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Nurse Comfort and the Bratz dolls

School Nurse from the Black Lagoon 
June 1, 2010 -- In honor of International Children's Day, we present reviews of the nursing portrayals in several recent children's books. A few books have addressed the profession directly, such as Mike Thaler's The School Nurse from the Black Lagoon (1995), part of a series that aims to make kids comfortable with authority figures they will meet at school. The book's narrator has irrational fears about his school nurse, but she turns out to be friendly and helpful, though she does not display any particular skill beyond putting the boy at ease. Another title that aims to demystify an unfamiliar institution is Lucy Cousins's Maisy Goes to the Hospital (2007). That book, for younger readers, offers a typically physician-centric portrayal of hospital care and does not convey that "Nurse Comfort" has much skill or knowledge, though she does at least show Maisy how to walk on crutches. Nursing references in other books are more incidental. Lauren Child's amusing, inventive Clarice Bean: Guess Who's Babysitting? (2000) has a couple brief but good nurse appearances, as competent nurses seem to manage the care of two characters who visit the hospital for unrelated injuries. But Holly Hobbie's Fanny (2008) offers an image of "nurse" dolls as glamorous but vacuous twits who merely assist the smart, assertive female "doctor" doll. It's a regressive "feminist" vision that's meant to show Bratz-era girls that they can do something worthwhile with their lives. No nurse in any of the books is male. And since the better nursing portrayals in this admittedly unscientific little survey are the older ones, it's tempting to say that children's books are making little progress in providing youngsters with more accurate images of nursing, misleading them just when they are starting to form basic impressions of careers that they might later pursue (or influence). Of course, there is J.K. Rowling's great Harry Potter series (1997-2007), which offers older readers the occasional appearances of Madam Pomfrey, the skilled wizarding nurse. Maybe you can help us:  Do you know of a good portrayal of nursing in a younger children's book published in the last 10 years? If so, click here and tell us. Thanks! See our full review of each book below.



Fanny Connie nurse dollsFanny is a tale of two dolls:  the store-bought Connies, who embody superficial glamour, and the homemade Annabelle, who represents substance and merit. The book isn't bad as a critique of celebrity culture for kids of 4-8 years, and as an effort to get girls in particular to consider doing more with their lives than just looking hot. But one key scene sets Annabelle up as a commanding "doctor" operating on stuffed animals, while the vacuous Connies are "nurses" who stand around looking pretty and assisting Annabelle, reinforcing what are arguably the most damaging stereotypes of nursing today--the unskilled physician assistant and the naughty nurse. It would be hard to find a more blatant "feminist" attack on nursing in recent popular culture. more...


Clarice Bean:  Guess Who's Babysitting?

Clarice Bean nursesThis entry in the Clarice Bean series, aimed at kids of perhaps 6-9 years, is the irreverent and amusing story of a family emergency that requires Clarice's Uncle Ted, a rough and tumble firefighter, to baby-sit the independent child and her siblings. The story includes two visits to the hospital, and in the brief look we get at each visit, a seemingly professional, autonomous female nurse helps guide the family through the minor trauma involved. No physicians appear. The book could be seen as a subtle reinforcement of regressive gender roles; even though the males in the story are generally silly or hapless, and Clarice's mother and the nurses must bail them out, it is still the men who hold the traditionally male jobs. Perhaps the women just wield behind-the-scenes influence, as in countless television sitcoms and commercials. Still, the book suggests that nursing is a job for serious problem-solvers, and that puts it far ahead of most children's books. more...


Maisy Nurse ComfortMaisy Goes to the Hospital

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. more...


School Nurse from the Black LagoonThe School Nurse from the Black Lagoon

This fairly entertaining book takes young readers through a long tour of scary, though comical, images of a monstrous school nurse who tortures her patients--not unlike a battleaxe--based on the narrator's recounting of what other kids have said about her. Finally, the boy learns that the real school nurse is kind and helpful. But she displays no real health care skill or knowledge. more...




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