Reviewed by Devonna Truong, RPT
Cancer is a challenging conversation for many, so how do we begin to talk about it with young children? Pain, feelings of discomfort and illness are not our preferred topics of conversation with young children, but Amy and Ruby Peasgood create a safe space for young children to be curious, ask questions and gain more of an understanding about our world. Robot Music is an illustrated book for children and their families that have both been diagnosed with and are affected by Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) and other genetic cancer predispositions. LFS is an inherited genetic predisposition to a wide range of cancers and this book offers insight into the basic concepts surrounding the diagnosis of LFS. This book allows young children to discover more about what a day at the hospital can look like and serves as a playful introduction to some of the harder conversations ahead for a child diagnosed with LFS through the exploration of good friends Rosie and James.
In Robot Music, Rosie and James go on a lively adventure together through the hospital where they share and learn about each other’s experiences with cancer and LFS. It highlights real feelings associated with hospital visits, waiting rooms, needles and the big, dreaded, robot-music making MRI machine. They learn about each other’s stories as they camp out in the MRI machine with a full stock of snacks and discover more about LFS as they go digging through the hospital treasure chests.
MRIs are often used as a method to screen children at risk for LFS because they are non-radioactive and non-invasive. As a result, a big part of living with LFS results in regular MRI scans for early detection and more successful treatment. Unfortunately, this means a lot of hospital visits, ultrasounds and blood work as well. The development of scan anxiety is often a common reality in living with LFS, which rings true for Rosie, who often feels the imaginary caterpillars wriggling in her stomach. Robot Music is an outlet of empathy and understanding for children as it is sensitive to the difficult feelings and anxieties that many experience.
The book’s foreword is thoughtfully written by Dr. David Malkin, Oncologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. It powerfully introduces the important themes covered throughout the book and relates the real word importance this book serves to address to adult readers. The book also includes a handy “word list” for the bigger, medical words for both young and older people to reference to enhance their understanding.
The authors, Amy and Ruby Peasgood, both live with LFS. Amy was inspired to create this book when three-year-old Ruby started asking questions about cancer and her frequent hospital visits. In 2014, Amy was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer and tested positive for LFS shortly after. She has also been successfully treated for thyroid, lung and skin cancer. Amy now navigates life with LFS and metastatic breast cancer in the company of her beloved family. Ruby is followed at Sick Kids under the Toronto Protocol.
Robot Music offers an enlightening, yet real story that initiates important and necessary conversations that can truly make a difference for a child and their journey through life with an inherited genetic predisposition to cancer and other inherited illnesses. Amy and Ruby are two strong, inspiring ladies who created this book in hopes to help other children and their families through their own insight and stories.
Robot Music can be purchased on Amazon. All profits are used directly to support LFS research and the LFS community!