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Thumbs Up Johnnie, Siteman Help Kids Understand Cancer

Jason Merrill

Author’s Latest Is Cancer Education Book for Children

Author Michelle Bain, Thumbs Up Johnie and Teresa DeShields, PhD, manager of psycho-oncology services for the Siteman Cancer Center.

June 4, 2008 – For many parents, Thumbs Up Johnnie has helped their kids learn how to be a good friend and work well with others. Now, the children’s book character is helping them understand a tougher subject: cancer.

In partnership with the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, local author Michelle Bain’s latest Thumbs Up Johnnie book, titled Heart Full of Hope and a Box Full of Wishes, is aimed at a young audience that doesn’t always understand when a parent, friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer.

"Cancer in a family presents complicated issues," says Teresa Deshields, PhD, manager of psycho-oncology services at Siteman. “And there are few books or media out there to help children in the 5- to 12-year-old age group understand the disease.”

To help fill the void, Bain, creator of the Thumbs Up Johnnie children’s book series, was approached by Mueriel Carp, director of community relations and special programs at Siteman. In partnership with Cardinals Care, the St. Louis Cardinals community foundation, Bain created the new book.

The book centers around three characters diagnosed with cancer, one of whom dies. “We talked with Michelle about addressing this issue in a way that children could understand and that could open a line of communication with them about something happening personally,” Carp says.

“This is a great collaboration because so much good can come from this book,” Bain says. “We’re very proud of it.”

Copies of the book can be purchased at Siteman’s Barnard Health and Cancer Information Center, 4921 Parkview Place, in St. Louis. The cost is $5.25. Free copies are available to Siteman patients and former patients. For more information, call 314-362-7844 or e-mail