by Claire Miller
Ten-year-old Isabel Cutting and 14-year-old Emma Wheeler live in different parts of the country, enjoy different activities and like different foods.
But they share a common bond – they’ve both donated their hair to organizations that make wigs for children who’ve gone through cancer treatments and lost their hair.
Barbara Meyers, chair of the Department of Early Childhood Education, and Clinical Assistant Professor Lydia Mays brought the girls’ voices to life in The Long and the Short of It: A Tale About Hair, a children’s book that explores the issues associated with cancer and hair loss.
The inspiration for the book came when Meyers noticed that Mays cut her hair to donate to Locks of Love.
“When I told Barbara that I donated my hair, she told me that her granddaughter, Isabel, had just done the same,” Mays explained. “My friend, Emma, was a cancer survivor and it was so important for her to be able to grow her hair back and donate it. We noted the two girls had given the same gift – hair donation – but the path to get there for both was extremely different. We thought, there's a story here.”
The writing process took about a year, during which Meyers and Mays interviewed Isabel and Emma and framed the story around their experiences with cancer, hair loss and the act of giving. They also interviewed the girls’ families and sent them drafts of the story to ensure it accurately depicted their ideas.
“So many of the words in the book are theirs,” Mays said. “We really wanted to honor their voices.”
The book, published earlier this year by the American Cancer Society, is meant not only to be an interesting tale but a springboard for adults and children to discuss their ideas about cancer and giving back. It includes a list of critical thinking activities for children and a reading and discussion guide for adults on various lessons, such as courage, frustration, generosity and wellness, covered in the story.
“We want readers to interact with the story in a meaningful way,” Meyers explained. “Each page has more to offer than what’s on the surface. All kids can enjoy and benefit from Isabel and Emma’s stories.”
For more information about the book, visit https://www.cancer.org/aboutus/booksandjournals/app/bookstore.aspx.