Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The 'Whatsits' family grows: three new books in the hospital shop

If you visit the 'Sick Kids' Hospital shop, you'll see how our family of live-in characters is growing. There are now six books in the series including three new titles: 'Sandra the Spacer and her Magic Hat', 'Sam the Sensitive SATS Monitor', and 'King Leopold IV's Growl'. Each character has an important job to do which leads them into adventures.

Key character: The 'spacer' for use by young children with an inhaler (spot the magic hat)
Although the final versions are written by me and illustrated by Cate, each one has involved hospital patients and staff (see below) who have helped develop characters and storylines. The books are intended to be fun at the same time as helping to humanise the hospital's environment and equipment and make it familiar to patients, and are designed to be read to 4 to 7-year-olds. However, we're finding that older patients who appreciate less challenging books whilst in hospital, are taking to reading them too.

So, a bit more about each of the new titles:

Sandra the Spacer and her Magic Hat

One in 11 children in the UK has asthma, so perhaps it was no surprise when specialist asthma staff asked us to get involved in introducing the 'spacer', used with an inhaler by young children. We spent several afternoons in the waiting room of the asthma clinic, talking to children of all ages about their experiences and getting some of their character and story ideas down on paper. Many of these ideas made it into the final book.

Sandra the Spacer joins the toy basket but soon finds that, like the Blue Kazoo and Tara the Trumpet, the little girl never chooses her. Can Sandra's magic hat help? 
Key character: Peakflow meter (introduced in the story as 'Mr Peakflow', an over-enthusiastic PE teacher blowing his whistle and shouting 'breathe-ho!')

Sam the Sensitive SATS Monitor

Sam - essential even if irritating
The SATS monitor detects, via a sensor attached to a finger or toe, the levels of oxygen in the blood. One of the play specialists suggested it as a character as it is beside many beds, but is notorious for being noisy and at times over-sensitive, even raising false alarms. (Maybe we all know humans who are attention-seeking like this?) This behaviour can be particularly irritating at night, hence Sam's story in which none of the Whatsits get much sleep, even though in the end it seems that Sam was doing an essential job.

King Leopold IV's Growl

Why has Leopold got yellow teeth, and why is he saying 'ow' instead of growling properly?

Leopold by Iona
Anyone visiting the Sick Kids can glimpse Leopold at the main entrance if they look up. His job is to guard the entrance and look fierce and handsome. But in our story he seems to be in pain and is not doing his job very well. The Whatsits choose Keeky (the dental mirror) to investigate. Could his problem be something to do with all the empty Lion Brew cans under his perch?

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