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Reading Materials for Serious Illness

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Suggested Books and Publications

Below are some suggested reading materials for dealing with the sensitive issue of discussing a serious illness among family and friends. Please note that MultiCare Health System does not endorse these references, but are simply supplying them as potentially helpful referencing materials. For more information, see our Terms of Use.

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain, Parenting Press ISBN: 1884734715.

Summary: Illustrations and rhyming text portray children experiencing a range of emotions, including frustration, shyness, jealousy, and pride.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher Knopf, 1996ISBN: 0679875982

Summary: The rhyming story describes each day in terms of a particular color which in turn is associated with specific emotions.

The Invisible String Hardcover by Patrice Karst. Devorss & Co.; 14th Printing edition (September 1, 2000)ISBN: 0875167349

Summary: A story that teaches of the tie that really binds… “An Invisible String made of love.”

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. Dragonfly Books (September 8, 2009) ISBN: 9780375851377

Summary: When Billy Bixbee finds a tiny dragon in his bedroom, his mom tells him, “There’s no such thing as a dragon!” This only makes the dragon get bigger.

Little Tree: A Story for Children with Serious Medical Problems by: Joyce C. Mills. Magination Press; 2 edition (January 1, 2003)ISBN: 1591470420

Summary: This inspiring healing story is intended for children with permanent, life-changing injuries or illness who will learn coping techniques.

When Someone You Love has Cancer by Alaric Lewis. Abbey Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2005) (Elf books for kids) ISBN: 0870293958

Summary: When cancer affects a family, children often feel a sense of confusion and fear. This book will help children cope when cancer affects someone they love.

You are the Best Medicine by Julie Aigner Clark. Balzer + Bray (September 7, 2010)ISBN: 0061956449

Summary: Watching someone you love go through cancer treatment is scary—especially for a child. In this courageous and sensitive book, cancer survivor Julie Clark creates sweet and poignant memories that remind us how children can nurture people they care about at a time when optimism and love are the most needed.

When Your Mom Has Cancer: Helping Children Cope at Home and Beyond by Maryann Makekau. Makekau (April 3, 2010)ISBN: 0982660162

Summary: This book provides an open, honest approach to discuss cancer with children that promotes healing and expression of feelings.

What is Cancer Anyway? Explaining cancer to children of all ages by Karen Carney. Dragonfly Publishers, 1998ISBN: 0966782046

Summary: This book provides basic information that is essential when someone in the family has cancer.

Henry and the White Wolf
by Tim Karu. Workman Publishing Co, 2000ISBN: 0761121358

Summary: An illustrated storybook to help kids who are sick, have a sick parent, friend or sibling.

Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-Tankerous Mommy by Amelia Frahm. Nutcracker Publishing Company, 2001ISBN: 0970575203

Summary: Told through Tabitha’s eyes, this book uses candor and comic reality to dispel the stereotypes and acknowledge the moody truths faced by families living with cancer.

Promises by Elizabeth Winthrop

Summary: From her mom’s serious illness, Sarah learns about treatments, hospitals, hair loss and to be quiet when she wants to be loud. She also learns her mom keeps promises as they celebrate good times together.

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings by Ellen McVicker

Summary: The story, as told through the eyes of a child, lends itself to a simple and clear understanding of cancer. It also teaches children to realize the power they have to be an active and integral part of a loved one's cancer journey.

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. Golden Books, 2005ISBN: 0375832084

Summary: Billy Bixbee’s mother won’t admit that dragons exist until it is nearly too late.

How are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freyman. Joost Elffers Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999ISBN: 0439104319

Summary: Brief text and photographs of carvings made from vegetables introduce the world of emotions by presenting leading questions such as “Are you feeling angry?”

Forever in My Heart by Jennifer Levine

Summary: Missy’s mom is seriously ill. Rufus, the dog, guides Missy by showing her how she can deal with her feelings, worries and concerns. This book shows children ways they can participate in the life of a dying parent.

Just You and Me by Judy Richmond

Summary: This book was designed by a hospice worker so the last days a child spends with a dying loved one could be filled with love. The book includes 50 fun and memorable ways to say “I love you”.

Michael’s Mommy Has Breast Cancer by Lisa Torrey
Summary: Michael is upset and afraid because his mother has breast cancer. With the help of Grandma and Daddy, Michael learns to cope with Mommy’s illness and his own feelings of guilt, anger, fear and helplessness.

When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness: Children can learn to cope with loss and change by Marge Heegaard. Woodland Press, 1992 ISBN: 0962050245

Summary: A workbook to be illustrated by the child with pictures and colors. An excellent resource for helping children learn the basic concepts of illness and how to cope.

Sky Memories by Pat Brisson. Delacorte Books, 1999 ISBN: 0385326068

Summary: During the year while ten year-old Emily’s mother struggled with cancer and before she died, Emily and her mom develop rituals to commemorate their relationship.

The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer: A Book for Children Who Have a Loved One with Cancer by Chia Martin. Hohm Press, 2001ISBN: 189077216X

Summary: This heartwarming book features a child’s artwork and writing about emotions evoked by her mom’s illness. Opportunities for your child to speak, draw and consider their feelings.

Because Someone I Love has Cancer: A Kids Activity Book by American Cancer Society, 2002ISBN: 0944235328

Summary: Your child may struggle with the uncertainty and inevitable change that may come with a chronic illness which affects someone they know and love.

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert N. Peck

Summary: A gentle story about a 12 year old farm boy whose father is dying.

Our Mom Has Cancer by Adrienne & Abigail Ackermann

Summary: When Abigail and Adrienne’s mom told them she had cancer, they were afraid.  But when the girls couldn’t find any books that explained what might happen to their mother and what they might expect, they wrote one themselves.

Hang Tough, Paul Mather by Alfred Slote
Summary: Paul is a baseball pitcher who has leukemia and he is determined to get in as much time on the mound as possible.

The resources provided below can help be a guide for parents and caregivers in supporting and better understanding children through the serious illness of someone special.

When a Parent has Cancer: A Guide to Caring for Your Children by Wendy Harpham. Harper Collins Publishers Inc, 2004ISBN: 0060740817

Summary: This is a parent’s guide that should help them talk more comfortably with their children and discusses approaches for preventing and responding to common problems in a healthy way.

Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child When a Parent is Sick by Paula K. Rauch & Anna C. Muriel. McGraw Hill, 2006IBN: 0071446818

Summary: Understanding the interplay between development and your child’s experience of your illness will help you support your child’s evolving emotional health.

When a Parent Is Sick: Helping Parents Explain Serious Illness to Children by Joan Hamilton. Pottersfield Press, 2001ISBN: 1895900409

Summary: This book provides parents and caregivers with suggestions on how to approach children with the information that their parent is seriously ill.

How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue. St. Martin’s Press, 1994ISBN: 0312146191

Summary: This book supports children from the moment of diagnosis through the resolution of the illness. This practical handbook prepares parents on how to address their child’s fears and questions.

Living with Grief: When Illness is Prolonged by Kenneth Doka. Hospice Foundation of America / Taylor & Francis, 1997ISBN: 1560327030

Summary: While Lisa was caring for her mother, who is in the late stages of cancer, the demands of care giving takes its toll.

Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Illness by Sue P. Heiney, Ph, RN, Joan F. Hermann, MSW, LSW, Katherine V. Bruss, PsyD, Joy L. Fincannon, RN, MS

Summary: This book outlines valuable steps necessary to help children understand what happens when a parent has been diagnosed with cancer.