Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer by Jewel Kats

jenny-her-dog-51pjkmhaixl__sy498_bo1204203200_Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Mar. 21, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Childhood cancer, Pets with cancer, Friendship, Courage, Loss

Opening: “Your dog, Dolly, has cancer of the lungs.” I can’t believe my ears. This can’t be happening. I know the “C-word” all to well. I glare at my mom. “This must be a real bad joke.”

Synopsis: When the veterinarian tells Jenny her dog has cancer, memories of her own diagnosis come flooding into her mind. Dolly is her best friend and has been there to support Jenny during very tough times of chemotherapy when she loses her hair and is sick. Jenny promises to love and support Dolly.  As Jenny gets stronger, Dolly slows down, doesn’t want to eat and tires from walks. The loving bond between them grows.

Why I like this book:

Jewell Kats has written a heartwarming and honest story about a girl and her dog both receiving a cancer diagnosis. This is a refreshing angle on a story. The bond between Jenny and her dog is realistic. Even though Jenny is still receiving chemo and feels sick many days, she bravely accompanies Dolly to her treatments. Together they love and support one another through many tough times. Jenny is a very courageous character. And Dolly is the best medicine for Jenny’s healing process. But the prognosis is not always good for dogs with cancer. As Jenny gets better, Dolly begins to weaken.

I like the simplicity of Kats’ narrative, which is told in Jenny’s voice. Her picture book would be helpful to children who are dealing with cancer, whether their own, a family member or a pet.  Claudia Marie Lenart’s beautifully illustrates the story with her hand-made fiber artwork. Her soft wool sculptures are magical and really make this story special.

Jewel Kats is the author of about a dozen “Fairy Ability Tales, which feature protagonist’s who have a disability or chronic illness. Kats also dealt with a disability and wrote books that helped kids see themselves in stories.  She wanted to be known for her work as an advocate for individuals with disabilities.  Unfortunately, Jewel Kats passed away Jan. 7, 2016. Her last book with Lenart will be published this fall.  Visit Kats’ website.  Check out Claudia Marie Lenart’s  fiber artwork process on her website.

Resources: The book alone is a perfect resource for parents and families. Her picture book would be helpful to children who are dealing with cancer, whether their own, a family member or a pet.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  

The Honest Truth

September 2015 is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

The Honest Truth415Wpdo3ejL__SX341_BO1,204,203,200_The Honest Truth

Dan Gemeinhart, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jan. 27,  2015

Suitable for Grades: 4 – 7

Pages: 229

Themes: Boy with cancer, Choices, Goals, Self-confidence, Dog, Friendship, Mount Rainier

Opening: “The mountain was calling me. I had to run away. I had to. And, I didn’t need anyone to go with me.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day. But, in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from. So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

Why I like The Honest Truth:

Debut author Dan Gemeinhart has written a powerful and inspiring novel about a 12-year-old boy who has cancer. Mark’s dealt with chemo treatments since he was five years old. His options are running out. He’s angry. He’s lost.  His parents and doctors are making decisions for him. Mark feels out of control and wants to make some choices about his life — and that may include how he dies. He confides his pain and secrets to his best friend, Jessie.

The setting is realistic to the Pacific Northwest and the unpredictable weather. The theme is raw and honest. The plot is fraught with danger and obstacles. Mark runs away with his dog, Beau, and embarks upon a journey to climb the summit of Mount Rainier — a dream he can focus on. His choice may seem selfish because of the pain and worry he causes his parents. He also creates a dilemma for his friend, Jessie –does she tell his parents or keep his secret. And he puts his dog and himself at risk during a dangerous snowstorm on the mountain.

Mark, Jessie and Beau are memorable characters. Beau is devoted and protective of Mark. The alternating chapters, with Jessie’s occasional half chapters, works well. You hear about Mark’s parents anxiety and pain through Jessie. But, you experience Jessie’s struggle to interpret what Mark wants her to do. Does she share her suspicions with his parents or honor her friend’s request.

It took Gemeinhart guts to write a book with such depth. It is a tough book to review, even though it grabbed me from the first page.  Mark grapples with life and death questions as he works through anger and fear. Which will he choose? The Honest Truth will make readers think. It is an excellent classroom discussion book for teens.

Thank you Greg Pattridge! I won The Honest Truth in a giveaway on Greg’s website, Always in the Middle.

Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket

September 2015 is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Daniel and Starry Blanket 51fb4nqSz3L__SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket: A Story of Illness and Sibling Love

Sally Loughridge, Author and Illustrator

Maine Authors Publishing, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8, Parents

Themes: Children with a seriously ill sibling, Cancer, Exploring feelings, Jealousy

Opening: “Just before Daniel was born, his grandmother made him a soft blanket that danced with brilliant stars. His mother wrapped him in the blanket when they brought him home from the hospital. It was just right, with room to grow. His father called it Daniel’s Starry Night Blanket.”

Synopsis: Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket is a story about a boy whose older sister, Kate, is diagnosed with cancer. He is sad and worried that Kate is so sick and not interested in playing with him anymore. His parents include him in the hospital visits for Kate’s chemotherapy, but he soon tires of going. Daniel is upset that his parents cook Kate’s favorite foods. When Kate receives cards and gifts, Daniel is angry that he doesn’t receive anything. His Dad takes Daniel to a ball game and spends “special” time with him. Daniel begins to find quiet projects that he and Kate can do together. Daniel wants to do something special for Kate and comes up with a secret plan and asks his grandmother to help.

Why I like this book:

Sally Loughridge has written a compassionate and sensitive story for families who are dealing with a child diagnosed with cancer and the challenges for siblings. Daniel is representative of all siblings dealing with confusing feelings of sadness, anger, fear and jealousy. For children like Daniel, it can be a roller coaster ride.

Daniel has the support of his parents and grandmother to help guide his journey through the highs and lows of a Kate’s cancer treatments. With their support Daniel is able to participate more fully in Kate’s care. It is significant when Daniel wants to share his special blanket with his sister forever– a signal of his own progress, growth and maturity. He asks his grandmother to help with his secret plan for Kate. I won’t spoil the secret. The soft watercolor illustrations are expressive, emotive and compliment the story. I highly recommend this book for families who have a seriously ill child.

Resources: The book can be used in many ways to support young children during a siblings illness. It is a valuable resource for parents, therapists and counselors working with children and families. Loughridge includes two pages of suggestions and activities about ways to use Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket. Visit Sally Loughridge at her website.

Awards: Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket has received the  2016 Best Book Awards Finalist (Children’s Picture Books Soft Cover Fiction), Gold Medal Winner in the 2016 Literary Classics International Book Awards for the Picture Book/Preschool Category. It was also a finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in two Categories, Children’s Books 0 to 5 and Children’s Books 6 and Up. The book was awarded the 2015 Gold Medal in the Lifestyle Emotions and Feelings Category of the Gelett Burgess Book Awards program and an Honorable Mention in the Children’s Books Category of the 2015 New England Book Festival.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

A Monster Calls – Grief

A Monster Calls9780763680817_p0_v1_s260x420A Monster Calls

Patrick Ness, Author

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Jim Kay, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2011; Reprint Aug. 4, 2015

Motion Picture Release: October 2016

Suitable for Ages: 14 -17

Themes: Grief, Loss, Monsters, Mothers and sons, Breast cancer,  Single-parent families, Bullying, School

Book Jacket Synopsis: The Monster Showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

What I like about this story:

Patrick Ness has written a powerful and haunting story about a 13-year-old boy trying to deal with grief and loss. This beautifully crafted story is also filled with dark humor, vivid imagery, fear, rage, and courage.

The characters are realistic and fleshed out. Conor O’Malley is dealing with the nightly visits of a monster at precisely 12:07 a.m., but it’s not the monster that frightens him. It is the recurrent nightmare “that is filled with darkness, screaming and a hand slipping from his grasp.”  The dream begins when his mother starts chemotherapy and is so terrifying that he hasn’t told anyone. His father is remarried and living in America, his grandmother is cold and doesn’t understand him, and the kids bully him at school. Conor is totally alone. Ness brilliantly creates a monster that resembles a nearby ancient Yew tree to act as a catalyst to help Conor face his greatest fear. The monster shares three tales with him and tells Conor that he will tell the fourth story which will be his truth.

The plot is distinctly realistic and the tension is palpable. Readers will ride Conor’s roller coaster as his world spins out of control. In confronting his fear and releasing his rage, Conor destroys his grandmother’s living room — all important steps that will lead him to face the final truth and heal.

