Justin Cooper sounds like a pretty cool kid. In the book Power Forward by Tracey West (published by the same Disney/Lilly collaboration that produces this website), Justin is a 7th grader and a basketball star that just happens to have type 1 diabetes. This book is about his struggle to learn about and accept the new reality of life as an athlete (and a kid) with a disease he doesn't really know how to handle or how his friends will react to.
When I first saw this book, two things stood out to me. Obviously, I was excited to see a boy protagonist in a book about a kid with type 1. It makes sense to have some good literature out there as the number of children diagnosed with diabetes is on the rise! The other thing I noted immediately was the name of the author. As big-time Pokemon™ and Star Wars™ fans, James and I are not unfamiliar with Tracey West's body of work. We knew that the narrative should be interesting and well written.
Well, we were right about that! It was a quick read and flowed well. James read it in an afternoon, actually before I had a chance to peruse it. When I asked him what he thought, he said simply, "I thought it was cool." Believe it or not, this is actually a glowing recommendation from James. I think he gave me the same response for the second Harry Potter™ book!
There are a couple of things I really like about this book. First, the diabetes information is spot-on. It gives good, updated but mostly generalized information about how kids and their families handle and treat diabetes. As I read through it I remember nodding my head quite a bit.
Second, I really, really like how diabetes is constantly present. He goes to get something from the fridge and has to test. He does a harder workout than usual, and he starts feeling low. I feel like in most media portrayals of diabetes, symptoms and routines seem to conveniently appear and disappear as the story requires. But here, Tracey West never forgets that her main character has diabetes and that testing, insulin administration and precautions for exercise cannot be set aside to move the plot!
While the character in the book is quite a bit older than James, it also benefitted me to observe what an older boy will be doing in just a few short years. Justin enjoys his training in the book as he learns about carb counting and meal planning and how to deal with exercise. I think James would enjoy some of that stuff too. It was a bit of a wakeup call for me to reevaluate what kinds of tasks James is capable of taking on himself.
In all, we're happy to have Power Forward in our personal library. While James enjoyed the book now, I expect that as he gets older and more involved in his sports teams, he will appreciate having the older-kid perspective. I think this book could also be great for kids that do not have diabetes but would like to learn a little bit more. Because it's a story framed around basketball I think the appeal could be pretty universal. Awesome job again, Tracey!
Editor's note: If you'd like a free copy, just ask your pediatric endocrinology healthcare provider.
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.
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