Boy outside NICU Boy with baby in NICU illustration detail Boy with preemie and Teddy Bear illustration detail Preemie in NICU illustration detail Boy with Teddy Bear and photo illustration detail

About the Author

Valerie's Personal Story
I was born in San Francisco, California to very creative parents who loved art, science and education. When I was four, my family moved to Mill Valley, where I grew up and went to school. Sitting around the family dinner table was always an adventure, with my father ending many meals with an exciting science experiment or talking with guests my mother had invited about school and politics.

I always loved math and science in school, but I never saw myself as a reader or writer. After graduating from high school, I affirmed my desire to teach when I worked for a year for Marin County's Environmental Education Center. For the next five years I attended Sonoma State University and received my B.A. in Environmental Studies, and my elementary school credential. I was hired in 1975 to teach science and reading to 120, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Since that time I have taught everything from kindergarten to sixth grade. As an elementary school teacher I realized the importance of children's books and felt there was (or should be) a special book for every topic, subject, and event there was.

In 1977, my first son Dylan was born, followed by Dustin, in 1980. Both Dylan and Dustin were full-term babies with uneventful births and developmental histories. When I became pregnant with Brendan, my third son, I experienced one complication after another. My first two pregnancies and births did not prepare me for Brendan's early delivery at 34 weeks, followed by three weeks in the NICU of my local hospital.

At 34 weeks, my water broke while shopping at a local store. As I waddled out with the wet sticky pants clinging to my legs I was grateful they were navy blue and showed no sign of the event. I was further relieved when I realized that I had not leaked any fluids on the floor of the store. We headed to the hospital. It was a silent trip with all sorts of thoughts racing through my mind. I was scared and had no idea what was in store for my baby or our family.

At the hospital the doctors and nurses assured me that this was all going to work out, and that while my baby was going to need to stay in the NICU, he would likely do well considering his gestation and weight. Relieved, my thoughts immediately went to my two sons at home. Was there a book I could read to my four and seven year olds to explain what was happening to their soon-to-be-born brother? I was sure there would be a children's book to help explain the situation and arm them with information, but I soon realized that there were none. There was only advice from the doctors and nurses and pamphlets written for adults.

After Brendan's birth I knew that I had to do something to help the young siblings of preemies. So, when Brendan was three months old I set out to write a children's book about premature babies. I wanted it to be the book my children had needed when I went into preterm labor, one that would explain the NICU through the eyes of a child and help young children better understand what was going on in their lives.


Valerie Pankow with her grandson

Valerie is available for press interviews, articles and news stories.