Jack Kay liberally uses his pen and ink drawings to illustrate the darkness and intensity of Conor’s fears and rage on each page, heightening the emotion and the scary truth that lies ahead. The total package is a beautiful collaboration between author and illustrator.

Note: In his introduction,  Patrick Ness says he never met Siobhan Dowd. She had a final story idea, but her premature death from cancer prevented her from writing this story herself. This would have been her fifth book.  According to Ness, “she had an idea, the characters, a premise, and a beginning.” With some hesitation, Ness undertook the project and decided from the start that “he would not write a novel that mimicked her voice.” Visit Patrick Ness at his website.

Upside Down and Backwards

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – September 2014

Upside Down9781433816383_p0_v1_s260x420Upside Down and Backwards: A Sibling’s Journey Through Childhood Cancer

Julie Greves, Katy Tenhulzen, and Fred Wilkinson, Authors

Magination Press, Fiction, May 12, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-13

Themes: Cancer, Siblings, Family Relationships, Feelings,

Book Summary: Ever since his first ride, Bryce has been obsessed with roller coasters. The hiss of the ride starting, the anticipation, the slow climb up the first steep hill, the pause just before the car careens over the steep drop. But when Bryce’s sister Paige is diagnosed with cancer, his life become one of the craziest roller coasters he would ever ride. His parents are suddenly distracted and stressed. It seems like Paige always gets her way. Brice has trouble keeping up with school. He misses out on time with his friends. And he worries about Paige. Will his family ever get back to normal?

Why I like this book:  The roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for a sibling’s journey through childhood cancer. It is written in a matter-of-fact and understandable way. The story is vivid, realistic, upbeat and honest. It focuses on real-life issues for siblings and family members. I especially like that the book emphasizes recovery rather than dealing with a loss. Bryce narrates the story and the authors did an excellent job of exposing the confusing emotions of his character. Bryce’s world is turned upside down and backwards because his sister is diagnosed with cancer. He feels like he’s also riding the “cancer coaster.” There are midnight trips to the emergency room with Paige, but no one bothers to tell him. He feels forgotten when his parents don’t pick him up after school or don’t make a baseball game where he hits his first home run. Yet he cares about his sister and shaves his head when she loses her hair to chemo treatments. A sibling support group become a refuge because the other kids actually get what his life if like. The authors really got this story right and I highly recommend it for siblings of cancer patients and their parents.

Resources: There is a very helpful six-page guide at the back of the book with suggestions for siblings on how to take care of themselves, stay connected, talk to friends, discuss their feelings, deal with guilt, seek out a support group, and face  the future.

About the Authors: The authors share a passion for supporting patients and their families throughout the entire cancer journey in their work at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This passion  motivated them to write a book and create resources for siblings.

Julie Greves, CCLS,  is a certified child life specialist, where she has spent over 10 years working with pediatric oncology patients. Katy Tenhulzen, CCLS, is a certified child life specialist who has had the opportunity to support pediatric hematology and oncology patients and families since 2002.  Fred Wilkinson, LICSW, has been an oncology social worker focusing on psychological trauma since 2001.

Imagine a Rainbow: A Child’s Guide for Soothing Pain

Imagine a Rainbow9781591473848_p0_v1_s260x420Imagine a Rainbow: A Child’s Guide for Soothing Pain

Brenda S. Miles, Ph.D.

Nicole Wong, Illustrator

Magination Press, Nonfiction, 2006

Suitable for Ages : 4-8

Themes:  Chronic pain in children and adolescence,  Arthritis, Burns, Cancer, Lupus, Sickle Cell

Opening“You are a child.  It doesn’t seem fair, That sometimes your body can hurt everywhere.  There’s a way to feel better, something children can do.  The ideas in your mind can help you get through.  Imagine a rainbow with red, green and blue, Bright ribbons of color that wrap around you.”

Synopsis:  Children who suffer with chronic pain are encouraged to use their imaginations and deep breathing as tools for easing their pain. Written in soothing rhyme, the author uses the images of a warm rain, a wind blowing softly, cuddling with a puppy, a clouds in a sky, rainbows, and a field filled with daisies and grass.

“Imagine the ocean with sparkling waves. That lift up your body and whisper BE BRAVE.”

“Think of funny ideas like hippos in skirts. Send your laughter to places inside you that hurt.

“Imagine the sun shining warm on your face.  Let it glow on your body wherever you ache.”

