A review of ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’

Although it only appeared last month, Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, written by Stephanie Messenger and published by Trafford Publishing, was raising hackles more than a year ago on the strength of the author’s promise to “[take] children on a journey to learn about the ineffectiveness of vaccinations and to know they don’t have to be scared of childhood illnesses, like measles and chicken pox. There are many health messages for parents to expand on about keeping healthy”.

A recent article by Tom Chivers of the Telegraph  mentions the book in the context of reports that “306 children died in Pakistan because of the infectious disease in 2012, a dramatic surge from the 64 children in 2011”. On Amazon the book got over 70 reviews in three days, every one condemning it.

But of those of you leaping to criticise, I have to wonder how many have actually read the book? I mean, are you not open to the possibility that it might actually contain valuable information that could protect our children’s health?

Me neither. Having recently blogged on the daft complaint about an episode in the Cbeebies Get Well Soon series and having read many, many comments from parents rhapsodizing about the series, saying how helpful it has been to their sprogs and how much it is enjoyed by them, it occurred to me that if Melanie is a cracking good story full of engaging characters and told by a talented and imaginative story-teller, it could be a very dangerous book indeed. I bit the bullet and spent £2.63 on the Kindle edition.

I must say that in this age of cultural diversity and political correctness, it is refreshing to find a children’s book whose characters have managed to hang on to good old 1950s values (as well as clothes and hairstyles). Mothers are homemakers, boys play football, girls play with dolls and fathers don’t feature at all – presumably because all the action takes place during the daytime when they’re at the office.

Here’s what happens in the book:

Melanie is off school with measles. Some children in her class are scared of catching measles. One sanctimonious little twit named Jared announces that he won’t catch measles because he’s been vaccinated and that the unvaccinated boy next to him, Travis, is going to die. Travis, while missing the point entirely, still manages to pwn Jared by pointing that, although he hasn’t had any jabs, he’s still alive.

Jared didn’t know what to say to that!

Melanie’s friend, Tina, goes home and asks her mother about measles. She is told that,

For most children it is a good thing to get measles…Many wise people believe measles make the body stronger and more for the future,

MMM1
We learn that Tina is unvaccinated because when her old brother, Sam, got jabbed he was very sick afterwards and, although he apparently recovered enough to lead a normal life and go to football training after school, he now has a “weak immune system”.

Having been persuaded that getting measles is just about the most fun a child can have, Tina wants to visit Melanie so she can catch measles. Her mother thinks that’s a “great idea”. (I assure you I am not making this up; it really is in the book.)

They visit Melanie who, as it turns out, was vaccinated and yet managed to end up with the “worst case of measles the doctor had ever seen”. But Melanie is proud of her big spots and can’t wait to show them to her friend. She says they’re not itchy or hurty at all and she is quite well enough to be up playing with her dolls like a proper little girl.

Tina and her mother take her some carrot juice and melon, so that Tina’s mother can give readers a mini-lecture on the importance of Vitamin A, probably picked up from some quack magazine.

I read that if your body has plenty of Vitamin A, you won’t get measles…

Happily, Melanie gets better and Tina laments that she didn’t catch measles. Cue another lecture from Mum about the benefits of her healthy lifestyle of raw food, exercise, sunshine, etc.

MM2

The totally unexpected twist, of course, is that the smugly vaccinated Jared does get measles. Tina isn’t a bit surprised, given all the sweets and other crap he eats. We’re not told as much but presumably all those sweets he’s been eating is the reason why Jared doesn’t seem to be enjoying his measles nearly as much as Melanie and is lying in bed looking miserable instead of up and playing happily with a train set or something.

In spite of the story ending abruptly with Tina expressing the hope that one day she’ll be “lucky enough to catch measles”, she says nothing about visiting poor Jared.

Serves him right, I guess.

In a nutshell then, the book is intended to convince children that: (1) Not only do vaccines not work but children who are vaccinated are more likely to get the very disease they are vaccinated against; Then again, (2) measles is a mild disease, if you get it you’ll probably hardly notice it, unless you have a weak immune system from eating a poor diet; (3) vaccines, on the other hand, can make you very sick; (4) Best thing to do is strengthen your immune system by eating the right food because that will stop you getting measles. Notably, the recommended diet and lifestyle resembles the one I and many of my generation were given as young children. As far as building immunity against infectious diseases went, it didn’t work for us.

