Big Tree is Sick: A Story to Help Children Cope with the Serious Illness of a Loved One ISBN: 9781785922268
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017
Gentle and sensitive, this picture book will go a long way to helping young children cope with the problems that arise when a parent, friend or relative is suffering from cancer. Snibbles is a little creature (possibly a hedgehog) who lives in a forest with Big Tree. He loves Big Tree and has known him always. When a doctor arrives and finds that Big Tree has developed woodworm, Snibbles is upset. The doctor says he will do his best to help, but the first thing that will happen is that one of Big Tree's branches must be cut off so the woodworm can't spread. After this operation, some special medicine is brought which will make Big Tree 'sick for awhile but is necessary'. The kind doctor gives Snibbles a jar filled with pebbles, one of which he is to remove every day, and after he finishes, Big Tree should start feeling better. We see that Big Tree loses his leaves and gets weaker and weaker, and Snibbles is cross and unhappy. He even kicks another tree in his sadness. Oohoo, a wise owl, tells Snibbles that he mustn't hurt other trees and that no one knows why some trees get woodworm and others don't. Big Tree's bare branches and increasing sickness make Snibbles scared, and it is only when Bessie the sheep brings a warm scarf made from her wool and Snibbles can help wrap it round Big Tree's bare branches that he begins to feel there are things he can do to help. A second round of chemotherapy makes Big Tree even sicker, but the doctor explains that all Snibbles can do now is be with Big Tree so he won't 'feel alone'. A round of 'radiotherapy' with a magnifying glass and the sun help get rid of any remaining eggs of woodworm, and turns the bark black. Snibbles is alarmed, but the doctor says this is normal. Sure enough, when Snibbles finishes taking all the pebbles from the jar, Big Tree has begun to recover, and soon the little creature can swing from a branch again. He also plants one of Big Trees nuts in a pot, and on the last page of the book, we see the baby tree growing. Told in simple terms that even very young children can understand, the information as well as the story in this book is spot on, and the fact that the problem is happening to a tree and a little animal removes the undoubted seriousness of the illness just that tad further from reality, giving the child hope. The pictures are very special too, full of warmth and soft colour. Several pages at the end of the story give some good ideas about activities one can do with a child as further support and help. Altogether, this is a special book, unusual in that it takes a serious and sad subject and makes it bearable. Available from Amazon, from good book shops, and from the publisher: www.jkp.com.