Hand to Hold was graciously given a copy of Prince Preemie in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the blog author.
Children don’t always understand the complexities of prematurity. Children’s books featuring prematurity and the NICU are a wonderful way for children to begin to grasp the concept without being overwhelmed or intimidated by language and situations usually reserved for adults.
Prince Preemie: The Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Early, is one such book that, coupled with its beautifully soft illustrations, discusses prematurity in a tender manner for children. The King and Queen are expecting their first puppy and are busy preparing for his arrival. They have a fluffy bed, hand-knit booties, and a tiny, fine gold and diamond crown is being forged just for the prince.
But before the crown can be completed, the Queen delivers her puppy, weeks before expected. His crown is not completed, and the King, Queen and the entire Kingdom worry that without his crown, the King and Queen’s son will not truly be their prince.
To children, the story of Prince Preemie is that of a puppy born too soon, who has to stay in the hospital, and who may not fit in without his official crown.
To parents, the book addresses the difficulty of having a child in the NICU – the uncertainty of the unknown, the helplessness of watching your baby in those scary first days of the NICU, and the worry of what difficulties your child will endure in the coming days, weeks, and years.
In reading a children’s book about prematurity, I wasn’t expecting to recognize so much of my own struggle. It’s subtle enough for young children to overlook, but serves as a good conversation starter for parents to explain what it was like for them, when their children are ready for that conversation. One of my 8-year-old twins, a former 31-weeker, has picked up the book every chance she got in the last couple of weeks that it has sat on my coffee table. My girls have heard about their birth story many times, but now we have an avenue for a conversation about the bigger picture of a NICU stay.
The author, the late Jewel Kats, has written over a dozen children’s books featuring main characters with disabilities. Confined mostly to a wheelchair herself after a car accident shattered one of her legs, Kats’s books strive to normalize disabilities and bring disabled characters to the spotlight, instead of having them relegated to supporting characters. Her picture books feature princesses who have cerebral palsy or autism, or who use a wheelchair like herself. After Kats questioned writer and artist Dan Parent about why Archie comic books had no disabled characters in their story lines, Parent created the first recurring Archie comic book heroine to have a disability: Harper Lodge, who Kats helped develop.
Jewel Kats passed away in January 2016 from complications relating to surgery. Her books, however, live on as a voice for the disabled community and an opportunity for disabled children to see themselves as the hero or heroine in a story.
Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Early is available on Amazon. Find out more about Jewel Kats and her books on her website. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the beautiful illustrations in Prince Preemie. Each page is accompanied by a scene composed of soft, felted animals and scenery, by artist Claudia Marie Lenart. Find out more at Claudia Marie Felt.
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