'Children's Book' Chronicles 'My First School Shooting'

Patricia Oliver, mom of Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver, wrote book to make impact on lawmakers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2023 9:50 AM CDT
'Children's Book' Chronicles 'My First School Shooting'
Patricia Oliver holds up a photograph of son Joaquin Oliver at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's trial, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Aug. 1.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

There's a new "children's book" that recently made the rounds in DC—except it's actually a book for lawmakers, penned by the mom of a 17-year-old Parkland victim. Joaquin's First School Shooting is written by Patricia Oliver, mother of Joaquin Oliver, who was gunned down in the 2018 massacre at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 14 students and three staff members. The book's colorful cover, showing a beaming boy with a bunch of daisies getting off the bus to head into school, doesn't offer much of a hint on the horror that lies within the inside pages, other than the ominous title and two large holes (representing bullet holes) standing in for the "O's" in "shooting."

The holes were designed to mimic the finger holes often found in children's books to help kids turn the pages, except in this case, they're found throughout the book located directly on children's bodies. The book, which Oliver was approached to collaborate on by PR firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe, depicts what happened to Oliver's son Joaquin on the day he was killed (he'd brought daisies to school for his girlfriend), with drawings showing dead children on the floor and other kids running panicked through the hallways. "The end of the day, was also my own. Bled out on the floor, and never got home," reads the accompanying text next to a drawing showing the Joaquin character fatally gunned down on the floor, with the black beanie that the real Joaquin often wore by his side.

The Washington Post talked to the book's illustrator, who said working on the project was "the hardest book I've ever had to draw," Maria Lavezzi tells the paper. "I cried and cried. It's impossible for it not to spark something within you or at least make you question: What do we have to do to put an end to this violence?" Oliver stresses the book isn't meant for kids but for lawmakers, and she traveled to Capitol Hill last week to show it to two dozen of them from both sides of the aisle. "We felt this is a new way, a unique way, to make politicians understand," she told ABC News. "What better example than our own son?" Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas of California, who has a grandson named Joaquin, was one of the lawmakers she visited. "You made me realize that I pray that Joaquin never has his first school shooting," a tearful Cardenas told her after reading the book, per the Post. (More school shooting stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.