Daughter's OCD struggles inspire new children's book set during Kaikoura quake
A daughter's struggle with an anxiety disorder has inspired a new children's fiction book, set during the Kaikoura earthquake evacuations.
Approaching the first anniversary of the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake, The Thunderbolt Pony by Auckland-based children's book author Stacy Gregg, was released earlier this month, exploring the impact earthquakes can have on a child's mental health.
The new novel explored the story of a young girl on a journey to evacuate her horse, cat and dog from Parnassus to Kaikoura following a major earthquake.
The 12-year-old protagonist, Evie, suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a tale close to the heart of the author. Gregg's 17-year-old daughter Isadora was diagnosed with OCD two years ago.
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Like her novel's character, Gregg's daughter constantly deals with compulsions like incessant counting to make herself feel safe and to protect those around her.
"Evie's an incredibly strong, brave young girl who would do anything for her animals. My daughter's the same."
"Four out of five kids had PTSD after the earthquake and I don't dispute those facts. OCD is one of the ones on the list," she said.
In the story, Evie's father had recently died after his battle with cancer and her mother was injured in the earthquake and was evacuated from their hometown of Parnassus by helicopter.
Together, amidst aftershocks, Evie and her horse Gus, her cat Moxy and dog Jock, begin their 64-kilometre horseback journey from Parnassus to Kaikoura to reach the rescue ship, with many struggles along the way.
"It's normal that these kids feel traumatised and need ongoing support, and I hope we don't take our eye off that because the earthquakes are over."
Before writing the book, she spent a lot of time in Christchurch after the quake and then in Kaikoura, and said the effects of the event were ongoing, particularly for young children.
"There's a lot of attention put to the infrastructure of those places [around Kaikoura], but it also has just as much importance rebuilding the emotional strength of the people who occupy those communities," Gregg said.
She said the story was about accepting the randomness in life and having faith in oneself.
Gregg, one of New Zealand's most popular writers for children, won the coveted Children's Choice Award for Junior Fiction three years in a row for her standalone novels The Princess and the Foal, The Island of Lost Horses and The Girl Who Rode the Wind.
She will be touring her 22nd – and favourite – book, The Thunderbolt Pony, in schools and book stores around the country, kicking off in the book's setting of Kaikoura on October 16, followed by Christchurch, Darfield and Oxford.