J.E. Morris’s new series Maud the Koala introduces early readers to a wonderfully relatable character and helps build visual literacy as well as reading confidence. The series is thoughtfully illustrated in the tradition of comics with action moving across panels and tiers. Full-page spreads allow the reader to become immersed in imagery. Fish are Not Afraid of Doctors is a delightful book about a young koala’s apprehension about visiting the doctor.
Maud the Koala and her mother go see Dr. Susan for a checkup. There is a large fish tank in the waiting room and Maud shares her anxiety about the doctor’s visit by asking her mother if fish are afraid of doctors. When her mother responds that fish do not go to the doctor, Maud exclaims that she wishes she was a fish.
Children with concerns about visiting the doctor will easily identify with Maud, and the text helps calm anxieties by allowing young readers to follow Maud on her journey through her checkup. Towards the end of the visit Dr. Susan tells Maud she is ready for her vaccination, a big word many early readers are likely to stumble over, but one Morris breaks down phonetically as Maud repeats the new vocabulary word.
A fish mobile in the office reminds Maud that she really wishes she was a fish and the reader is then taken on a creative visualization of Maud’s transformation into a fish and exploration of the sea. The visualization exercise is cleverly folded into the story and adds a range of nautical vocabulary words to the mix.
The visualization is interrupted by Dr. Susan who says, “We’re all done.” Maud is surprised because she has not felt any pain. She’s rewarded with a sticker and is no longer afraid of doctors.
An end note to caretakers explains the power of visualization to calm anxieties of children concerned about doctor visits.
I enthusiastically recommend this book! As a mother of a three-year-old I know young children can experience anxiety about the unknown. This text not only provides a good overview of visualization as a creative strategy for coping with anxiety, it walks the reader through Maud’s doctor’s visit, so there will be fewer surprises for her young readers at their checkup.
Reviewed for the Cybils Awards 2018