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Cecily Cicada

The 17-year brood X cicadas are on their way, expected to crawl out from the ground starting in mid-May, after which they’ll shed their skins and begin their cacophony of chirping through mid-June. As the cicadas emerge from their underground lairs, kids (especially young kids) are bound to be a bit concerned. The bugs with big red eyes will be seemingly everywhere and this year’s Great Northern Brood is expected to be one of the largest batches of cicadas this region has seen.

So, what do you do when you have a little one who is terrified of bugs? Well, for Annapolis grandmother Patsy Helmetag, you write a book! When the last big brood of cicadas invaded Maryland in 2004, Helmetag teamed up with her daughter Kita Helmetag Murdock to write a book to assuage her then two-year-old granddaughter Evie’s fears of the bugs.

Patsy and Kita came up with the idea for “Cecily Cicada” on a road trip, and soon self-published the book, selling some 7,000 copies in the D.C. region that year. The duo created the sweet tale of Cecily Cicada, which takes readers through Cecily’s life—her 17 years underground, digging her way to the surface, shedding her skin and embracing life above ground. Patsy also illustrated the book, bringing Cecily to life with fun drawings of her days underground and discovery of the outside world. 

Cecily’s endearing tale indeed helped Evie conquer her fear of bugs that year. At the time, says Patsy, “My daughter was going to grad school, and I remember taking Evie every week to her preschool. There were maybe eight kids in this little private group, and they were walking around catching cicadas and carrying them on their fingers. We’d walk through the playgrounds and all the kids were carrying our book. It was so fun.”

In anticipation of the cicadas’ return, Patsy updated the book and re-released it on Amazon. In the updated book, Patsy added a photo of Evie (now 19) then and now, an apt accompaniment to the last page of the book, which reads, “When you see a cicada please give her a smile, ‘Cause you may not see one again for a while. Just look at the grown-up who’s reading to you; When the cicadas come back, you’ll be grown up too!”

—Ann Levelle

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