South River author’s new children’s book highlights friendship, togetherness during pandemic

"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pan" by Gigi Darko

SOUTH RIVER–Telling a story of friendship, connection and hope, Gigi Darko’s new book “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pan” showcases positive experiences during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

A South River resident for 15 years, Darko said she has been an educator for 20 years in New York City, and currently is an assistant principal at a school in Brooklyn, New York.
” ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pan’ is about two South River families who have found a way to connect during COVID-19,” Darko said. “There are three little girls on the block, two of them are African, the other is Italian, and they miss playing and sharing during this pandemic. Through a special pan, they have found a new way to share, connect and foster togetherness.”
The book was published and released in August.
Darko said the book raises several questions that are in every child’s mind: What is a pandemic? Why are all the adults afraid to go outside? What is a protest and why does it mean we aren’t together?
“The book shares the sentiment that we have more in common than not. In child-friendly language, parents can begin to have a conversation about what is going on in our world with this book,” Darko said. “It is also a great book to read in schools at the beginning of the year so that children can have a conversation about their summer in a culturally responsive way.”
Darko said she wrote the book because as a mother of two young girls, it broke her heart to tell them that they couldn’t go outside but she knew there were other creative things they could do to chase the blues away.
“This pandemic has affected us all and I wanted to share how these three little girls found a way to share and bring unity in the neighborhood despite COVID-19, and also because of the protesting that has been going on,” Darko said.
Darko said she got the idea to write her book in April after her daughter Gianna asked her and her husband to bake an extra pan of cornbread for their neighbors. She said she wrote the book in a day. The process of getting it published took three months.
“In our little part of the world, children do not see color. They see friendship, they see laughter, they see good food, and that is what they focus on,” Darko said. “I wrote the book because I wanted to remind our girls that there is always hope when we decide to be kind to each other. I wanted to give parents a way to start a dialogue with their little ones about what is going on in their world.”
Darko said Ujaala Shahid is the illustrator, who is an up-and-coming illustrator who lives overseas.
“I had to do lots of research and gather a team of consultants to support the publication of this book,” Darko said. “Once we had the most current information, we created a publishing company called Notes Publishers to help other authors who need guidance publishing their book.”
Darko said the book can be purchased by visiting her publishing company’s website, Amazon or Kindle. Barnes and Nobles is in the process of stocking it as well but had not been finalized as of press time, she said.
For more information, about “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pan,” visit
Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].