Emily Eases Her Wheezes by Katrina Roe
Ill. by Leigh Hedstrom. Wombat Books, 2015. ISBN 9781925139129
(Age: P-2) Emily the Elephant was so full of energy that she scarcely stopped to take a breather. She would whizz around on her scooter, leap and twirl like a ballerina and bounce on her trampoline for hours. She loved to be active. But every now and then she had to sit still and look on because her asthma made her chest tight and her breathing difficult. At first her friends were frightened of her coughing and wheezing but she reassured them that they couldn't catch what she had. But it really irked her to sit and watch but when she disobeyed her mum and joined in, she ended up in strife and needed her puffer. Because Emily had asthma. Then one day she discovered a sport that she could do, one which really helped her strengthen her lungs and improve her breathing.
As the school year gets underway, there are going to be many like Emily in classrooms - kids who can't join in because of this disease and for whom all teachers must have training in how to deal with it if they are presented with a child having an attack. Because 1 in 10 Australian children suffer from asthma and it is a common reason for children needing emergency medical care, it is essential that we all understand the potential seriousness of an attack and that students and teachers alike know that it is something that cannot be ignored.
In this picture book written for younger readers, everyone learns something. Emily learns that even when she thinks she's okay she still needs to take it easy; her friends learn that it's not something to be frightened of and they can help Emily; and the reader learns that while this is a treatable and manageable disease, a person suffering an attack needs to be taken seriously.
Children, particularly those in their first year of school who have not had exposure to large groups of children where there is likely to be an asthmatic need to know that while it might be scary it's not catchy, and those who are sufferers will enjoy reading about themselves in a book just like other "normal" children and will feel less marginalised.
Leigh Hedstrom's charming illustrations lighten the message somewhat - can you imagine an elephant using her bed as a trampoline?
There is also a comprehensive overview of asthma provided by a leading paediatrician that the parent reading the story aloud will find enlightening and reassuring.
Wombat Books have a history of publishing books that need to be written and shared (Marty's Nut Free Party; Happy Pants; Coming Home ) but which might not make the mainstream, big publishers' lists and Emily Eases Her Wheezes is an important contribution to this.