Dittmer (Breast Cancer: The Unplanned Journey—Lessons Learned, 2011) and illustrator Stacy use the approachable and comforting perspective of a stuffed bear to help children cope with and understand the changes affecting a cancer patient.
Cancer can be scary, not just for the people going through it, but also for the children watching them suffer. Bear, a stuffed bear, has a halo and wings and a desire to help. Santa gave Bear to Lilli when she was sick, yet when Lilli’s grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, Lilli decides that the best thing she can do is send Bear to help. At first, Bear is nervous he might catch cancer from Grandmother B, but Lilli explains cancer isn’t contagious. Grandmother B is glad to have Bear beside her to fight her cancer “battle.” Grandmother B, Grandpa Paul, Mr. Pye (the cat), and Bear soon move to a big city, where Grandmother B can have easier access to the hospital for her cancer treatments. Bear sticks with Grandmother B through the whole process: removing her breasts so the cancer won’t spread, taking the “strong medicine” of chemotherapy, her hair falling out, visiting a counselor (who “helps Grandmother B feel better in her mind”), and finally celebrating her recovery. Each step of the way, Bear’s growing understanding is delivered in accessible prose. Dittmer never shies away from the realities of cancer, even the possibility of death. Instead, Bear delivers these ideas in ways that make them approachable for children, especially those who live in a faith-driven environment. Vocabulary is explained well, with new words defined in the text as Bear learns how to use medical terms. The amount of text puts it at an independent-reading level, but the ideas and tone are better geared toward younger lap readers. A guide in the back also helps parents know how to approach the text and talk about cancer with their children. Stacy’s child-friendly illustrations are in a simplistic cartoon style, with each page prominently featuring the cute stuffed animal.
A useful resource for children with a relative or friend fighting cancer.