Brendan McEachern in Ohio has done something new in the realm of diabetes parents authoring books about the illness: he's written from the perspective of an 11-year-old living with T1D.
The resulting book, Bolus Blues, published earlier this year, is a light-hearted 155-pager narrated by Zander Burke, a fictional middle-schooler supposedly diagnosed a few years back -- on Christmas morning, in fact. His parents are divorced, and his mom works two jobs to make ends meet while attending nursing school part-time. His dad left home two years prior to pursue his acting dream in LA. That sets the stage for Zander to take jobs (lying about his age!) in a comic book store and then an ice cream shop in their hometown of Salem, MA.
For author and D-Dad Brendan McEachern in Ohio, writing this tale was right in his wheelhouse, being a sixth-grade middle-school teacher and comic book lover himself. His 9-year-old son Owen was diagnosed with T1D in 2013 -- on Dec. 9, as it turns out, so today is his diaversary! McEachern says his late father-in-law also had T1D since childhood, as well as his brother-in-law.
When Owen was diagnosed, the McEachern family struggled to find relatable T1D book characters, since he was too old for picture books and the character Stacey from The Babysitter's Club series was't connecting well with him. So McEachern says he set out to change that.
"I took my son's diagnosis, his lack of resources, and year after year of middle-schoolers being misinformed about diabetes and turned it all into a book," he tells us. "I heard the joke, 'Don't eat that donut, you'll get diabetes,' far too often from middle-schoolers and this book hopes to educationally entertain anyone grades 4 and up."
Earlier this year, he even presented Bolus Blues in front of his entire middle school and did a finger-stick demonstration, and even had a young student act out a scene from the book. It's certainly raising awareness on a few fronts!
About the "Bolus Blues" story
Diabetes is weaved throughout the entire book, from the very first page when Zander is in the school nurse's office drinking orange juice because of a post-recess Low. I found myself shaking my head when reading about his classmates and even misinformed adults not helping out young Zander when he'd experienced a scary low blood sugar episode. But I also couldn't help smiling in several parts, such as when Zander heads inside an ice cream shop to order a scoop, checks his glucose, and meets another T1D-peep in the wild (spoiler: the ice cream shop guy is sporting an insulin pump). They shared a "fist bump to diabetes," and I couldn't help but cheer out loud.
Of course, you'll find a number of middle school-style adventures and pre-teen antics going on, as Zander navigates some interesting situations on his own and with his best buddy, Squirrel. Zander even ends up in a jail cell at one point, feeling like a "juvenile delinquent" and his mom has to come fetch him. And being based in Salem (where the infamous witch trials occurred in the 1600s), you also have some witch-specific references as well as zombies that are part of the storyline.
Being a fictional story from a middle school kid's POV, you'll also find some exaggerations in the story. For example, it was fun to read about the multi-sensory VR gloves that cost $15,000 each used by one of the characters to scan Zander's glucose levels -- which clock in at 350 mg/dL, and then he's told to get an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Cool stuff, even if a bit of a stretch!
As the book comes to a close, the plot comes full circle and gives us a "bolus" of diabetes satisfaction with Zander indeed getting a new insulin pump along with his CGM, showing that D-tech off to the kids at school, and leaving us with the feeling that he's now prepared for whatever obstacles might come next.
What a great message to share. Actually, there are several other empowering life lessons weaved in as well (some diabetes-related, some not so much). Bolus Blues is certainly worth a read on the merits of those messages alone, not to mention the story and diabetes family behind the book's creation.
The real diabetes family behind the book
Author McEachern says that he and his wife have been involved with the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and Barton Center for Diabetes, as well as the JDRF chapters in various cities they've lived. His wife has also set up a scholarship in the name of her late father, Dr. Thomas N. Pesola, who'd been diagnosed as a high school sophomore on April Fool's Day 1965.
A longtime dentist in the Boston area referred to as "Poppy" by his grandchildren, he passed away in 2009 from sudden cardiac arrest at age 59. The scholarship's aim is "to honor Dr. Pesola's ability to overcome adversity and his appreciation for education." The family history on Tom Pesola is pretty spectacular in itself, with quite a bit of historic diabetes life weaved into it, so that's worth checking out!
All of that plays into the Bolus Blues book, as the family is donating portions of the proceeds to that scholarship, as well as the JDRF and other T1D charities.
McEachern also says he has plans to pen a second book that will "take place in the same oceanside town with familiar settings, but I want to tackle the topics of hoarding and collecting with middle-schoolers." He's been researching for a year now and that will be thrust of the next book.
You can find Bolus Blues on Amazon for $10 in paperback form, but before you go buy a copy, here's your chance to win a free copy for yourself, or as a holiday gift for someone special...
A DMBooks Giveaway (contest is now closed)
Interested in winning a free copy of Brendan McEachern's "Bolus Blues" book? We're thrilled that the author has agreed to help us give away THREE free signed copies! Here's how to enter:
1. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with "DM-BolusBlues" somewhere in the subject line to let us know you're hoping to win. Or you can ping us on Twitter or our Facebook page using the same codeword. For shipping purposes, we must limit the giveaway to those with mailing addresses within the United States.
2. You have until Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, at 5pm PST to enter.
3. The winners will be chosen using Random.org.
4. Winners will be announced on Monday, Dec. 16, via social media, so please be sure to keep tabs on your email and/or Facebook/Twitter messenger box, as that's how we contact our winners. (If winners don't respond within a week, we select an alternate.)
We'll update this post to let you all know who the lucky winners are.
Best of luck to all you book lovers out there!
This contest is now closed. Congrats to the 3 winners: Lisa Laissle, Danielle Mayes, and Chris S.