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Med-Time Stories: Picture Books for Children With Cancer

Cancer-related picture books can help children better understand and face cancer. 
BY Don Vaughan
PUBLISHED June 06, 2016
Most cancer-themed graphic novels are aimed at an adult readership, but there are a great many cancer-related picture books written specifically for children. Some are for young people undergoing treatment for cancer, while others are designed to help kids cope when cancer affects a loved one or playmate.

“My Cancer Days,” written by Courtney Filigenzi and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, for example, is about a little girl going through cancer treatment and the ups and downs she experiences along the way. Like all cancer patients, she feels a gamut of emotions, and comes to understand that her feelings are a normal part of dealing with a very difficult situation.

“The Long and the Short of It: A Tale About Hair,” written by Barbara Meyers and Lydia Criss Mays and illustrated by Shennen Bersani, explores the issue of hair loss among young cancer patients. It tells the story of Isabel, who wants her hair to be longer, and her friend Emma, a cancer patient who lost her locks during treatment. Isabel eventually realizes she can benefit others by giving away her hair, while Emma is buoyed by the kindness of people who want to help.

Coping with a friend or loved one’s cancer is a common theme in books written for young people. Filigenzi’s awardwinning book “Let My Colors Out,” illustrated by Bersani, is about a young boy who uses colors to express the range of emotions he experiences as his mother undergoes treatment for cancer. As in “My Cancer Days,” the boy comes to realize that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about his feelings.

A more personal example of this genre is “Our Mom Is Getting Better,” by siblings Alex, Emily and Anna Rose Silver, who also wrote and illustrated “Our Dad Is Getting Better.” “Our Mom Is Getting Better” begins with their mother finishing treatment for breast cancer, and goes on to explore a variety of important survivorship issues.

Children's books about cancer can be found for all ages, from preschool through teen years, and many are also available as e-books. The American Cancer Society offers numerous titles for children through its publishing division. For more information, visit cancer.org and search for the phrase “children’s books.”
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