Maisy Goes to the Hospital
By Lucy Cousins
excellent = 4 stars;
good = 3 stars;
fair = 2 stars;
poor = 1 star
This colorful, well-written entry in the Maisy series for a very young audience (probably 0-4 years) follows the main character on a stay at the hospital after she hurts her leg. There she meets Doctor Duck, who actually talks and clearly takes the lead in her care, as well as Nurse Comfort, a flamingo, who says nothing and seems to be there mostly to assist and bring the basic comfort her name implies. In fairness, Nurse Comfort does show Maisy how to use her crutches.
The idea of Maisy Goes to the Hospital is to let young readers know that if they have to go to the hospital because of a health problem, they will have professional and personal support there. The book is well-designed, with bold, bright colors and compelling broad-stroke illustrations, and it's well-written in a simple, direct style.
The very first page of the book has a place for the reader's key personal information. The illustration is of a flamingo character in a dress who turns out to be Nurse Comfort, complete with a white cap with a green cross on it, holding a crutch out to show where to put the data. Presumably the nurse is playing her role as physician assistant, helping readers remember the name of their physician, which matters almost as much as their own name. And of course, so much for nurse practitioners; but we probably shouldn't be surprised that a book for little kids omits them when the elite adult media generally does as well.
The story begins with Maisy, a mouse, playing on her trampoline. She falls and hurts her leg. So her friend Charley takes her in a taxi to the hospital. Inside the hospital, we see Maisy on the bed being examined by a physician, Doctor Duck, who seems to be male. He says, "You need to have an X-ray." The next page shows the flamingo who turns out to be Nurse Comfort pointing with a pointer at the X-ray showing that Maisy has broken her leg. But the apparent nurse is not identified here, and she has no dialogue.
Next we see Doctor Duck alone with the patient.
Doctor Duck put a plaster cast on Maisy's leg. "You'll need to stay in the hospital tonight."
The illustration shows him drying his hands, having completed the procedure.
In the following pages, the nurse appears again, and we read that "Nurse Comfort put Maisy to bed in the children's ward." The nurse holds a cup with colored liquid, perhaps juice for Maisy. Maisy lies flat on her back in bed, with her leg "raised in a special lift."
The following pages describe how "strange" it is for Maisy to be away from home, and how she misses her friends. But she makes friends with another patient, Dotty, a donkey. And Maisy's friends come visit the next morning, bringing balloons and cookies.
Later, Doctor Duck appears at Maisy's bedside.
Doctor Duck told Maisy, "You can go home now. But no trampolining yet! Come back in a few weeks to have the cast taken off."
Next, we see Nurse Comfort and Maisy with crutches.
Before Maisy left, Nurse Comfort shows her how to walk using crutches.
Maisy's friend arrives to take her home, and they say goodbye to Maisy's patient friend Dotty, whose illness has not been explained. Maisy urges Dotty to "Get well soon!"
This is a typically physician-centric vision of hospital care. The physician does all the talking, makes all the decisions, and seems to provide all the important care, calling for the X-ray, putting on the cast, explaining when Maisy can go home and specifics about her future care. By contrast, Nurse Comfort generally lives up to her name, giving Maisy a drink and putting her to bed, things a lay person could also do. So there's not much sign of skilled care from the nurse, and tellingly, she has no actual dialogue--can she talk, or just gesture? On the other hand, it's possible that she is able to read a basic x-ray; we liked that pointer she used. And the highlight of the story is that she shows Maisy how to walk on crutches, which is at least a nod to nurses' real role in teaching patients how to adapt to their conditions and regain health. Nurses know that teaching patients how to use crutches prevents nerve and muscle damage in the underarm area and can save lives, since patients who don't use crutches correctly can easily fall down stairs and suffer fatal injuries. But readers are unlikely to see what Nurse Comfort does as being on the same level as the diagnosis and treatment by Doctor Duck.
Of course, books for very young readers still tend to be conventional in portraying gender and professional roles. So in Maisy Goes to the Hospital, the physician is a commanding, expert male (like Dad should be!), and the nurse is a quiet, supportive female (like Mom should be!). But some conventions aren't worth following.
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Reviewed by Harry Jacobs Summers
Nursing Editor: Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Reviewed June 4, 2010
The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Truth About Nursing.