In 2015, Kerry Foster-Mitchell, a Neuro-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, asked if I wanted to be involved in a project to produce a book for her patients to explain brain tumours to children. As it was such a worthwhile project and my family and friends have been affected by cancer, I was delighted to be involved. I wrote three stories (Sam the Cell, The Man on the Moon and Nurse Ted) and the rest is history!
My aim in telling the story through the Nurse Ted character was to make children feel at ease so that a difficult subject could be approached in a truthful yet reassuring way. I think that the visual language of picture books is a great tool to approach difficult subjects rather than presenting information in a text heavy way. One of the unique features of the books is the combination of images from the Royal Surrey County Hospital with pencil illustrations of fictional characters which allows young readers to become familiar with features of a real hospital. My previous picture books have merged real and non-real worlds by using photographic elements but this hybrid genre works particularly well for the Nurse Ted books which deal with issues that are very real for some families. Kerry's expertise and experience in the field were invaluable and she produced some wonderful factual pages at the end of the book including a glossary of terms, a patient's guide to talking about cancer with children, and a questions and answers section.
Feedback from the first book on brain tumours was so positive that we raised funds to make the book more widely available and also decided to write the second book of the series, more generally on cancer. Feedback from this book has also been so positive that we are rolling the books out nationally. In 2017, we will be producing a book dealing with the end of life. We are now working with YourSimPal on some school projects. Nurse Ted recently won the Bright Pig Business of the Week.
Share a Star is a registered charity, founded by the inspirational Jessica Taylor-Bearman, which helps severely unwell children and teenagers by sending a message of hope. The children and young people are the special "stars."
If a star passes away, they become Forever a Star and the charity sends out special tributes to each child and a pack of goodies to their siblings, to cheer them up at a very difficult time. Please click on the link to see how you can help this amazing charity. I help the project by illustrating the children who have passed away.
It was a complete honour for me to illustrate the beautiful Rocco and Thomas, forever stars.