And, in case it isn’t obvious, here’s the really good news:

As a book for children, it has no redeeming features. It is unclear what age group the book is aimed at but no child of any age is going to be absorbed by these boring and humourless characters because they have not been created to entertain or enthrall them. They are but one-dimensional mouthpieces for the author’s anti-vaccine message, which is leadenly delivered in painfully forced dialogue. Badly written and singularly unengaging from beginning to end, Melanie’s Marvelous Measles is, I’ll wager, a book that no child would choose to read for themselves.

What this means, of course, is that it will be forced on them by heartless parents but, to be honest, the book doesn’t actually add anything to what they will be telling their children anyway, assuming they are all, if I may bother a phrase from Tom Chivers, “some hippie-dippie Age of Aquarius type who thinks Natural Equals Good”.

 

14.1.13 Edited to add this Australian TV news item on the book.

 

 

39 thoughts on “A review of ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’”

  1. I’m really curious whether this book attempts to deal with the contradictory message it’s giving – that having measles can be fun and good for you, yet you need to boost your immune system so that you don’t catch the measles? Also, does anyone else think that attempting to explain the concept of an immune system (which seems necessary for this story to be understood by a child) might be beyond their comprehension?

  2. ‘Most well nourished kids sail through measles, no one died in my childhood cohort’

    So the one’s that don’t ‘sail through’, the ones who suffer lifelong disability, the ones that die, that’s acceptable to you?

    What I find puke making about anti-vaxxers is their pretence that they care about children, the best that can be said is that some are seriously deluded.

  3. @Jenson

    You’re having a giraffe.

    From the WHO website: Measles deaths in Africa plunge by 91%

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2007/pr62/en/

    “The significant decline in measles deaths in Africa was made possible by the firm commitment of national governments to fully implement the measles reduction strategy, which includes vaccinating all children against measles before their first birthday via routine health services and providing a second opportunity for measles vaccination through mass vaccination campaigns.”

  4. Okay, I may be totally wrong here but if

    1. it’s a good thing to get measles

    and

    2. you’re more likely to get the measles if you’re vaccinated (both the vaccinated kids – Melanie and Jared – get measles)

    shouldn’t Tina get vaccinated to heighten her chances of getting the measles?

    😉

  5. @Jenson

    I love the implication that anyone outside of a developing country who died of measles was poorly nourished and therefore brought it on themselves.

    Oh and the fact that none of your childhood friends died of measles does not mean that a disease that has killed over 250 people in the uk since I was born, and used to kill hundreds each year before vaccinations were developed, is harmless.

  6. No-one in my childhood cohort died in a car accident, so airbags, seatbelts and brakes are unnecessary.

    No-one in my childhood cohort drowned, so swimming lessons are for wimps.

    No-one in my childhood cohort was abducted or raped, so its a great idea for parents to let their kids wander around the streets alone after midnight, and to accept sweets and lifts from strangers.

  7. Apart from anything else, it is extraordinarily offensive to so obviously model the title on Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine” when Dahl’s daughter died of measles…..

  8. @Acleron
    Jenson certainly is deluded, but wilfully so. He has swallowed every antivax propaganda screed in the alphabet from Age of Autism to Wakefield and back, and then returned for second helpings.

    When he can pose a sensible question or rational argument I may bother engaging, but otherwise I’ll just ignore his pathetic trolling.

    The best response to this awful book about Melanie is the one from Blissful Blight Books – pure brilliance.

  9. Can we have a reference for that figure, still waiting for Vicky to tell us where 500,000 died from swine flu too or where you born in the 1800′s?

    I didn’t bring up this figure nor did I discuss swine flu. I intend on continuing to not discuss it.

    @Skepticat
    Right now the last few comments (#101 – 104) on the previous post won’t show when I follow “newer entries” – is there a way to fix this?

  10. I am also very saddened that you had to pay £2.63 in order to enlighten us about the gems within the book. Thanks all the same – it must have been difficult.

  11. Vicky said:
    “Right now the last few comments (#101 – 104) on the previous post won’t show when I follow “newer entries” – is there a way to fix this?”
    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve fixed it so they’re all on one page.

  12. Drew Burnett very sensibly suggested that the next book in the series might be “Daniel’s delicious dog-poo”:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/brain-flapping/2013/jan/04/vaccination-childrens-tv-cbeebies-complaint

    I don’t know what planet Jensen is from.

