Children's Books About Cancer and Other Illnesses
Ffi Jones (left) and Kerry Foster-Mitchell (right)
Founded by Kerry Hyde and Ffi Jones, "Nurse Ted" is a series of picture books
that have been designed in response to a lack of information for children
whose parents are affected by a serious illness such as a brain tumour.
Dr Ffi Jones is a children's author and illustrator (who also works in the
Fountain Centre, Royal Surrey County Hospital) and Kerry Hyde is
Community Palliative Nurse Specialist at Princess Alice Hospice.
Kerry says: Hi. I'm Kerry and I grew up in "the good life" of Surbiton and have never left. I have two beautiful children who are twins and they keep me busy and on my toes. I come from a large family and I am one of three daughters. My parents always called me Ted as a child as I was very cuddly and could sleep anywhere. Not much has changed!
I trained as a nurse after a loved one was diagnosed with a brain tumour and I specialised in cancer, looking after brain tumour patients undergoing cancer treatments. One of the biggest worries for our patients was explaining the diagnoses and treatments to their children and grandchildren. Having gone through this myself and having young children too, I could empathise completely and I wanted to provide a picture book for the children to help support their understanding. I was lucky to find Ffion and was so pleased that she wanted to join me in this project; not only is she very talented but she is fun to work with and has a heart of gold.
I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to create such a valuable resource for children. It has been a very rewarding journey so far and I am looking forward to producing more books in the Nurse Ted series.
Ffi says: I was delighted when I was asked by Kerry to be involved in such a worthwhile project. Kerry is such an amazing, inspirational person that I wanted to create a character based on her - someone kind, empathetic, and reassuring. Once I'd created Nurse Ted I was so surprised when Kerry told me her childhood nickname: she is Nurse Ted personified!
My aim in telling the story through the Nurse Ted character was to make children feel at ease so that a difficult subject could be approached in a truthful yet reassuring way. When writing the story, I used easy-to-understand, age-appropriate language and I also think that the visual language of picture books is a great tool to approach difficult subjects rather than presenting information in a text heavy way.
One of the unique features of the book is the combination of images from the Royal Surrey County Hospital with pencil illustrations of fictional characters which allows young readers to become familiar with features of a real hospital. My previous picture books have merged real and non-real worlds by using photographic elements but this hybrid genre works particularly well for the Nurse Ted books which deal with issues that are very real for some families. Shortly after writing the second book of the series, my father was unexpectedly diagnosed with throat cancer and I found myself having to use the book to explain the diagnoses to my own children. Sometimes, your first instinct is to shield children from the reality but keeping them informed in a way that is appropriate for their age helps to make the situation less frightening. Having had many family members and friends affected by cancer, I realise how daunting it is for people to explain their diagnoses and so, I am extremely grateful to be producing the Nurse Ted books to help this process in some way.