This is a special post today and it feels fitting that it falls on Valentine’s Day. It combines a very rare chronic illness alongside a review for a book that I hope you will agree is a labour of love.
Have you heard of Ohtahara Syndrome? No, me neither. It is a very rare form of epilepsy and seizures usually start before the age of 3 months, often in the first days after birth. In fact after birth and the first signs of seizures, some mothers realise that their baby has been having seizures whilst still in the uterus. This form of epilepsy does not respond well to traditionally used seizure medications and treatment is very difficult. Many babies will be floppy, have difficulty feeding and suffer repeated daily seizures. The prognosis is poor. (Epilepsy.org.uk)
Leo White is a little boy who has Ohtahara syndrome and suffers many seizures daily that are as yet uncontrolled. When I was asked to review this book that his mother has written for him, I was delighted to be able to.
Many thanks to Leo and his family, the publishers and Love Books Group Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a special book.
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Leo and the Lightning Dragons
Leo is a knight, probably the bravest knight, and he fights dragons. But the dragons that Leo fights are not normal everyday dragons, they are huge, lightning dragons inside his head. Everyone around Leo tries to help, but they can’t tell when the dragons might strike or for how long. The people of the kingdom and Leo’s parents all think this is so unfair and they try all sorts of special actions to help destroy the dragons, but Leo doesn’t seem to be strong enough to shake them off. But one day Leo becomes very angry and decides to fight as hard as he can, making him the bravest knight in the land.
This is a wonderful children’s book written with love and personal experience, and is beautifully illustrated by Gilli B. I am an adult who is able to understand the analogies cleverly used by Leo’s mother to describe the seizures that her little boy fights on a daily basis. The lightning dragons inside his head depict so well epileptic seizures, and I can feel the frustration that the potions from witches, the music from minstrels and the special food from the wizard can do nothing to help – so often medics are unable to find suitable treatments for chronic illnesses whether this be medication, complimentary therapies or special diets.
But what of the child reading this book? It is perfect to become a favourite bedtime story for the early years, with its pictures of knights, dragons, witches, wizards, kings and queens.
But it is also perfect for an adult to introduce to a healthy child the idea that some people have different battles and these are against things inside their own bodies. This need not be done in a scary way and indeed it isn’t in the book, as Leo the knight shows just how someone can battle with their own demons….or dragons in this case.
Leo’s mum also suggests ways at the end of the book to make this a “sensory” story and really bring to life the battles – wonderful and inclusive for all young children, including those with additional needs. What child wouldn’t love using foil to make crackling, lightning sounds, slime to be witches potion or blowing bubbles from the cauldron? And we are told not to forget the cuddles! Find more ideas on the website.
The royalties for the book are being donated to the Childrens Hospices Across Scotland, who continue to support Leo and his family and many others like them.
Leo’s mum says “Every day, my husband and I are amazed by Leo’s sheer determination and refusal to give up and we could not be more proud of our boy, the bravest knight we’ve ever seen.”
This is a lovely book that brought tears to my eyes, but will bring hours of fun to so many children. On Valentine’s Day what could be better than this beautiful love letter from parents to their brave little boy – a true knight!
5 Stars for both the story and the illustrations
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About the Book and Author
“Gill wrote the story before Leo’s first birthday. It was a difficult time and Leo was having huge numbers of seizures every day. Feeling that Leo deserved a happier story, one in which his strength and bravery was rewarded, Gill wrote one for him.
She approached Gilli B, a Fife based artist, after seeing her artwork online and loving her whimsical and quirky style. Although she was only originally commissioned to do a few illustrations, she actually loved the story so much she asked to illustrate the whole thing and Leo got his own ’book’ for his birthday!
The following year, Gill had packed his book for a visit to the CHAS Hospice Rachel House and came back one day to find that the nursing staff had read it and written the most amazing comments inside.
Bolstered by their enthusiasm, Gill approached Edinburgh author Peter Burnett for some advice on how to get the book published. He took the book to Clare Cain at Fledgling Press, who fortunately loved the book. Fledgling Press do not normally publish children’s books but made an exception in this case, to help raise awareness of Ohtahara Syndrome and CHAS – Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.”
Taken from the website