A Whale of a Headache: New Children’s Book Teaches Kids About Migraine
Migraine at Story Time
As any parent can tell you, there’s nothing like story time with the kids. Not only is it a lovely way to spend quality moments together, it stimulates imaginative thinking and empathy. What’s more, it can become a way for children to learn about the world and broaden their perspectives. Surely, there are some books read to you as a child that have shaped who you are today. It’s that transformative power of literature that inspired first-time author, Judith Klausner, to pen Noah the Narwhal, a children’s book about migraine. 
What inspired Klausner to take on this difficult subject? Most of all, it was her own history as a migraineur. She’s a chronic sufferer and struggled with headaches throughout her life. Her condition became particularly volatile when she was in college, and by the time she’d graduated, her professional and social life suffered tremendously. She found herself isolated and unable to maintain friendships and quickly became very depressed. As she recently told Pain News Network, the chronic and debilitating nature of the condition made her believe, “I wasn’t strong enough or smart enough” and “that there was something wrong with me.” 
An Empathetic Ear
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough for Klausner occurred when she met with a migraine specialist who assured her that she was doing the best she could given the circumstances. “Someone gave me permission to stop beating up myself about it,” she recalls.  Seeing how important and essential visibility and understanding was when it comes to migraine, Noah the Narwhal was born. During a period in which she worked a number of different types of jobs to support herself, Klausner managed to conceive of the story and enlisted her friend, Sarah Gould, to create the illustrations.
They worked well together, and the two were able to quickly create a universe for Noah and his sea-creature friends via emails and correspondence. Gould put the narwhal, the kind of whale that has a single, unicorn like horn, in a cute sweater. He’s a kind sea-mammal with great friends and family, but, like anyone with migraine, some days are just tougher than others.  The work is fairly autobiographical, making it a very authentic representation of the kinds of issues that migraineurs encounter.
Opening Up About Migraine
It’s never easy to talk about migraine, but it’s even more difficult to have discussions about it with children of migraineurs. Kids may misinterpret the actions and feelings of a parent who’s suffering from attack; they may not understand why mommy or daddy needs alone-time. Further, they may internalize the behavior of a parent suffering from migraine and feel that they’re at fault. On top of that, migraine attacks can also start when children are young—as they did for Klausner herself—and these kids face their own cycles of struggle and challenges.
But what makes Noah the Narwhal such a good way to engage with the challenges of migraine is that he’s surrounded by characters who are well-meaning but have to learn about what their friend is going through. Noah’s migraine attacks prevent him from fulfilling commitments, which he feels bad about, but the community around him quickly remembers the kind of narwhal Noah is, and come to accept his condition.
In this sense, the book becomes a discussion of migraine stigma. This is when those that don’t have migraine believe that people with it are being dramatic, and when these external perceptions become internalized on the part of the migraineur. As Noah is able to teach his peers and family about migraine—while also learning about it himself—the reader gets a sense of how challenging it can be to live with the condition. They also learn how important it is to be empathetic and show support for migraineurs.
Visibility & Beyond
It’s remarkable that Klausner, with the help of Gould’s affable illustrations, is able to engage with these ideas and make them appealing to a young audience. For a child who’s suffering with migraine, for the one whose mother, father, or sibling has it, as for everyone else, Noah the Narwhal is no doubt essential reading. As the medical field continues to get a better handle on migraine, there needs to be more public awareness of this difficult condition. Children’s books like this one are essential in the path towards greater visibility, more understanding, and better care.
If you or someone in your family is struggling with migraine, the team at Migraine Treatment Centers of America is ready help. The experts here pride themselves in offering the latest and most innovative techniques to take on this difficult condition. Learn more by calling (855) 980-7530 today!
Kilgore, Jennifer. 2017. “Noah The Narwhal: A Children’s Book About Migraines”. Pain News Network. Accessed September 25 2017. https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2017/9/2/noah-the-narwhal-a-childrens-book-about-migraine.