Cough, Sniffle, Snooze: Books About Illness

Cough, Sniffle, Snooze: Books About Illness 

Yesterday morning, my daughter dragged out of bed even more floppily and reluctantly than usual. She slumped into the kitchen and only picked at her warmed-up waffle. I would’ve put it down to general post-vacation malaise, but when she collapsed on the couch after a few minutes, asking for seltzer and an empty bowl in a weak and frighteningly polite voice, we had to face it: she was sick.

I came home from work bearing ginger ale, crackers, and vociferous thanks to the cousin who’d stepped in to do emergency childcare, and settled down with my recuperating girl, who’d had enough of videos and wanted me to read to her. So we snuggled on the couch together—germs be darned—and picked out favorite selections from our tattered and beloved family copy of this old illustrated compendium of fantasy. (So, she does like some of the books that I loved as a kid, after all.) 

As she lingered over the illustration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s much-anthologized poem, “The Land of Counterpane,” I wondered: where are the books about being sick? Yes, there are many wonderfully-written and much-needed children’s books about serious illnesses and diseases. But how many books are there, really, about the common experience Stevenson was writing about and that my daughter just experienced: being laid up for a couple of days with a cold or flu, missing school, and languishing on the couch or bed with a thermometer in your mouth, a glass of ginger ale at your side, and a box of tissues nearby, as you contemplate your own land of counterpane? 

As it turns out, there are more such titles than I would have guessed; I’ve provided a partial list at the end of this post. But first, a couple of my favorite picture books about illness:

Chicken Soup by Heart, by Esther Hershenhorn, ill. by Roseanne Litzinger . Rudie Dinkins’s sitter, Mrs. Gittel, always knows just how to take care of him when he has a “Rudie Dinkins chest cold.” But now Mrs. Gittel has the flu herself. With his mom’s help. Rudie fixes up a batch of special chicken soup, mixed in with stories and memories.

This is one of those rare and special books that you have to read aloud to truly appreciate. When I skimmed through this book silently, I liked the illustrations but the text didn’t jump out at me. But when I read it to a class, the words sang, and I understood why it won the Sydney Taylor Book Award in 2003. A warm and sweet treat. 

Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. In this third volume of the popular Miss Bindergarten series, the eponymous kindergarten teacher calls in sick with the flu. As her class (of 26 different animals, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet) adjusts to life with Mr. Tusky, the substitute teacher, the flu symptoms ripple through the student body: one by one, Adam the alligator, Brenda the beaver, and the others succumb and have to stay home, themselves. By the end of the book, Miss Bindergarten is ready to return to kindergarten, but…oh, poor Mr. Tusky.   

Everyone who’s been at school knows this common winter phenomenon, the rolling infectious illness that hits one kid (and teacher) after another, but this is the first book I’ve found to depict it so colorfully.

Here are some more picture book titles about colds, flu, chicken pox, and other minor afflictions of the season:  

Bateman, Teresa; ill. by Nadine Bernard. Farm Flu
Brown, Marc. Arthur’s Chicken Pox.
Calmenson, Stephanie. Get Well, Gators.
Hest, Amy; ill, by Anita Jeram. Don't you feel well, Sam?
Ehrlich, H. M. ; ill. by Laura Rader. Dr. Duck
Gray, Kes; ill. by Mary McQuillan. The get well soon book : good wishes for bad times
Thomas, Shelley Moore; ill. by Jennifer Plecas. Get Well, Good Knight
Hest, Amy; ill. by Jill Barton. Guess Who, Baby Duck!
Yolen, Jane; ill. by Mark Teague. How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?
Neitzel, Shirley; ill. by Nancy Winslow Parker. I'm not feeling well today
Hurd, Edith Thacher; ill. by Clement Hurd. Johnny Lion's bad day
Edwards, Pamela Duncan; ill. by Elicia Castaldi. Miss Polly has a Dolly
Murphy, Jill . Mr Large in charge
Rylant, Cynthia; ill. by Arthur Howard. Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold
McPhail, David. Rick is Sick
MacLachlan, Patricia; ill. by Jane Dyer. The Sick Day
Weninger, Brigitte; ill. by Marianne Martins. Stay in Bed, Davy
Kopelke, Lisa . Tissue, Please!

Wells, Rosemary; interior ill. by Jody Wheeler. The Germ Busters
Wilson, Karma; ill, by Jane Chapman. Bear Feels Sick


Enjoy, and good health to all in 2008! 


January 9, 2008

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Oooh! I've got to try those!

Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfield) has a couple of wonderful chapters about being too ill to do go to school ("I'b god a code in by dose") and her Skating Shoes actually starts after one of the main characters has just gotten over a long illness and her legs feel like cotton wool.

Ogden Nash and A.A. Milne both have excellent sick day poems.

And doesn't The Big Bazooley have the main character filling in for someone with a bad cold?

Thanks, Liz! I'd forgotten about the Milne sick day poem and might not even know the Ogden Nash, though "Isobel Isobel" has a great stanza about a doctor.

I must look up The Big Bazooley right away!

And I do so love Ballet Shoes.

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