“When Maggie wakes up with big plans for an adventure to the hospital garden, it’s raining. But there’s no stopping Maggie…”
The story centres around Maggie and Sol, two children on a hospital ward with chronic conditions which limit their mobility (Sol is bedridden and Maggie walks with a frame; Maggie uses an oxygen mask when sleeping and Sol is shown wearing a nasal cannula). However, there is no mention of their illnesses in the words of the story, which focuses instead on their determination to have fun and play together. Maggie and Sol retreat into their imaginations to go way beyond their physical limitations: Maggie dreams of going to the moon with Sol in a flying machine; when rain prevents them from going outside into the hospital garden, Maggie imagines them being carried high into the sky by the birds that Sol loves so much.
The story emphasises the importance of families and friends to the children. They are visited by Herb, a hospital worker who sings special songs to them and brightens their day. Maggie sheds tears when her dad has to go home, but her brother is there to cheer her up with a silly story.
When the sun finally makes an appearance, Sol and Maggie are able to venture out to the garden with their families (there is a double page spread showing their journey through the hospital, the ‘unstoppable’ Maggie negotiating the corridors with her walking frame and Sol following along behind in his hospital bed). Maggie places a bowl of water in Sol’s hands and, after waiting patiently, a bird flies down and bathes in the bowl. Sol is unable to speak but his pleasure is very clear to Maggie: he makes a sound that she knows ‘means love and family and everything that is good’.
This book is special and important for so many reasons. It reflects the strength and resilience of children in hospital in a way that looks beyond their disabilities. Dave Gray’s illustrations are both beautiful and thoughtful, cleverly blending the everyday world of the hospital with the limitless realm of the children’s imagination and sense of adventure. I can imagine that creating a book that gives a true voice to these children was no mean feat for Juliet Clare Bell, but it is a challenge she has met admirably. An emotional and heart-warming read.
100% of the proceeds of this book are donated to Birmingham Children’s Hospital