneumonia of unknown origin detected in China was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). On 30 January 2020, the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In February 2020, WHO announced a name for this new coronavirus disease: COVID-19. By March there were almost 1000 deaths in Europe, and COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The death toll worldwide reached more than one million by October 2020. 

It was spooky revisiting this novel ten years after its conception. What had been an imagined global scenario had now eventuated. Many of the fictional survival plans in this novel suddenly materialised in our daily lives, as the COVID-10 Alert System Level 4 Lockdown required the whole nation to stay home. It was real! 

Locked Down is about keeping safe. It's about cooperation, resourcefulness, and being kind to one another. 

 

Jesse O

Nelson, October 2020


Locked Down Jessica Le Bas, Toby Morris

Jesse O's award-winning novel about a deadly pandemic and a family in lockdown, rereleased with all new illustrations by Toby Morris.

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Article
A sneak peek at our 2021 kids books!

After an exhausting and unusual 2020, we’ve got plenty of reasons to be grateful for a new year, not least because of the stellar line up of children’s books we have coming your way over the next few months!Read on for a sneak peek at some of the best new children’s books we’re bringing to you in 2021.

Article
The road trip that inspired Showtym Adventures 8!

Syd, the Muster Pony tells the story of the Wilson sisters' most epic adventure yet, and it's inspired by a real-life road trip Kelly and her sisters took in 2001! (warning: this article might induce a desperate longing to go adventuring around the country, read on at your own risk)

Article
Suzi McAlpine on the inspiration behind Beyond Burnout

Find out the inspiration behind Beyond Burnout, as well as what you'll learn from reading it!

Article
YA fiction we can't wait to read in 2021!

From contemporary rom-coms, to literary debuts, to the creepiest modern gothic fairytale you could imagine (seriously . . . it is AWESOME!), we've got some stellar YA lined up for you this year. Read on for recommendations for your TBR pile!

Article
This will be hard

In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates outlines just some of the hurdles between humanity and a net-zero carbon world.

Article
Beyond Hairy Maclary

Hairy Maclary and his friends are known and loved all over the world. But how familiar are you with Dame Lynley Dodd's other creations? There are plenty to discover, and just like Hairy Maclary, they all feature Lynely's uniquely exuberant artwork and gorgeously readable rhymes! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Article
Beautiful NZ Picture Books from 2020

Sometimes a story is best told alongside a beautiful picture, Here's a small selection of some of our favourite 2020 picture books from local creators. 

Article
Sophie Gray's top tips for a cracker Christmas

If you’re planning to head to the shops for a last-minute Christmas here's what destitute gourmet wants you to think about! 

Article
5 audiobooks for your summer road trip

If you’re new to the world of audiobooks and aren’t sure where to start or if you’re looking for the perfect book to listen to on your summer road trip adventures, we’ve got some great suggestions for you! 

Article
Themes from A Promised Land

From the influence of family to his political rise and the world events that shaped his presidency, Barack Obama covers enormous ground in his Presidential Memoirs, Volume 1: A Promised Land. Here we break down some of the key themes and turning points.

Article
A Promised Land: key events

From inauguration through to Operation Neptune’s Spear, take a look at the milestones covered in Barack Obama's riveting memoir.

Article
Children's books loved by the Obamas

Here's a selection of children's stories that have received a big thumbs up from Barack and Michelle Obama. 

Looking for more articles?

See all articles