There is still a dearth of children’s books on the topic of serious parental illnesses like breast cancer. ZBC has previously reviewed two we know of. We are delighted to be able to review a new addition to this genre.
Using books to explain cancer to a child
A key issue pertaining to a mother’s diagnosis of cancer is how to appropriately communicate the diagnosis and related matters to children. It is a real challenge to find the balance between informing the children truthfully, while at the same time minimizing harm and fear, especially for young children. In comparison to older children who might have learned about cancer previously, young children often have no or limited experience of cancer and might need more help in understanding the situation.
Children’s books can be a great resource to help parents, teachers, and healthcare providers with this communication; illustrated books can be especially useful for young children (aged 3-12).
Maggie Lives with Breast Cancer
Maggie did not disappoint. This book gets the balance right. It doesn’t shirk the difficult topics but they are introduced without drama or scare tactics. The book provides just the right amount of accurate information to explain what is going on and manage expectations. The illustrations are engaging, whimsical and gorgeous. The characters real and sympathetic
The ‘tree shedding leaves’ metaphor for Maggie’s loss of fur (hair) is effective and the illustration on page 16 is perfect. The author includes at least one suggestion on how an older sibling can play an active role in supporting a younger one when Maggie asks Madeleine to read to her brother Max!
It’s worth quoting the Forward to the book written by the Dr. Hope Rugo – I couldn’t say it any better.
"Maggie Lives with Breast Cancer is an inspiring story of one monkey's journey through the acute treatments for breast cancer, and includes Maggie's relationships with her husband, her children and her community. Drawing on her own personal experience, Laura Vidal points a heartwarming picture full of hope and healing, along with embedded helpful suggestions about communication with children about serious parental illness. The illustrations are beautiful and help to create a book that will be treasured by children and parents alike."
Hope S. Rugo, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Breast Oncology and Clinical Trials Education,
University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Reviewed by Rose Barlow, Executive Director, Zero Breast Cancer