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Cherry Valley Nurse Uses Farm Animals To Help Children Understand The Pandemic

Yvonne Boose
Amy Nystrom's two children's books.

Amy Nystrom never had dreams of becoming an author.

A northern Illinois nurse gave her farm animals human voices in two recent books she authored. She wrote them to help children understand the pandemic.

Opie the cat was extra welcoming on the hot and humid day at the Nystrom farm in Cherry Valley.

“They’re fed wet food once a day and dry food all the time. They’re spoiled,” said nurse and author Amy Nystrom explaining the regimen for her nine cats on the family farm.

Opie is one of the many animals starring in her books “Old Mask Donald’s Farm” and “Old Mask Donald’s Farm Unmasked – The End of a Pandemic.”

Yvonne Boose
Opie the cat.

The first children’s book was written to help youngsters understand why they had to stay away from certain loved ones and wear masks. The second one speaks of hope, scientists and vaccines.

Nystrom has worked as a nurse for 27 years. She said she was never interested in being a writer, but something changed when the pandemic struck.

“My mind kind of wanders. And one night I came in from feeding the animals,” she explained. “And I, I just kind of thought, you know, I have heard all the other people's perspectives about it at that time, but then I kind of thought, I wonder what their perspective would be.”

She started taking notes on her iPhone and filed them away without thinking about doing anything else with them. That was in April of last year.

Later she had a conversation with a coworker who had written a children’s book. Her peer convinced Nystrom to let her read her phone notes and that’s when the story came to life. The coworker referred Nystrom to Halo Publishing International. They liked the farm animal children’s story and the first book was published in October last year.

The company gave Nystrom five illustrators to choose from. She chose Jack Foster.

The farm is home for Angus cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, goats and other creatures. They aren’t called by their actual names in the book, but by what kind of animal they are – like Bull, Kitten and Billy Goat.

After the first book, Nystrom continued with her life and never thought about doing another book -- until the publisher asked her about doing a sequel. She said that’s when the second story started to form.

Yvonne Boose
Cattle at the farm.

As a nurse, Nystrom was front and center of the pandemic’s whirlwind.

“Well, like everybody else, we were kind of stuck at home. Although my job didn't change,” she added. “I still was required to go to work. I never was afraid to go to work.”

She said she got sick with the COVID-19 early on, but her symptoms weren’t extreme, and she never had to go to the hospital.

Nystrom said she isn’t marketing her book that much and she doesn’t consider herself a writer but creating the books was fun for her. She said her husband and two children are proud of what she’s accomplished.

Nystrom said we only have one shot at life. So, she encourages people to take risks and not be afraid to do things outside their comfort zone. As for her, she will continue to fulfill her nursing duties.

Her books can be found at the Cherry Valley Public Library, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Yvonne Boose
Goats at the Nystrom farm.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.