CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 17 . . . . April 29, 2005
The chemo nurse used a needle to put the medicine in. The medicine made Mom feel really tired and sick. Mom said, "Sometimes you need to feel worse before you can get better."
The diagnosis of cancer is a frightening prospect, but the fear it engenders is even greater in children when they are faced with the prospect of losing a loved one. The person they knew seems to be transformed into a stranger, magnifying the confusion and psychological trauma that illness and disruption can create.
Debbie Watters documented her own journey through the process when she developed breast cancer. A primary and Early Literacy teacher, wife and mother of two boys, nine and eight at the time, she realized the value in keeping a photographic diary of every stage. Sophie Hogan's photographs, in black and white, record mostly the visually challenging part of the treatment, the loss of Debbie's hair from chemotherapy, as well as the physically difficult part, the chemotherapy itself.
There is a lot of humour injected into the photos. This family decided to share in Mom's new image by shaving their own heads. There are many clips of Mom and then the boys dressing up in wigs and scarves to cover their baldpates. The fun photos outnumber the sad ones, which is appropriate to the target age group for the book.
What is most significant is that Debbie did not go through this process alone. Young readers will see her surrounded by friends and family from beginning to end, which is possibly the best support both she and her children could have had.
The text is simple but explanatory. A young child can learn either through the pictures or the text which is typed in a large schoolbook-type format. The soft blue field of hair background sets the text and pictures off well.
This book will answer the questions young children have when family members are undergoing cancer treatment. It can also be very comforting for adults, too, who need to find a realistic but non-threatening way to inform their children about how a patient will look and feel through the different stages of treatment. Luckily for Watters, the treatment was successful, which is what everyone reading the book will hope for their family member.
Where's Mom's Hair? A Family's Journey Through Cancer can be used by parents, family and teachers to help young children understand how cancer affects people and how it is fought. Told from a child's point of view, it has the warmth and gentleness that a child needs at a scary time.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.