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Nana Needs a Nap: A Children's Book About Post Polio Syndrome

When Grandparents Can't Be Active

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Grandchildren whose grandparents have disabilities will profit from reading Nana Needs a Nap.

Grandchildren whose grandparents have disabilities will profit from reading this innovative book.

Photo © Beryl K. Baker
I'm always thrilled to see grandparents walking, biking, skiing and sharing other active pursuits with their grandchildren, but that sight can be painful to grandparents with disabilities that limit their mobility. One such grandparent, Beryl K. Baker, has turned her trials with post polio syndrome into a children's book that is interesting and informative for adults and children alike.

What Happened to Nana

The first five pages of the book are devoted to Nana's early life, describing how she became ill on a vacation with her mommy and daddy and was diagnosed with polio. Eventually she got better and "learned to stand on her wobbly legs." After her illness, she was sometimes teased for her lack of strength, but she went on to marry and have children and even grandchildren before she began to suffer from post polio syndrome (PPS).

PPS is one of the terribly sad aspects of the disease of polio: After one has supposedly recovered, the nerve cells, which have been compensating for the damage, sometimes become overburdened and fail, resulting in PPS. Although most people with polio do not develop PPS, it is a life-altering event for those whom it strikes.

Teaching About Post Polio Syndrome

Baker's book is told from the point of view of a grandchild explaining about Nana's disability. The child's voice is believable, but a great deal of information about PPS is nevertheless delivered:

  • Sometimes Nana runs out of energy.
  • When she "hits the wall," she has to stay in bed for days and days.
  • Sometimes she takes lots of baths to ease her burning muscles.
  • She has to think really hard about just walking.
  • Sometimes she gets a "Charlie horse."
  • Sometimes she falls down.
  • She's always cold.
  • Sometimes she has trouble breathing and swallowing.
  • She often mixes up words.
  • And sometimes the grandkids have to tell her, "Nana, you need a nap."

Nana also has to rest before and after family occasions like weddings and birthdays. Lots of grandparents may need this type of regimen before and after special occasions, but Nana has to spend days resting both before and after.

Rating the Book

No matter how educational a children's book is, it still has to be engaging enough to hold a child's interest. Nana Needs a Nap achieves that goal through a light-hearted tone and some wonderfully whimsical illustrations executed by Chris Barry. In the illustrations, Nana is a young, hip, jeans-wearing grandmother, making the point that not all physical disabilities are associated with advanced age and visible handicaps. The design by Terry Bodnar is clean yet lively. Perhaps most importantly, the book shows Nana having fun with her grandchildren in spite of her difficulties. It clearly makes the point that a grandparent with disabilities is still a grandparent.

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