Do you remember Coco? She and her book series were introduced by Lilly Diabetes and Disney at Friends for Life in Orlando last year. Coco has since been received warmly by many and received wonderful reviews.
Yesterday, at the Lilly Diabetes Summit held at their corporate center in Indianapolis, stories about the impact that Coco has had were shared. A young, newly diagnosed girl was able to comfort her worried parents after reading the book and tell them she was going to be okay. Grandparents living with diabetes have used the book to explain what diabetes is to their grandkids. The overwhelming opinion of those at the meeting was that Coco’s story is a wonderful way for kids to feel better about living with diabetes and to help others understand what it means. This picture book really stands out as THE book to get the message across to kids. Not just newly diagnosed kids, but all kids.
In addition to the Coco book, the Lilly Diabetes/Disney collaboration produced the first two books of their tween series. One is titled Power Forward, featuring newly diagnosed Justin, and the other is Up for the Challenge, featuring newly diagnosed Allie. Both have a sports focus which is clear from the picture and the inclusion of “ESPN” on the cover.
Both books are about middle schoolers who are very skilled athletically and play key roles on their sports teams. The main characters are new to diabetes and their biggest difficulty seems to be telling their friends about it. Other issues come up, but the central theme is whether and when they will share the news of their diagnoses.
These books are great for newly diagnosed kids. I don’t know of anything else out there like this available for kids of this age. I think the characters are relatable, the issues are authentic and the message of what it means to be living with diabetes are, for the most part, properly portrayed.
The struggles featured for these characters were more emotional as opposed to physical. For tweens that may indeed be the priority at first. The books are not intended to be a fully inclusive depiction of every issue a newly diagnosed person is presented, nor are they meant to be medical advice. There were times that both characters’ blood sugars went low due to activity – managing sports with diabetes is a focus for both books and hypoglycemia is a real issue we see often when Caleb is active. I found myself anticipating an out-of-range blood sugar at one of the many times the characters responsibly checked their bg. It might be better to say I was actually rooting for an out-of-range blood sugar to see how the story would address it because so many other things were being portrayed well. Those opportunities were few. I worry that a newly diagnosed person would read this and think he/she was doing something wrong if their numbers weren’t as in range as these characters’.
Caleb read Power Forward and Lila, who is 6 and does not have diabetes, read Up for the Challenge. They both enjoyed the books. The stories kept their interest. Lila has been inspired to become a soccer player. Neither of them are the target audience so the impact would be better measured from someone who reads them just after being diagnosed. Nevertheless, the stories do stand alone as just good stories. Lila sought out Up for the Challenge to read a second time just because she liked the theme of friendship.
There was clearly purpose in the writing of these books. At the end of each there are questions to think about, like – did you feel the same way about having to wear a medical alert bracelet? Or – when you went back to school did you feel differently? I think that is a really great tool for parent and tween to start discussions to get feelings out there. I think that’s very valuable right after diagnosis when it can be hard to focus in on all the emotions you are experiencing.
I was happy to hear that these books are not the end – we were presented another tween book, a family cookbook and the promise of another sports oriented book soon on the way. What I saw and heard from the Lilly Diabetes people both last year and this year was a desire to understand what they could do to make things better for people with diabetes on the emotional side. Creating these books, when there is nothing else out there like them, in the authentic way that they have, I think is a great way to do it. I hope they will continue with books focused on some of the other issues our kids deal with through the varied stages of living with diabetes.
I know what you’re going to ask – “Where do I get these books, Lorraine?” Distribution is through endocrinologists’ office. Lilly Diabetes’ hope is that this will provide a link from real-life issues to real-life medical solutions with the proper medical personnel. Please ask your child’s doctor, and if they don’t have them, please have them ask their sales representative.
Lilly Diabetes invited me to attend an event at their corporate center and paid for my airfare, travel, hotel and meals while I was at the event. I was not asked to write about the event and the opinions expressed herein are my own.