New children’s book tells what happens when the brain gets sick


“Mixing playfulness and seriousness, we aim to de-dramatize and stimulate the children's curiosity," says Åsa Konradsson Geuken, that together with researcher colleague Klas Kullander has written When the brain gets sick. A book that explains why a grandmother can suddenly have a hard time recognizing her grandchildren, but also show that it’s possible to live a good life even when the brain is feeling bad.

Åsa Konradsson Geuken and Klas Kullander, authors of When the Brain Becomes Sick
Åsa Konradsson Geuken and Klas Kullander, authors of When the brain gets sick

Once upon a time... most bedtime stories begin, but wouldn’t it be exciting to start at least one evening with "The brain is made of a hundred billion nerve cells that talk to each other". Now all curious children and parents get the chance with the new book When the brain gets sick, a tale far from princesses and unicorns - but which, on the other hand, contains Zebras with superpowers and a grandmother who finds it increasingly difficult to recognize her grandchildren.

“I often lecture at schools about brain diseases and know that many children live close to people who have been affected and want to understand what is going on. I also know that there is a lack of books explaining at a child's level what actually happens when a brain gets sick. Now we have written that book, and mixing playfulness with seriousness, we aim to de-dramatize and arouse the children's curiosity,” says Åsa Konradsson Geuken, researcher and teacher with a focus on Schizophrenia.

Win a signed copy of When the Brain Gets Sick
Win a signed copy of När hjärnan blir sjuk

Åsa has written the book together with Klas Kullander, Professor of Neurosciences and already a familiar name in children's libraries with How does the brain work? An often well-worn volume that, with inspiring texts and colorful illustrations, explains to children why their brains are particularly good at learning things and also motivates them to continue seeking new knowledge while they are at it.

When the brain gets sick is, in a sense, a continuation of How does the brain work? Still, describing illnesses to children always involves the challenge of being as truthful as possible without scaring or belittling. With a focus on the brain, we also have to make it clear that not even adults have all the answers, even if children prefer to have the facts written in black and white. But with the finished book in hand, I think we have succeed in conveying important knowledge within the framework of an exciting bedtime story,” says Klas Kullander.

When the brain gets sick also offers several thought-provoking and imaginative illustrations by Kalicharan Patra who is working at Stockholm University, as well as an introductory painting by Mats Konradsson, artist and older brother of Åsa Konradsson Geuken. In his early adulthood, Mats developed a psychosis and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the final chapter of the book he, together with Aila Ibanez Mengüc and Mathias "Bissen" Larsson, former Swedish champion in bandy, explain life with a brain disease.

Illustration by Mats Konradsson (detail)
Illustration by Mats Konradsson (detail)

“We are so happy that they wanted to be in the book and show that anyone can be affected, and above all that it is possible to live a good life even when the brain feels bad. We are also incredibly grateful for the collaboration with Mathias Larsson which enables us to distribute the book at Bissen's Brainwalks, as well as the financial support from the Swedish Schizophrenia Association which made the project possible,” says Åsa Konradsson Geuken.

In spring 2024, the book will be published in English and an international organization is already showing interest to translate the title into a number of languages for publication in Europe. Further ahead, another book project awaits with a focus on children's questions about brain diseases. Material and a cover are already on the desk – and if only schedules allow, the hope is to involve a very well-known profile in the work. But first in line is the launch of When the brain gets sick.

“We really had fun writing the book and now we hope that as many children as possible will read it together with their parents or in their classrooms. We are both passionate about spreading knowledge and replacing prejudice and fear with curiosity and knowledge. And if schools contact us with requests for us to come visit and talk to the pupils, we promise to do everything to make it a reality,“ say Åsa and Klas.




Åsa Konradsson GeukenÅsa Konradsson Geuken, Senior lecturer
Dep. of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

Klas KullanderKlas Kullander, Professor
Dep. of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt, illustration: Kalicharan Patra, Mats Konradsson

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Last modified: 2022-11-08