    There was an outbreak of measles in Dublin a few years ago.[1,2] About 1500 cases were identified, and there were three deaths (one of them a year of two later from a nasty complication known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis). I make that one death for every 500 cases identified, though a figure of 1 death in every 3-5000 cases is usually quoted. And 1 in every 15 cases of measles has serious complications.[3]

    And as for his concerns about the polio vaccine… Polio is a very serious disease, with a high mortality rate. Vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) is very rare – 1 case/2.39 million first doses and 1 case/13.03 million OPV doses administered in one large scale study.[5] (Similar findings in other studies.[6,7] More importantly, where polio is common, you are much, much less likely to have paralytic poliomyelitis from the vaccine than you are to get it from the disease. Only when the disease is extremely uncommon is the vaccine more dangerous than not having the vaccine – and even then, we don’t know when or whether the disease will be reintroduced into the population.

    REFERENCES

    1. McBrien J, Murphy J, Gill D, Cronin M, O’Donovan C, Cafferkey M. Measles Outbreak in Dublin, 2000. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2003;22:580-4.

    2. Payne D. Ireland’s measles outbreak kills two. BMJ 2000;321(7255):197b-. (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/321/7255/197/b).

    3. Salisbury D, Ramsay M, Noakes K. Chapter 21: Measles. Immunisation against infectious disease. 3rd Edition ed. London: HMSO, 2010:209-234 (https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/immunisation/files/2012/07/Chap-21-dh_122643.pdf).

    4. Salisbury D, Ramsay M, Noakes K. Chapter 26: Polio. Immunisation against infectious disease. updated 19 November 2009 ed. London: HMSO, 2012:313-28 (http://immunisation.dh.gov.uk/green-book-chapters/chapter-26/).

    5. de Oliveira LH, Struchiner CJ. Vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis: a retrospective cohort study of acute flaccid paralyses in Brazil. Int J Epidemiol 2000;29(4):757-63 PMID: 10922356. (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/4/757.long).

    6. Kohler KA, Banerjee K, Gary Hlady W, Andrus JK, Sutter RW. Vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in India during 1999: decreased risk despite massive use of oral polio vaccine. Bull World Health Organ 2002;80(3):210-6 PMID: 11984607. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2567745/).

    7. Strebel PM, Sutter RW, Cochi SL, Biellik RJ, Brink EW, Kew OM, et al. Epidemiology of poliomyelitis in the United States one decade after the last reported case of indigenous wild virus-associated disease. Clin Infect Dis 1992;14(2):568-79 PMID: 1554844. (http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/2/568.long).

  13. Follow up re polio vaccine – the risk of VAPP only arises with the oral polio vaccine. This vaccine is relatively cheap, and no needle is required.

    Injected, inactivated polio vaccine carries no risk of VAPP; but it is more expensive and has to be given by injection.

  14. On the question of who is the intended audience for this book and suitability for children, Stephanie Messenger had this to say in promotional material for the book:

    “I wrote this book in an effort to start the education process early on the vaccination issue so children are aware of some of the issues with vaccination so they have information should they encounter a zealous vaccinator at school or in their community. It is up to you as the parent to expand on the book and tell them what to do if the vaccinators come to school.

    The book offers some basic facts for them about vaccination ineffectiveness and dangers and also, how to help the healing process and also how to avoid childhood diseases. It is for children 4 to 10 years and I suggest that parents read this book to their children so you can also have input.

    I recommend you read it once a week for 4 weeks and then, after 4 months, get it out again and read a few times.

    Then put it away for a year and start again as above. Different kids will take in different things according to age and understanding. This changes from week to week often.”

    Source: http://www.siriushealth.org/?p=520

  15. Jenson, it is interesting that the title closely resembles Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.

    Can you tell us why his book The BFG is dedicated to his oldest child after she had measles? I am curious if you know.

  16. “Thanks for heading up Stephanie’s book I have ordered one to see what it says because you’ve probably misrepresented it.”

    The only person misrepresenting anything around here is you. And now you’re banned. Ciao.

  17. Cue Jenson:
    “According to…”
    ….followed by some antivax myth with a dearth of links or citations.

    Not hard to see why, since all his “according to’s” are bogus.

    Time to retire the troll, I think.

  18. I too am perplexed by the contradictions of the anti-vax lobby.

    “Disease is a gift. Use homeopathic prophylaxis, or any of a long, long list of (organic) foodstuffs to avoid disease.”

    “Wild infection confers natural and long-term immunity. Vaccination will not protect you from wild infection. Such infection will not result in natural and long term immunity.”

    “Vaccination is “rape”. Vaccination is evil. Vaccines don’t work. Vaccines are TOXIC. Vaccines kill and maim. It’s okay if parents’ choose to vaccinate their children.”

    “Scientists are corrupt. Science is just one way of knowing. Read this peer-reviewed scientific research that shows vaccines are dangerous.”

