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NIH Record

'Jester' Jingles in Clinical Center Playroom

By Bonnie Flock

The Jester never gave up. Neither did his creator. Neither did his mother.

Barbara Saltzman, mother of the late author-illustrator David Saltzman, visited the Clinical Center recently to read, sign and give away her son's book The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, to CC youngsters.

The book, a fable about a court jester's quest for laughter and his discovery that laughter is inside all of us, is a tale of determination and hope.

These are qualities that Barbara Saltzman knows well.

Barbara Saltzman displays book written by her son David, whose dying wish was that his work be published. The volume is available in R&W stores on campus.

She's spent the past 2½ years reading, donating and sharing the book at schools, libraries, hospitals, bookstores and charity events across the country.

"What really keeps me going is seeing the children's responses," said Saltzman. "I love watching their faces as I read to them and hearing their delight in the book."

The Clinical Center was one of four hospitals she visited while in the D.C. area. She also presented readings at several bookstores and toy stores.

"When I come to a city, I love to actually be able to visit the hospitals and the children, and talk with the social workers and everybody who is so involved with caring for these youngsters," said Saltzman. "They're all really special people because it takes a special kind of person to treat children.

"One of the real satisfactions is seeing the wonderful use that hospitals are putting the book to and what a wonderful role it's playing in therapies and in helping not only the children who are ill, but their families as well, because when one person is ill in a family, it affects everybody."

The Jester was written and illustrated by David as his senior project at Yale before he died of Hodgkin's disease in 1990, 11 days before his 23rd birthday.

His dying wish was that the book -- and its heartfelt message -- be published as he had envisioned it. His message? That laughter is inside all of us, even during times of hardship and illness. He also wanted the book to be given free to children diagnosed with cancer and other special needs.

David's wish came true.

Publishers rejected the book, believing it was too long and expensive to print. But thanks to much dedication, a little hope and a second mortgage, Barbara and Joe Saltzman and their son Michael published the 64-page book as David intended.

It was released in October 1995 and found immediate success.

In less than 2 years, the book sold more than 230,000 copies, reaching the best-seller lists of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly, among other honors.

And perhaps more importantly, some 25,000 copies of The Jester have been donated to children so far.

"It's just so important for me to see that this book does what David wanted it to do," said Saltzman. "He wanted it to help all children, those going through cancer treatments and other illnesses, and even those who are just having a bad day."

She hopes, as David had hoped, that The Jester helps children through their difficulties and encourages them to find their inner resources.

While pushing herself to find her own inner resources, Saltzman's CC reading encouraged the smiles and praise of both adults and children.

"I liked the whole book," said Arielle Anacker, an 8-year-old cancer patient. "I liked that he got all the laughter back!"

"I loved the book. I really thought it was very inspirational," said Diane Trivelli, Arielle's mother. "I also enjoyed the rhymes and illustrations."

"I think I will always continue to visit hospitals and schools to talk to children about laughter and how important it is, and the Jester," said Saltzman. "Nothing will bring David back, but this really brings him into the lives of so many people who need him."

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