On Mother’s Day 2001 Henny Beaumont gave birth to her third child. For the first four hours, her baby seemed no different from her two other little girls.
When the registrar told Henny and her husband that their daughter might have Down’s Syndrome, she thought that her life was over. How would she be able to look after this baby, who might die, and manage her other two children at the same time? How could this weak little baby, who needed so much more from Henny than her other two children, provoke such feelings of hatred and resentment? And how would she learn to love her? If she can’t trust her own reactions to Beth, how could she expect other people to overcome their prejudices and ignorance about her condition?
Hole in the Heart is a moving, funny, ironic and refreshingly honest look at living with a child who has special needs. Henny’s remarkable journey speaks not only to parents who have had a similar experience and the medical and care professionals who try to help them, but to every one of us who feels anxiety about our children – wondering whether they are achieving enough, whether we do enough for them, and whether we love them enough.
As the PE teacher asks: ‘Who’s really got the special needs here?’
Foreword1 September 2016
Hole in the Heart: Bringing Up Beth, part of Penn State’s Graphic Medicine series, is artist Henny Beaumont’s brutally honest, and ultimately uplifting, account of raising a daughter with Down syndrome.
“Hole in the heart” refers to a common heart abnormality in children with Down syndrome, one which Beth, Beaumont’s daughter, has surgery to correct. But the title also refers to the battle for Beaumont and her husband to truly understand and embrace their daughter as she is; from the beginning, they often attempt to ignore or work around Beth’s limited abilities, while experiencing a gamut of emotions: guilt and sadness, hope and frustration, and, eventually, acceptance and love.
Beaumont has an MA in fine art and printmaking, and she transitions that experience to sequential art particularly effectively. The narrative flows easily, and when Beaumont chooses to slow it down, the results are gut-wrenching, as with an imaginary “visit” from Beaumont’s 15-years-older self, as the elder woman tries to impart perspective and patience to the younger one. The facial expressions of Beaumont’s characters show everything from sympathy to embarrassment to condescension, as Beaumont and her husband struggle to make good choices for Beth regarding schools, activities, and friends.
Hole in the Heart is a deeply affecting graphic novel that will certainly light a path, if not the only path, for other parents of children with Down syndrome. But it might be even more important for those with no experience of Down syndrome, to help gain an understanding of how the genetic disorder affects not just the child, but the child’s entire family. No matter the audience, the book’s message is universal.View source
Pamreader16 May 2016
I came home last Thursday evening to find this graphic novel in a package on the mat. When I picked up the parcel I was curious, I knew it was a book but thought I was too tired to read it and then I opened up the parcel. As soon as Beth’s little face looked up at me I forgot everything else, sat down, turned to the first page and didn’t stop reading until I reached the end. At which point I sobbed. This graphic novel is one of the most beautiful expressions of love I’ve ever read... I’d like to say a huge thank you to Henny for creating this incredibly emotive work of art, as there is much that needs to be said within these pages that I think many people will thank her for.View source
The Bookseller17 March 2016
Arresting, affecting, occasionally enraging but always deeply beautiful. A core title in the growing genre of Graphic Medicine.
Robert Yates, Consultant Cardiologist, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children3 March 2016
It has made me embarrassed for how we break this kind of news to you. It has made me cry for all the anguish you have felt. It has made me hopeful for what Beth has achieved. This is essential reading for every paediatrician in training.
Powerful and deeply honest... From the appalling way diagnosis can be handled by professionals, to the ways in which a child with a learning disability enriches a family's life, this book reflects the sentiments of so many families we support and work with. Henny's words and stunning art work speak to everyone, whether they have a child with a learning disability or not.
When I got home, I read the book in one sitting. I think you have done
the most marvellous piece of work. It is tender and at times almost
I notice at several points you show empathy or at least understanding
even to those who've clearly hurt you greatly (allowing us to see the
thoughts of those who've said appalling things). I think that's a huge
and difficult thing to do, because it requires great humanity and
And at the heart of it, you allow us genuine insight into what you've
experienced these last few years. Some of which those of us on the
outside could only guess at.
I think your book will come as a great relief and great help to others
in similar situations.