    “The ingredients of vaccines have been kept secret for too long. The authorities won’t tell you what’s in vaccines. No one will tell you the side effects of vaccines. Read this list of ingredients and side effects – listed in the package insert!”

    “Doctors are in it for the money. Buy this book to see the FACTS.”

    “If one vaccinated child is infected, the vaccine is entirely useless. If one organically-fed child gets sick, feed them more organic food.”

    “Western medicine is all about pills for everything. Take vitamin supplements instead.”

    I’ll stop now, but it goes on.

  19. All these anti-vaccine people probably don’t even understand how the immune system works. The author of this stupid book clearly doesn’t know either. A vaccine will not make it more likely that a person will catch a disease, it makes it less likely. This is because the vaccine forces the immune system to manufacture these things called antibodies which kill the disease. Anybody who has completed high school science should know this. Yes, some people can have a bad reaction to a vaccine, but this is a very very very small number of people, the chances of being hit by a car are much higher. Parents who do not vaccinate their children are not only doing their own children harm, they are making it possible for diseases like the measles to continue existing.

  20. I feel for Stephanie Messenger. I can’t imagine losing a child. And I can understand how she came to believe that the vaccine caused her child’s death.

    Let’s consider the possibility that she’s right. Maybe there is some rare combination of factors that makes the vaccination dangerous. That should be investigated.

    But the number of deaths caused by the vaccine (assuming that there are any at all) is tiny compared to the number of deaths prevented. Until we can identify who might be harmed by the vaccine, every one should be vaccinated. Even Stephanie Messenger should be able to understand that.

  21. I was fully educated about the “benefits” of measles when I was about 3 or 4 or 5. First, I had some REALLY pretty spots, but boy, did they itch! I forget the next week or two or so, but I do recall the hallucinations brought on by my extremely high fever, and how miserable it was when my mother washed me down with cool washcloths in an attempt to reduce that fever. And how difficult it was for her to keep her job, since no one wanted to babysit a kid with measles. Also, how hungry I was (when I was in my right mind) and how upset I was that I couldn’t even keep down soup or Coca-Cola, my generation’s version of Pedialyte. Oh, and while I did manage not to become brain-damaged or to die, I did get these lovely “floaters” in my eyes to distract and entertain me when I drive or work. I think I recall a birthday party for me sometime during all this, but it could also have been another hallucination.

    Yep. Simply MAR-velous! Maybe some people who have actually HAD the measles should be consulted before writing drivel like this.

  22. I see you’ve learned nothing in the time you’ve been away, Jenson. There have been over 250 deaths from measles in just England & Wales since the 1970s, as you would know if you had the intelligence to do half a minute’s research. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/measles-deaths-by-age-group-from-1980-to-2013-ons-data/measles-notifications-and-deaths-in-england-and-wales-1940-to-2013

    I won’t be publishing any more of your comments because (1) they are invariably abusive (2) you keep changing your name and use fake email addresses and (3) they bring nothing of any value here anyway.

    You’re obviously a very disturbed individual as well as a very cowardly one. If you want a platform for your obsession, get your own blog.

  23. Yet more unnecessary measles cases were announced yesterday: Small number of measles cases in Tower Hamlets

    A small number of measles cases have been identified in primary and secondary schools in Tower Hamlets. These cases have occurred in individuals who have not been vaccinated against measles.

    Public Health England has been working with Tower Hamlets Council to inform local GPs, schools and parents of these measles cases and are urging the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

    Dr Yvonne Doyle, director for Public Health England in London, said: “Parents are being given information on the symptoms of measles and are asked to ensure their child is fully immunised with two doses of the MMR vaccine, if they aren’t already. Parents who are unsure whether their child has had two doses of MMR should call their GP practice to check and arrange an appointment as soon as possible if necessary.”

    Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health at Tower Hamlets Council said: “Measles is a very infectious viral illness that spreads rapidly amongst children and adults who are not vaccinated.

  24. Roald dahls daughter died of encephalitis, a complication directly related to her measles, and her father was helpless to prevent it. Roald dahl is pro vax

  25. One of the things people do not realize about vaccine effectiveness is that immunity does no occur as soon as the needle comes out of your arm or yiur pet’s body. If yiu had no previous exposure to the immune stimulating elements then your body has to respond and manufacture your antibodies. This can take a while before immunity is effective. Often (as with influenza) people run out and get vaccinated after being exposed when their bodies are already incubating the illness. Then they blame the illness on the vaccine.

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