It may seem odd to begin a book review by saying that I hope you never have reason to read this book.
Childhood Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common birth abnormality affecting one in every one hundred babies. In Australia, approximately thirty-two thousand children under the age of eighteen are living with CHD and approximately half of the children diagnosed with heart disease require surgery to correct the defect. CHD refers to a number of heart conditions ranging from babies born with a ‘hole in their heart’ to those children who may acquire heart conditions such as Rheumatic Fever and Kawasaki’s Disease. This gentle story is about a brave little lion with heart disease.
Patch the Brave Heart Lion by Natalie Halls-Jones and illustrated by Karen Horsell is the story of Patch, a lion who thinks he doesn’t quite measure up to his father, uncle, siblings and cousins – they can run, hunt and leap while poor Patch is exhausted at the very thought. But Patch’s family think differently. They think Patch is brave, strong and fearless and soon Patch also understands his ‘superhero’ qualities.
Using the character of Patch, this gentle book takes children through the journey of going to hospital and experiencing surgery. Whilst it was written for children with CHD, it’s equally applicable to any child that has to endure ongoing surgeries and hospital stays. The story also highlights the issues associated with feeling different.
The watercolour illustrations are magnificent, particularly the ‘daddy lion’ roaring, but the focus is on Patch with his ‘zipper’ (the scar on his chest) and his various patches. The story is suitable for children as young as two years old.
HeartKids Australia is an organisation that improves awareness and understanding of CHD and also provides support for children and families with CHD. Patch the Brave Heart Lion is $15 and available from Patch the Heart Lion. Ten percent of all sales are donated to HeartKids Australia.