The BIG-Hearted Book: Nicholas Allan (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)
Three and a half years ago, I nearly lost my Mum and my children nearly lost their Nanny, because she went to see her GP about chronic ‘indigestion’ and the GP immediately called an ambulance to take my mum to hospital where she was operated on the next day. She had a six hour open heart surgery (triple bypass) and spent six weeks in hospital, two of which in intensive care. Her heart stopped twice during that time.
To say that we, as a family, are indebted to the many health professionals involved in saving her life is an understatement. Heart charities are therefore very close to my heart (no pun intended!) The BIG-Hearted Book was inspired by another woman who underwent life-saving heart surgery: Helen Bower, Sales Director at Hodder. Proceeds from the sale of this book support the International Children’s Heart Foundation, and Hodder also held a charity auction last month in support of this charity.
That’s more than enough reason to buy this book even if it was terrible. Fortunately, it’s far from it! Nicholas Allan is more known for humourous books like Cinderella’s Bum and Father Christmas Needs a Wee but here we have a tale of friendship between Babette (a human) and Bill (a dog) who are linked together by an invisible ribbon of hearts. Babette and Bill do everything together, but one day Babette gets too tired to do things. She can’t run with Bill, she doesn’t cook or eat, she’s not interested in reading. All she does is stay in bed…
The story follows Bill trying to cheer Babette up, and his sadness when one day she goes away. The ribbon of hearts will not be broken though, and Babette’s heart gets fixed reuniting the friends again. This book is suitable for very young children and up because it uses simple language and does not go into details. In fact, it’s perfect for more than just heart illnesses.
I think this book could be used to explain parental depression to a very young child too. Babette loses interest in all the things she’s enjoyed before, and becomes too tired to do things, and then can’t get out of bed any more. All of which are symptoms of depression. The text reads “her heart was on the mend” but this can be taken figuratively rather than literally.
The book works as a story on its own too, but is a valuable addition to a library to help small children cope with illnesses of people close to them. I wish it had existed for me to read to three-year-old Mighty-Girl when my mum was in hospital. We talk about that time when reading the book, but she doesn’t quite remember Nanny being so ill and then getting better and Darling-Girl doesn’t remember at all as she was under one at the time.
There are some parts of this book that don’t quite work for me (Bill is quite selfish at the start so the friendship seems a bit one-sided – I really read too much into stories sometimes!) but the overall story and meaning, and opening for a dialogue with children, more than make up for minor niggles on my part. As for the children? They find it a sweet story with a happy ending, which is just right for cheering up on a grumpy day.
Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The BIG-Hearted Book by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.