Children’s book Havva, the giraffe that can’t eat leaves.

10 July 2019

When our beautiful twins, son Mats and daughter Jinte, were born in December 2011, we were in for a great shock. Within a few hours after his birth, Mats was diagnosed with an esophageal atresia and VACTERL. He had to undergo immediate repair surgery at Erasmus MC – Sophia hospital in Rotterdam. Then, five weeks later, he needed more surgery: a complex open-heart operation, which was successfully performed at the same hospital.

While Mats was recovering from surgery, a small cuddly toy sat under his breathing tube. It was a giraffe. By the time of his second birthday, Mats had named this giraffe “Havva”. Thus, I began inventing bedtime stories for my children about a very brave giraffe called Havva and his brave sister Havvie. These characters came to life for us so much that I wanted to collect their adventures in an illustrated children’s book.

The idea received a very positive response from the Dutch patient association VOKS. Hence I was able to work out my plan and start writing the story of Havva. It is aimed at all children with atresia, their parents and their friends.

Havva is more than just a name. While writing, I discovered that in Hebrew Havva means ‘the breath of life’, an appropriately symbolic meaning in relation to this book.

Of particular interest are the illustrations by Doreth Berendse. With all her love and creativity she has made the story come to life and has given Havva and Havvie a real face.

It is Mats and Jinte’s dream, as it is mine, that all children who have an esophageal atresia or stenosis may enjoy the story of Havva and Havvie, abroad as much as in the Netherlands.

The story is about a brother and sister giraffe and their friends, and shows what life is like when you can’t eat everything, when food gets stuck in your throat all the time, and you feel breathless or need to vomit.
It is also about going to hospital regularly for tests and treatment, and may be having to stay there overnight because of a recurrent pneumonia. And then there is friends and family to deal with. How do you explain why your child cannot eat everything, and why you need to go to hospital so frequently?

For the giraffe brother and sister Havva and Havvie these are facts of their everyday life. But as their story evolves, they discover that beyond illness there is lots of fun things to do and friends to be made.
In an exciting adventure, Zip and Zap the zebras, and Swarthy the warthog, find out that Havva and Havvie are brave and very good friends.

Havva and Havvie show the impact of being born with an esophageal atresia. They will take you on an educational and heartwarming journey.

Havva and Havvie….. “From problem to power!”.

Fom the Netherlands, Kirsten Philipse,
Proud mom of Mats and Jinte.


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