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The family resource centre at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre has many books to help families discuss different health topics.
September 6, 2022

Books to help parents and kids discuss tough health topics

Some conditions and diseases can be hard for children to understand. Our teams at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) have put together a list of books to make talking about certain health topics a little easier. You can find some of these books and many others at the Family Resource Centre at MCH’s Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre.

jackHi My Name is Jack
by Christina Beall-Sullivan

Recommended by the child life team

This book focuses on siblings of children who have a chronic illness and the range of emotions they feel when their brother or sister is sick.



Franklin Goes to the Hospital 
by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark

Recommended by the child life team

This book tells the story of when Franklin breaks his shell and has to go to the hospital. It is a good resource as it covers many of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences kids have when they come for surgery.



Coco and Goofy’s Goofy Day
by Disney and Lilly Diabetes

Recommended by the child life team

This book shows Coco, who has type 1 diabetes, going to a birthday party and still having a slice of cake like everyone else. It normalizes the diagnosis of diabetes and is an easy read for children.



Me and My Marrow: a kid’s guide to bone marrow transplants
by Karen Crowe

Recommended by the child life team

This book explains bone marrow transplants to children who will be receiving one. A child learns what a transplant is, how it is done, what treatment feels like and ways to cope during difficult times.



Chemo to the Rescue!
by Mary Brent and Caitlin Knutsson

Recommended by the child life team

This book talks about the diagnosis of leukemia and explains blood cells, hair loss, chemotherapy and having blood tests.



There’s So Much More to Wear Than Hair
by Sarah Kravchuk

Recommended by the child life team

This book uses kid-friendly humour and positivity to approach the difficult topic of hair loss.



by Robert Munsch

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

This book is great for children who have a disability and require the use of a wheelchair. It’s empowering and makes the idea of using a wheelchair fun.


smart2Smart but Scattered
by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

This book helps parents understand how to help their child who is having issues with everyday fundamental tasks such as staying focused and organized, following instructions and controlling emotions.


brainWhat to do When Your Brain Gets Stuck
by Dawn Huebner

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

This book is a guide to overcoming OCD for kids. It provides strategies for kids and parents to deal with obsessive-compulsive behaviours.


How I Learn: A Kid’s Guide to Learning Disability
by Brenda Miles

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

Ths book introduces the concept of a learning disability in concrete terms for kids to understand. With a positive and supportive approach, it reassures readers that they are capable.


Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
by Melanie Walsh

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

This book help kids see the world through the eyes of a child with the high-cognitive type of autism spectrum disorder commonly known as Asperger syndrome.


Luna’s Red Hat
by Emmi Smid

Recommended by the Family Resource Centre

This illustrated storybook is for children age 6+ who have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide. It helps them understand and cope with their feelings.



Lifetimes: the beautiful way to explain death to children
by Brian Mellonie

Recommended by the quality of life and advanced care team 

This book is written at a level that children can understand – birds, bees, squirrels, trees – each has its own lifespan, but none is more or less alive, nor more or less important than another. It reinforces the critical message that length of life does not determine value of life.



How I Feel: a colouring book for grieving children
by Alan Wolfelt

Recommended by Heidi Tigchelaar, social worker, women’s reproductive health & newborn care

This colouring book for young children explores the feelings grieving children tend to experience. The simple text that accompanies the drawings provides children words to express their feelings.


baby2We Were Gonna Have a Baby but We Had an Angel Instead
by Pat Schwiebert

Recommended by Heidi Tigchelaar, social worker, women’s reproductive health & newborn care

This book is told from a young child’s perspective and can help children process their grief over the loss of a young sibling.


Books for teens

teenThe Mindful Teen
by Dzung X. Vo

Recommended by the adolescent medicine team

This book speaks directly to teens about how to understand the stress in their lives and provides them with the tools to develop resiliency.


Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder
by James Lock and Daniel Le Grange

Recommended by the eating disorders program

This book is a resource for parents that offers support and advice on how to play an active role in your teen’s recovery.  Having your teen also read this book will help them understand the importance of working together as a family through the treatment process.


Books about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

As an organization that values equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we’ve added a section of books to help parents and caregivers talk about related topics with children and youth. Systemic racism, inequity, and discrimination can affect children and youth in many ways and settings, including school and health care settings, and can have a significant impact on their health. Engaging them in meaningful ways through reading and having age-appropriate conversations about EDI-related topics is one step towards improving health outcomes.

These books have been recommended by Dr. Natasha Johnson, adolescent medicine specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital, who has an EDI leadership role with the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster University.

Phyllis’ Orange Shirt
by Phyllis Webstad

This is the story behind Orange Shirt Day – a day to reflect upon the treatment of First Nations people and the message that Every Child Matters – which has been adapted for children.


Eyes That Kiss in the Corner
by Joanna Ho

This book empowers kids to recognize their own unique beauty and to follow a path of self-acceptance.



The Proudest Blue
by Ibtihaj Muhammad

This book provides an uplifting, universal story of new experiences and the unbreakable bond between siblings, while encouraging kids to be proud of who they are.


by Lupita Nyong’o

This book has a heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.



We Move Together
by Kelly Fritsch

This book follows a mixed-ability group of kids as they navigate everyday barriers and discover the disability community.


Books for teens

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
By Anne Frank

This book is a reflection of personal experiences of a Jewish girl and her family in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.



How to be a (Young) Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone

Adapted by the adult version, this book provides a guide for teens on a way forward in acknowledging, identifying, and dismantling racism and injustice.


White Fragility
by Robin DiAngelo

This book explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.