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Inspiring adventure and learning

By The Health News Team | March 25, 2021
Dr. Jenny Koo highlights various cultures in her children’s books that feature animal characters named Hamilton and Eleanor.

Dr. Jenny Koo highlights various cultures in her children’s books that feature animal characters named Hamilton and Eleanor.

Many of us remember growing up with imaginary friends. These companions soothed and delighted us. Dr. Jenny Koo hopes that her characters will do the same for babies and children. She invites them to join Hamilton and Eleanor on adventures throughout the world in her series of children’s books.

Dr. Koo, a board-certified pediatrician who specializes in neonatology, practices at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. In 2019, she had an idea to create the characters Hamilton (a pig) and Eleanor (a bunny) as reflections of her and her husband.

“My personality is reflected through Hamilton. I’m definitely the more outgoing of the two. I’m higher in energy and bubbly in nature. My husband is like Eleanor, who’s reserved, more introverted and always keeping an eye out for her best friend Hamilton,” she says.

Dr. Koo began bringing stuffed animal versions of Hamilton and Eleanor on trips with her husband, taking photographs of them as part of a travel log on Instagram. After some time, Dr. Koo wondered how else she could showcase Hamilton’s and Eleanor’s personalities. Her job as a neonatologist gave her the answer: incorporate the characters into children’s books. Soon after, the coronavirus pandemic began, but Dr. Koo’s idea remained.

“The books became a way for babies and children to vicariously travel from the safety of their own homes,” she says.

Dr. Koo teamed up with a fellow pediatrician, Dr. Marva Evans, who developed the flow and rhyming of the stories. Dr. Koo illustrated the books and self-published them. In her first three books, Hamilton and Eleanor have adventures in Paris, Japan and Australia.

“In the Paris book, I featured a few landmarks because I find Paris to be architecturally very interesting. For Japan, I wanted children to explore Japanese culture through the food mentioned in the book,” she says.

Dr. Koo’s newest book focuses on animals in Australia. She is currently working on a book that will highlight Latin America’s various cultural dances.

“It’s so important for children to understand that geographically there are so many other places in this world. There are many other cultures in this world that children can experience,” says Dr. Koo.

Through her books, Dr. Koo hopes to teach diversity and acceptance at an early age. Both infants and children can begin to learn about such topics by someone reading to them.

“Most of the brain actually develops within the first 3 to 5 years of life. One of the things we know is that early literacy correlates with how many words babies and toddlers are exposed to on a daily basis,” says Dr. Koo.

For future books, Dr. Koo hopes to explain the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the broader medical world to children through Hamilton and Eleanor. Dr. Koo feels it’s important to depict the NICU as a less scary and mysterious place for children whose siblings may be treated there.

“I hope to make analogies that are a little bit less daunting and frightening to children. For instance, an oxygen mask might resemble a scuba mask, and I’ll have a picture of a baby scuba diving instead of being on a ventilator,” says Dr. Koo.

She also hopes to write about wellness checkups and vaccinations for children. Alongside her books, Dr. Koo is interested in developing supplemental material to enhance learning and literacy for children. She created a jigsaw puzzle of the world, where Hamilton and Eleanor are depicted wearing traditional attire for different countries. Dr. Koo also developed flash cards with illustrations of Hamilton and Eleanor for toddlers to learn the alphabet, vocabulary, shapes, colors and numbers.

Dr. Koo’s children’s books and stuffed animals of Hamilton and Eleanor are available for purchase at the New Beginnings Boutique & Gift Shop, located on the first floor of Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. Through the books, Dr. Koo hopes that babies and children grow familiar with Hamilton and Eleanor, and that the characters bring them comfort.

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