Author: text by Kim Chaloner, illustration by Nick Bertozzi
Publish Date: 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-0-8090-3871-8
guest review and response illustration by Northwestern medical student Beverly Aiyanyor
Diabetes and Me: An Essential Guide for Kids and Parents is a graphic novel written by Kim Chaloner and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi that gives a comprehensive look at Diabetes. It uses very clear and relatable cartoons to relay the information discussed throughout the book. It begins by laying the ground work for the disease and going in-depth with a discussion of the science, the various physiological manifestations of the disease and the diversity of populations of individuals who are afflicted. Being faced with the oftentimes complex terminologies that are associated with a new diagnosis can be a daunting experience, and so the use of cartoon to better explain these processes and tell the overall story was a very much appreciated tool.
Continuing with the idea of increasing health literacy and awareness of the disease, the book then focuses on to the experience of Diabetes for the individual. Here, readers are exposed to resources such as the various members of the medical team that individuals would encounter and their roles in Diabetes management. Readers are then exposed to a great discussion on how to manage Diabetes for themselves. To do this, the book informs readers with information that many diabetics (and non-diabetics) would inquire after. Topics such as insulin, managing hyper/hypoglycemia, nutrition, exercise and the necessary adjustments to meet the needs for a diabetic individual are addressed. It then concludes with a look at the experience of a diabetic and the importance of having a strong team of family and friends as supporters along the way.
The book did an incredible job of balancing the medical and the experiential manifestations of the diseases – it allowed individuals make sense of the physiological processes and treatments while allowing the voice of the experience of being a diabetic emanate from the story. This was one of the things that I really connected with. Unlike many other Diabetes guides and books, here, Chaloner places faces to the disease. You find yourself journeying with Veronica, Marco, Erin, and Dave (characters from the book) as they transform from states of shock, confusion, and frustration to states of acceptance of the disease and determination to better their health and themselves.
The characters of the story are of different ages, ethnicities, family backgrounds and manifestations of the disease (i.e. Type 1 and Type 2). I appreciated this use of diversity because it was a wonderful way to show that diabetes is a disease that can truly affect anyone. I also appreciated that Chaloner immersed herself in the storyline by not only being the narrator but also as a friend to the characters – guiding, teaching and informing them of this new experience. Her story in particular, was very valuable due to her experience as a diabetic patient, which she openly shares throughout the story. While reading I could feel her voice and encouragement come out of the pages of the book.
Reading this graphic novel was particularly special to me for a number of reasons. From the medical student perspective, it gave me great insight into the disease and the care and management that Diabetes requires. As the number of diabetic patients around the nation continues to rise, I will increasingly encounter patients of different ages and backgrounds who have the disease. While reading the book, I was equipped with the knowledge of some of the frustrations, challenges, and barriers that my future patients may face, allowing me to better serve and support my patients. This is valuable insight that is oftentimes not addressed in the classroom. From a more personal side, this guide gave me the opportunity to have a look into the experience of one of my relatives who has the disease. It truly opened my eyes and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to have read the book. I would recommend any and every one to do so!