When I heard about A Measly Virus, by Emma Vincent, a book that had been written to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated against the measles virus, and to persuade reluctant children, I immediately offered to read and review it, because I believe it is a very important message that will help reduce health risks to the very young, the very old and the immune-deficient.
Just the Right Balance
The result: a cute, short, colourful book that gets the balance just right between a playful set up of measles virus as villain versus vaccinated child as vanquishing superhero, via a rhyming text and colourful illustrations, pleasingly laid out. I’m not wild about the black (Comic Sans?) typeface, which looks a bit grim alongside the pictures, but the colour palette of the images are a good combination of mouldy green for the virus (yuk!) and slightly retro, 60s style shades for the rest. The children are sweet, and even the virus looks quite cute until the text reveals the extent of his potential evil – and this is clever and appropriate, because plenty of parents don’t realise that measles can be a fatal illness.
The story itself conveys the message very effectively, but for any parent who is still not convinced, there is a final whole page of text at the end targeted at adults, in memory of a tiny baby, Riley, who died at the age of four weeks, too young to be vaccinated himself, because of a lack of “herd immunity” i.e. the drop-off vaccination rate in recent years amongst society as a whole (not least because of a high-profile report that was later proven to be completely unfounded, but only after it had deterred many people from getting the jab).
The rhythm of the text is occasionally a little laboured, and I’m not sure the children in the vaccine age group would necessarily understand all the words of phrases (e.g. “He’s a menace that hides in plain sight”), but I don’t think that matters – the main battle is surely to convey the message to the parents, in any case, as kids aren’t going to run along to their doctor to get vaccinated without their parents’ involvement.
I found this a very touching and heartfelt tribute, and I wish the author, illustrator and publisher every success with it. It would be great to have a copy of this book available in every doctor’s waiting room for parents and children to see, and I’ll be taking my free review copy to my local surgery in the hope that its good work can continue there.
It’s also a nice touch that a share of the profits from this book will be donated to a fund in memory of young Riley at the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
PS to the Pharmaceutical Industry…
I wonder whether any measles vaccine manufacturers have seen it yet? Hint to pharma companies: how about sponsoring some special branded editions of this book to distribute to your medical clients? Sounds like a plan…
The Measly Virus is available to order online and from good bookshops, and if you’d like to know more about it, check out the publisher’s website here: