Friday, May 20, 2011

“Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?” A Novel About a Family’s Journey Through Bipolar Disorder

I just finished reading the book Where are the cocoa puffs? by NAMI board member Karen Winters Schwartz. This is a fiction novel about a family’s journey with a teen daughter diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting look inside a family, giving the unique perspective from each person’s point of view. First, there’s the teenage daughter, who as the center of chaos, exposes a young mind being captured by bipolar disorder. Next, there’s the father, who as a psychiatrist treats patients with this illness, but now must face seeing his own child suffer. I actually found his character fun to read because I’m always wondering what our doctors are really thinking. Then there was the mother, who thinks her husband is too quick to diagnosis their daughter, while fighting her own shame that she may have caused her daughter’s erratic behavior. To complete the family, there’s a sibling in the form of a younger sister, as well as a boyfriend who’s in over his head. And finally some extended family to represent the views of outsiders.

Overall, the book does a good job of showing a range of emotions and experiences a family faces when coping with bipolar disorder in the teen years. At times, I felt like the emotions could’ve gone deeper because some moments felt too simplified and rushed. But at the same time, I think it does an excellent job in showing those unfamiliar with bipolar disorder the number of challenges confronted and how this disorder affects more than just the person suffering from it.

Even though my child is much younger, there were elements that were easy to relate to. For myself, a moment that was very profound was when the mother was sharing her struggles on how to parent her daughter. The mother says, “Would you slap your two-year old for spilling milk? No. You’d give her a sippy cup. Of course, it just felt wrong giving an eighteen-year-old woman sippy cups of acceptance, but it was as it was.” (Schwartz, 2010, p. 200) 

Wow!! I love what she wrote here, it perfectly captures the subtle challenges parents face when raising children with mood disorders. To the outside world, we look like we’re letting our children get away with stuff, but instead, we’re giving them “sippy cups of acceptance” because we know that’s all they’re capable of.

Check out this book for yourself or refer it to someone who’s looking to understand how bipolar disorder affects the entire family. True compassion begins with understanding.

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Find it on Amazon:

Where are the cocoa puffs?
Karen Winters Schwartz


  1. Thank you for this book review. It's good to know there are works out there addressing the day to day issues of raising bipolar teens. Even if it is "fiction" the author obviously is using first hand and primary sources for the basis of the book! It is really what the average reader would get a lot of good information from. Should we suggest it to the Oprah book club, or some others?

  2. Sounds like a good book. "Sippy cups of acceptance"--such a great description! I'm going to try and remember it next time I'm starting to lose patience with my daughter.