Do you know anyone with Parkinson's?
I didn't until I was told I had it. Telling friends and family is a shocker. The images of Mohammed Ali at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony shocked and frightened me. I was determined to fight this disease and not to let it get me any time soon.
Why write books about it?
Telling young children isn't easy either but ignoring it wasn't an option for me. Friends had told me how difficult it was for them to broach the subject with their grandchildren. The words are meaningless, the tone unfamiliar and frightening, as the adult faces the young child to tell them all about it.
So I've written 5 little story books about Jake and his granny. Stories tackle difficult subjects from an oblique angle. The child is disarmed, charmed by the characters and carried along by the stories, and the pictures. Granny's Parkinson's is in the background but not in the way. Jake notices and accepts it and they get on with doing things together, regardless. By the final book, Jake is a little older and is wanting some answers - not just "Does It Hurt, Granny?" but "Will it get worse?", "Will I get it?", "Why do you have some good days and some bad days?" "Can I talk about it to my friends?"
I think that too often we ignore a child's need to know about illness and disability because we don't know what to say or how to say it. These little books open up a dialogue. Gradually, through the course of the 5 books, where Granny is sometimes feisty and funny, and sometimes slow and impatient with herself, we can share Jake's anxiety and feel for him and for Granny. At last, in the final book, they CAN talk about it without fear or shame. And the young reader and his/her adult shares the relief.
Who are the books for?
These books were originally written to help families recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease or where the symptoms are still quite minor, though adult readers will decide for themselves whether the text is appropriate for their situation or not. The children I have in mind are not fluent readers so will have a grown-up reader holding them close, to give them the comfort and security they need as they gently explore this sensitive area.
I also believe that all young children, affected by Parkinson's or not, will enjoy these stories, love the detailed and funny illustrations, and grow to love Jake and his granny, too. Parkinson's disease, along with other age-related, degenerative conditions, will become more common as our population ages. This frightens us more than it should. Our children and grandchildren can learn not to be frightened. They just need a little bit of help.
The illustrations and page layout
Phil Goss, a recent graduate from London's RCA, Sophia Duffy, a graphic designer and I put together the first book of the 5, "Does it hurt, Granny?" It is available from my website www.dawnmay.com. The text is simple and direct, the illustrations are fresh and energetic, and the layout is attractive and will appeal both to the child and to the adult who will be reading the book with him/her.
In the second book, "I'll do it, Granny", Jake gets to help out in the house and garden, in the unique way a young child helps. This book is lighter and the reader will be able to share the joke with the young child as they talk through what is going on in the pictures.
I am self-publishing this second book, so as to minimise production costs and therefore maximise profits for Parkinson's charities. All profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the disease and to fund the hub of services needed by PeopleWithParkinson's. These will all be under one roof in the newly built hospital in Southmead, Bristol where I live, with Jake and Granny. I hope to market and distribute the books through schools, nurseries, libraries and health professionals. Locally, I appeared on BBC Points West during Parkinson's Awareness Week, the book has been mentioned in the Parkinson's UK South West newsletter and in Bishopston Matters, and nationally, my guest blog appeared on Gransnet and the Daily Mail have a feature on the project due to appear in the next week or so. The photos have been taken and the interview is in preparation. The first book, "Does it hurt, Granny?" is available through my website, www.dawnmay.com and you will be the first to receive a copy of this second book in the series, "I'll do it, Granny", when you sign up for your rewards.
Costs of illustration
As this is a book intended for young children, the quality of the illustration is key. The money we raise through this campaign, will pay for the cost of illustration, as well as the cost of printing and distribution.
Where any extra money will go
100% of the profits from the sale of these books will go to Parkinson's UK, to fund research into a cure for this disease.
Anything raised over and above the minimum £3,000 will cover the cost of promotion and the setting up costs of the other 4 books.
And your rewards will cost us a little bit, too.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far.
If you aren't able to sponsor me for this project, would you be willing to share the details of it with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites? If you would, click on the "I want to help" button. Thank you.
Campaign hashtag #illdoitgranny
I am very grateful to you for joining this campaign. It is something I feel very strongly about. If you are able to sponsor me, thank you and I hope you like the rewards.
We have been very ambitious at the higher tiers of sponsorship. Phil has generously offered framed prints of his original illustrations as rewards, and you can pre-order the next 4 books in hardback for yourselves or for your institution. Framed prints of the illustrations from this second book, signed and dedicated to you will look great on your hospital, health centre, school, nursery or bank walls. And when Phil is famous ....