Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Super Jonny {how to help sick parents}

I'm often asked to do book, website or activity reviews and I pass on most of them.  But this little guy, Jonny, got my attention.  His mom is sick and he wants to help.  A little guy who wants to help others?  You tell me that doesn't remind you of any little kids you know.  I just couldn't pass him up.
One of my coworkers was diagnosed with cancer, went into remission and was rediagnosed within the last two school years.  She's a teacher, mom of two, and all around amazing woman.  I tried to read this book from the perspective of her son and daughter who are in this situation.  I admittedly put it off for a while because this topic can be scary and hard to breach.  But when I finally got the courage to read it, I let out a sigh of relief because it was just...nice.
What Does Super Jonny do when Mom Gets Sick by Simone Colwill starts by introducing Jonny as a superhero - what kid doesn't relate with that?! - with his sidekick bear, whose next mission is to help his mom.  As the hospital staff is introduced to the reader, Jonny shares his superhero tools with them and they explain how their equipment is similar to the tools he uses.  As the pages turn, the text and illustrations are both upbeat and simple in a way that is inviting instead of intimidating.  While the illustrations are realistic {mom laying in bed, hooked up to an IV}, the hospital setting and staff are portrayed as friendly instead of scary.  It teaches in a way that is basic enough for young readers but would also provide conversation starters for older children who may have questions for their parents but not know where to start.  By the end, after Jonny has exhausted all of his ideas, he learns that he doesn't need to do anything super to help his mom feel better but be there for her.  It's a sweet story about the power of a child's love that would be a great read for any child who is dealing with a sick parent.  The story is also versatile in that it never depicts a specific illness or injury so it would be helpful for multiple situations.

As a teacher, I love that Simone has included guide notes in the back.  These would be helpful for parents reading this book to their own children or for teachers to use in the classroom.  Often when one of our students goes through something traumatic {be it an illness, death, fire, or loss of any kind} we try as teachers to find a way to give enough information to the rest of the students that they can be sympathetic and understanding without going into any frightening details of what could be a very adult situation.  This book's simplicity and guide notes in the back would be perfect to help teachers or social workers engage a student's classmates in a discussion of what their friend is going through and answer any tough - but real - questions they may have.

The guide notes would also help get your students thinking about how to help others.  So if there's a sick teacher, child or community member in your lives instead of a sick parent, it would still be a great jumping point to teach empathy.  It would help your kids try to understand emotions from someone else's point of view as they brainstorm ways to help.

If you are, or know someone who is, a sick parent there is also a great list of ideas of things that you can do as the parent to help your child go through the illness as well.  Since Simone has Crohn's disease, this information comes from first-hand experience and is practical.  It would be a great book for friends or parents who are in this unfortunate situation.  You can get your copy from SickMom.org or Amazon.
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