Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Trouble With Bear Hugs – A Story About Asthma

The Trouble With Bear Hugs – A Story About Asthma by Kym Latter and Cassie Stroud
HB RRP $16.75
ISBN – 978-0-9873747-0-7
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Though written to help explain what asthma can be like and how easily it can be dealt with, this story is well told and never comes across as a lesson. From the sweet, quirky title to the gorgeous and whimsical illustrations it’s sure to help very young readers see asthma simply is a condition that doesn’t make someone who has it feel good when an attack occurs, and that taking uncomplicated and appropriate action will have them feeling better quickly.

The narrative is straightforward, introducing readers to Lulu by telling them what sorts of things she likes; liquorice, running in the garden, her chickens and wearing strange things on her head (including one of her chickens). Rather than viewing her as an asthma sufferer, they see her as a child not unlike themselves.

When they witness her suffering from a giant bear hug they learn that asthma hurts her chest, stops her breathing in and makes her feel like she has no more puff left. She tells Poppa how she feels and that the giant bear just won’t let go. Poppa recognises what’s happening and runs to the shed, quickly returning with what Lulu recognises as “My puffer!” Poppa gets her to inhale and exhale, counting as she does so. Before long the bear becomes smaller and Lulu feels fine again, ready to run and play as normal.

Bright, colourful and well thought out illustrations tone down the distressing elements of a giant bear hug, ensuring young readers are likely to feel wonder rather than discomfort, thereby allowing them to maintain an inquisitive open mind to help the message enter. The analogy of the bear hug works perfectly.

In addition to explaining what an asthma attack feels like to those who don’t suffer it, the story also provides sufferers with helpful reminders of what to look out for and how to communicate an attack to those who can help them. The book’s simple directions and reassuring message are endorsed by Asthma Australia and may be purchased by visiting www.asthmapeeps.com .

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