One of the coldest facts in this world is that horrific things sometimes happen to our most vulnerable members of society: children. It takes a courageous and discerning writer to tackle difficult subject matter and present it in a way that children will understand, learn, and heal from. Saskatoon writer Fawn Einarson braves the task in her empowering illustrated book Art, his Heart … and the Phlart?! This sensitive picture book is published by Hear My Heart Books Inc., a small Saskatoon press publishing “therapeutic stories”.
We learn the author’s intent in her dedication: “This story is meant to act as a shield to protect children from sexual abuse.” Einarson provides seven pieces of advice to adult readers who share this story with a child who discloses his or her own abusive experience: remain calm; ask if it’s okay to take notes; record exactly what’s said; do not ask leading questions; ask the child to draw a picture; “Let the child know that telling is okay;” and immediately phone a professional.
The story concerns a shy boy, Art, who “spent a lot of time alone, watching the other kids skip.” While en route to school, an adult – “the phlart” – talks the hesitant boy into skipping with him, while the other end of the rope is tied to a tree. The lonely child “love[s] skipping so much” and is happy to have the attention. The adult continues to beguile the boy, feeding him both candy and compliments. Soon the pair are meeting both before and after school. One day the phlart wants to play a “secret game that [makes] Art feel bad.”
The abuser uses threats – “If your mom finds out about our new game, she won’t love you anymore!” – to keep the child from revealing what’s happening. Einarson writes that “Art had a bad feeling in his tummy all the time” and “his hurting heart grew lots and lots.”
As is sometimes the case, the victim begins to feel that it is his own fault. He recognizes that the phlart is his sole friend, and the boy’s “feelings [are] all mixed up like a blizzard.” As the abuse continues, Art shuts off his emotions altogether. Fortunately, the boy eventually discloses and the story becomes one of healing for Art, and, ultimately, for any child has also suffered the horror of sexual abuse.
As this book is also a resource, the author has included telephone numbers for the National Childhelp Hotline, the Kids Help Phone Hotline, and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
Illustrator Arthur Karakochuk, from Prince Albert, portrays the characters and scenes in simple, animation-styled illustrations. He has intelligently chosen to depict the pedophile with just a single arm and a menacing, razor-toothed shadow. We gradually see colours lighten as Art makes a friend, discloses, and gets help.
This ten dollar, 32-page softcover book is ideal for use in childhood sexual abuse prevention or therapy, and if it helps even one child, it is priceless.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM