“When Billy Went Bald” Receives Moonbeam Children’s Book Award

MAD-billy-went-baldFor Lake Bluff resident and writer Julie C. Morse, the adage “when the time is right” is certainly true.

Twenty-six years ago, “something happened that wasn’t really normal.” An unusual lump on her son’s abdomen was diagnosed as Wilms tumor, a cancer of the kidney. After a tough battle, and reoccurrence a year later, her son Greg Mikrut, now 30, came out healthy and strong. At his 10-year “all clear” anniversary, Morse and her son took a first stab at a children’s book intended to share their perspective as a parent and child who fought cancer.

Life as usual got in the way, and it wasn’t until two years ago when a mid-life epiphany and a bit of serendipity compelled Morse to refocus on writing and finishing “When Billy Went Bald.”

Drawing from Greg’s own experience, “When Billy Went Bald” is a warm-hearted, upbeat story that helps young children and adults alike better understand cancer and treatment-related baldness. Praised by Midwest Book Review, it is an honest story about a boy who has cancer that “encourages children to look beyond surface differences and find a compassionate way to reach understanding and acceptance of others who may be suffering.”

“Nearly everyone knows someone with cancer today, but too often we don’t include children in the conversation. It’s often all very hush-hush,” Morse says. “I wanted to create a book to help young children better understand the cancer journey in a non-threatening, helpful way.”

The time was also right for finding the ideal illustrator. Alexandra Higgins, the cousin of Greg’s best friend’s new wife, met them as the book was in its initial publishing stages. “When I saw her first sketches, I couldn’t believe she had never met Greg or even seen photos of him as a child,” Morse says. “Not only did she perfectly capture Greg as that lively boy in his baseball uniform, but she presented a child each of us could see as our own.”

Her book was recently awarded the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, intended to raise awareness for “exemplary” children’s books that “not only celebrate the joys of childhood but also help kids and families deal with its challenges.”

To ensure “When Billy Went Bald” is a ready resource for any individual, Morse has partnered with Sunshine Kids with the long-term goal to include this book on the shelf of every school and in the library of every pediatric hospital. Like the book, the nonprofit Sunshine Kids is dedicated to children with cancer, providing a variety of free recreational programs and events to foster the emotional well being of young cancer patients.

Timing was fortuitous for this union as well, Morse learned about Sunshine Kids through her new real estate firm, Prudential Rubloff, the organization’s only national sponsor, just as the book was being published.

Morse has already sent more than 100 copies of her book to libraries and hospitals with pediatric cancer programs thanks to Sunshine Kids. Proceeds from the sales of the book also support the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

“Cancer is harsh and tragic,” Morse says. “But there is healing and living to be done and a need to celebrate life, whether you are bald or not.”

As Morse proves, thankfully, the time is always right for making a difference.