One of the challenges that I will face as Jessica gets older is trying to explain her heart condition to her and why she has a zipper scar on her chest and needs to go into hospital for surgery and other procedures. With this in mind, I have bought several children’s books about CHD to help her to understand.
Zip-Line is a book aimed at young children asking about their ‘zipper’ scar and how it got there. Written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, this book encourages children to view their scar in a positive light by showing how it is their “trophy for being strong and brave” whilst briefly mentioning heart surgery and recovery in a very matter-of-fact way. It is ideal for young children, particularly preschool and infant school children who may be asking questions about why they are different.
Patch the Brave Heart Lion – Natalie Halls-Jones & Karen Horsell
Another book that would be ideal for preschool and infant school-age children, this book explores the day-to-day challenges of living with a CHD – tiring easily, feeling unable to join in things and just feeling different. Patch is a lion cub with a patched-up heart who feels that he isn’t very brave or special because he can’t do a lot of the things his family do. His family then point out all the things that have made him brave and special and how his zipper scar is a reminder of those things. It’s a story that I think small children will love, beautifully illustrated and addresses the challenges of life with a CHD in a positive, encouraging way.
The Big-Hearted Book – Nicholas Allan
The Big-Hearted Book tells the story of best friends Babette and Bill who were joined by a ribbon of hearts until one day it was broken. Babette is suddenly too tired to play with Bill, or run races, or read stories and then one day she goes away. Bill later finds out that his friend had been ill and that her heart had been mended and as it gets stronger, the ribbon of hearts between them connects them again. It’s another book which captures some of the challenges of living with CHD, particularly with children who need to have another surgery, but just briefly touches on the hospital aspect of it. It’s a story that would be suitable for pre-school and primary school age children and whilst it is perhaps a little vague about CHD, it would be ideal for a child who has a friend with CHD to help them understand. It’s also a story that could be enjoyed just as a story and not necessarily as a way of helping a child understand more about CHD.
Born with a Broken Heart – Rick & Annette Gallegos
This is a much more personal story – telling the story of Alex, a boy born with a CHD, from the perspective of his sister. It is more suitable for primary school age children rather than pre-schoolers and goes into a lot more detail about hospital life and the challenges of life with a CHD. Sadly, Alex dies shortly after his second birthday and the story ends with Alex’s mom and dad reminding his sister that it is good to talk about him and remember him and to know that he is “happy in heaven.”
This is a book that I feel would be more appropriate for children who have lost a sibling to CHD although I would not recommend it for someone who was not comfortable with discussing God and heaven as it approaches death from this angle.