Why I like this book:  I am overjoyed to find a picture book written so simply for children who live with chronic pain, like sickle cell, arthritis, burns, cancer, and lupus.  Brenda Miles’ book empowers children by encouraging them to use imagery/visualization and deep breathing to help them when their bodies are hurting.  This is a very encouraging book to share with kids who are learning to cope with chronic pain.   Wong’s illustrations are whimsical ink and watercolors that inspire, uplift, calm, warm and sooth the child.  They are exquisite.

Resources:  Brenda Miles, Ph.D, is a pediatric neuropsychologist.  She has written backpages for parents to help them understand the concepts of imagery, deep breathing, and coping with chronic pain and medical procedures.  Her goal is to help teach parents how to guide their children through visualization, relaxation exercises and manage their own pain.  Children are very creative and may have their own special images they can draw upon.   They may use these techniques anywhere and anytime.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Regine’s Book

Regine's Book9781936976201_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbRegine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words

Regine Stokke, Author

Zest Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 23, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 14 and up

Themes: Leukemia, Living with a Serious Illness, Courage, Teen Memoir, Blogging, Photography

Regine Stokke was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in August 2008, a few days after her 17th birthday.  The diagnosis was a big shock for this Norwegian teen who felt like her “life had been shattered.”  Shortly after her diagnosis, she decided to blog about what it was like to live with a serious illness and how it affected her life.  She wrote about the countless painful biopsies and blood tests, chemotherapy and hospitalizations.   There were days she was very ill and ready to give up and times of hope when donors were found.  Her life was an emotional roller coaster and took its toll.  She shared her deepest feelings and fears of dying.  Regine was surrounded by her loving family, friends and community who were of tremendous support and brought some normalcy to her life.

She received her bone marrow transplant in January 2009.  Her life began to improve.  There  were times when Regine felt well enough to pursue her love of photography and painting and exhibit her work.  She attended concerts and movies, went shopping and went to restaurants with friends.  She celebrated her 18th birthday on Jun. 6, 2009 with  two parties.  She visited children with cancer in the hospital to lend her support.  In between, there was good news and bad news.  Regine never lost sight of the fact that what was most important to her was living in the moment and her relationship with family and friends.  She loved life and had no intention of giving into her illness.

In October 2009, she received some bad news that her medications weren’t working and the aggressive cancer cells were back.  She wrote, “I’ve been crying nonstop today…This wasn’t supposed to happen.  The last time I met with the doctors we discussed the future, and talked about when I could start taking classes again — and now all of a sudden, it looks like I’m going to die.  Things changed so fast, and I don’t understand anything.  This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  Going through something like this is just absolutely brutal.  No one deserves this… I think about my family having to go through all of this.  It’s so awful to think about.  It’s not just my life that’s being ruined.”

Meanwhile, what started out as a blog with a few followers, rapidly grew to thousands of followers daily.  Because of her articulate and soulful accounts, she touched the lives of many people in her country and worldwide.  Readers sent Regine words of love and encouragement.  Regine’s own written words became this beautiful book about her remarkable journey and a life lived.  The book is interlaced with family photos, her photography and  heartfelt comments from friends and people who followed her blog.  Her  last blog entry was December 1, which resulted in 6,700 reader comments.  Regine made a peaceful transition on Dec. 3, 2009 at home surrounded by family members.  After her death, her parents, Lasse and Julianne Stokke found a beautiful poem (undated) on her computer:

My path has only one direction

There are no signs

And there is no map

It’s impossible to go to the left or the right

It’s impossible to turn

I can only go straight ahead

But the road is crooked

It’s neither light nor dark in front of me

There’s fog

And no one knows what

Will be found on the other side

Why I like this book:  This book is as real as it gets!  Reading her words are almost sacred.  It is an honest, gut-wrenching, raw, powerful and inspirational story told in Regine’s own words.  Although Regine only wanted to be ordinary, she was extraordinary.  Throughout all that she endured, she shared her day-to-day ups and downs of living with leukemia with others through her blog.  She  continued her dreams of being a photographer and exhibited in her work at both 2009 and the 2010 Nordic Light photographic festivals in Kristiansund, Norway.  And, she became a strong advocate for cancer patients.  She urged people to register as blood and bone marrow donors.  In those short 15 months, Regine accomplished a lifetime of work.  Regine’s book sold over 30,000 hardback copies in 2010 and over 17,000 paperback copies in 2011, before it was translated from Norwegian into English.  The book is beautifully presented as a piece of art.  The book was printed on a heavier paper to display all of Regine’s photographic work, which runs throughout the book.  It is a book filled with so much love and grace.

