Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
Nurse Florence, What is Asthma? is another eye-opening and highly educational book for children by Michael Dow.
While the illustrations leave a little to be desired, the content and overall experience of reading this book are both superior to Nurse Florence, How Do We Grow? (which we read earlier this year). This book simply flows better and is generally easier to follow. Something that helps this book flow so well is that Jean's motivations for seeking Nurse Florence's help and information are actually very good.
Jean (the character) is interested in learning more about asthma because she has first-hand and recent experience with it. In comparison, the characters in the previous book seemed to seek out information from Nurse Florence (about growing and growth hormone) for no clear reason other than a spur-of-the-moment curiosity. Jean having a motivation as a character is a huge plus in this book's favor. It's much easier to understand, get behind, and feel for Jean because we see the impact that asthma has on her.
Jean was doing something admirable: she was trying to do her best in a class (physical education) and trying to get a good workout while keeping up with her friends/classmates. You can really tell that Jean is passionate about certain types of exercise. This is something that many of us can relate to. Unfortunately, Jean begins to suffer from symptoms of fatigue followed by symptoms of asthma. In particular, she begins to wheeze and have trouble breathing. Anyone with asthma or who knows someone with asthma knows how terrifying and troubling these things can be. For young children who are new to the condition, it can be outright traumatizing. Part of the terror and trauma of a condition like asthma is simply the fear of not knowing. It's the fear of not knowing what the condition is or why these negative things are happening.
Thankfully, that's where this book shines. It perfectly and clearly explains what asthma is and—perhaps more importantly to the sufferers—why it occurs. We were actually surprised by how much we learned, especially about what causes asthma. There are actually numerous causes of asthma, according to this book. Asthma can have more obvious causes like smoking, pollution, or exposure to fumes. However, it can also have other, less-acknowledged causes like cold weather, overexertion, medicines, foods/diet, excess body-weight, and even exposure to animal dander or fur. Many of these were causes that even we weren't aware of, so we were impressed by how much we learned.
As we expressed in the beginning, the illustrations do leave a bit to be desired. They're definitely not as sharp as the ones in Nurse Florence, How Do We Grow? The books are actually illustrated by two separate people, and you can tell. One thing that really stands out in this book is that the arms of characters are disproportionate. Sometimes they are too big, sometimes they are too small (in relation to their heads or bodies). This is more of a problem when characters are presented further away. They look fine when up close.
Another thing that stood out to us is that Nurse Florence (as portrayed in this book) looks much different from the Nurse Florence in the previous book. The Nurse Florence in How Do We Grow? was clearly portrayed as being a Muslim or of Arab ancestry, even wearing a hijab. She doesn't wear a hijab in this book, and her hair, clothes, eyes, lips, skin tone, and general appearance are quite different. However, that's not necessarily a big deal, it's just something we noticed as an inconsistency. Nurse Florence is still very knowledgeable, intelligent, and helpful like she was in the previous book. She is a very pleasant and solid character.
Likewise, Jean is a surprisingly compelling character. Not only is she motivated and sympathetic like we mentioned before, but she's also a very gracious, appreciative, and respectful person. You gather that from her dialogue with Nurse Florence.
Check it out on Amazon!