Tuesday 30 December 2014

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Emily Eases Her Wheezes
by Katrina Roe, illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom (Rhiza Press) HB RRP $19.99                                             
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

It’s said that Australian children have one of the highest rates of asthma in the world so this picture book should find a way into many homes. Like most small children, Emily the Elephant is full of energy but she’s an asthmatic. Numerous factors bring on breathlessness – air pollution, dust, having a cold and chilly weather. These times the little elephant is side-lined and must watch her playmates or remain indoors. As well, when she’s coughing and wheezing, she has to use her puffer (which the illustrator has sensibly shown is used with a spacer). The one exercise in which she succeeds is swimming, an activity decided by her friends, Marty the Monkey, Gemma Giraffe, Zac the Zebra and Little Lion Luke. The implication of Emily’s swimming is that her lungs grow stronger and stronger as a result. The outcome is that she enters – and wins -- a swimming race.
At the end of the book there is a three page note to parents and carers about asthma. This is followed by two sets of fly pages. Yes, it’s important for parents to know about the effects of asthma on a child, but is a children’s picture book the place to impart such information? I would have preferred more development in the story – perhaps showing Emily’s asthma getting so severe she needs medical attention. This would give a parent sharing the reading of the book an opportunity to prepare his/her child for a visit to a GP or to hospital. Children should be aware of preventative medication (not mentioned in the book) and how important it is in the treatment of a disease which can be deadly if not correctly monitored.
Other than the wasted fly pages, this is a well-designed book with colourful illustrations and text printed on gloss paper. The cover which shows Emily in a swimming costume and equipped with her inhaler, is eye-catching. This book would best suit children aged 4 to 6 years.

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