I won this book  from the publisher, Zest Books, on Amanda’s Born Bookish blog.  It was so compelling that I wanted to share Regine’s story.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden

The Goodbye Cancer Garden

Janna Matthies, author

Kristi Valiant, illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 4-10

Themes:  Parent with cancer, Family support,  Hope, Gardens

Opening/Synopsis  “In our backyard, where first base used to be, is a special garden.  We didn’t expect to plant it.  But Mom says things don’t always go as expected.  For example, Mom didn’t expect the doctor to say she had breast cancer.”   Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has breast cancer.   Both kids are worried, but the parents involve them in discussions and have them meet the doctor.  When Jeffrey asks if his mom is better, the doctor responds, “Not yet, but we’re working very hard to make her better–probably by pumpkin time.”  This gives Janie an idea.  Mom prepares to go to the hospital for surgery on Valentine’s Day.  Janie points out the window and says, “Let’s plant a garden!  Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom’s getting better.  Then before we know it…Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!”  Her Mom thinks her idea is perfect.  The garden is planted with vegetables, flowers and pumpkins.  During the summer Mom goes through chemo and radiation and loses her hair.  The family lovingly tend to the garden and to Mom.   As fall arrives, pumpkins appear and Mom is well on her way towards recovery.

Why I like this book:   Janna Matthies’ book is realistic and optimistic.  The story is based on the author’s own experience with breast cancer, and she wrote the book while undergoing treatment.  Even through the difficult times, there is an abundance of support from family and friends.  Planting a garden does help the family focus on healing.  Kristi Valiant portrays Mom smiling and positive in a charming way.  Kristi’s  illustrations are warm, rich and full of life.   This is a beautiful story for moms and grandmothers with breast cancer to share with their children/grandchildren.  Visit Janna Matthies at her website.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden was selected as Best English Language Children’s Book at the Sharjah (U.A.E) International Book Fair in November of 2011.  With this honor the book may be published in Arabic and touch the lives of readers in the Middle East.

Resources:  This is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  For families undergoing a life changing event, planting a garden is a healing activity and helps them focus on living.  Janna travels around the country speaking to children and families about cancer and her book.  She’s discovered that many families in similar situations have planted gardens of hope in their backyards.   Other activities to help children cope can be found at Bear Essentials website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Kathy’s Hats: A Story of Hope

Kathy’s Hats:  A Story of Hope

Trudy Krisher, author

Nadine Bernard Westcott, illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 1992

Suitable for: Ages 6-10

Themes:  Childhood cancer, Hair Loss, Hope, Self-esteem

Opening/Synopsis: “When I was born, I was almost bald.  My mother tied a tiny green ribbon to my little puff of fuzz.  This was my first hat.”  Kathy has a hat for every occasion.  Then one day when Kathy turns 9 years old, she finds out she has cancer.  Because of her cancer she feels angry, sick and scared.  There are some moving lines in the story:  “I didn’t like it when they poked me with needles to put the medicine in…I didn’t like it when I felt sick from the medicine…and the worst thing about the medicine was that it made my hair fall out.”   Kathy’s mother buys her lots of hats to cover her bald head, but she looses interest in her hats.  One day Kathy puts a bear pin on her hat and all her friends begin to give her pins for her hat.  They rally behind her on her journey.

Why I like this book:  I remember when this book first came out.  The author is from my home town and I went to a book signing to get copies for two children who were dealing with cancer and the aftermath of the chemo therapy.  I loved the idea of this book because it is so upbeat and encouraging.  I knew it would help them feel less alone.  Since my original purchase, the book has been picked up by a larger publisher and more text added.   Nadine’s illustrations are colorful and support the realistic, but positive story line.  Trudy wrote the book for her daughter who had cancer.  This is an outstanding book to help students in the classroom understand what a classmate with cancer is going through.  I highly recommend it.

Resources:  September was National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I discovered  a wonderful curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom at the Live Strong at School website.    For parents resources  visit the National Children’s Cancer Society, Childhood Cancer Lifeline,  American Childhood Cancer Organization.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.