MIAMI—As a pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. Jessica Krieg changes little faces and lives for the better. Yet for all the good she does, she is all too aware that rhinoplasty and liposuction can be difficult, scary experiences for a child. With her new book, Norah's New Nose, she hopes to change all that.
"These children, on the threshold of becoming something—and someone—beautiful, are often scared and unsure of what's about to be done to them," Krieg said. "In Norah's New Nose, I try to show them there's nothing to fear, and that when it's over, there's no need for shame."
As the book opens, Norah, a little girl who inherited her father's "generous" nose, is peering out her bedroom window at the moon.
"'Good night!' Miss Moon said to Norah," the book reads. "But although the beautiful Miss Moon said good night to Norah, she said it the same way Mommy says good night to homely Miss Crabgrass or creepy old Mr. Kratch. Norah became very sad."
Norah's mother explains to her that something is preventing Miss Moon from seeing what a pretty little girl she is—something "right in front of her face."
"It isn't Miss Moon's fault she can't see your inner beauty," Mommy gently tells Norah. "Miss Moon may be very special, but she isn't all-powerful."
Using an enchanted mirror, Mommy shows Norah the difference between her own perfect nose and her daughter's "big, broad, bulky bird beak." Norah starts to cry, but Mommy assures her that doctors at the hospital can solve her problem, just like they solved Mommy's.
"I wanted to show these kids that the changes they go through in the plastic-surgery ward are normal and natural," Krieg said. "It's not like getting your tonsils out. It's something to make you even better instead of just barely good enough."
Norah's New Nose has already earned raves from Krieg's fellow pediatric plastic surgeons, but the reviews that matter most to Krieg are the ones from her patients.
"I love Norah's animal friends, especially Pugsley The Duckling," said Lacey Ginsberg, a Great Neck, NY, 7-year-old who read Krieg's book before getting the same nasal-resculpting procedure as Norah and Pugsley. "Poor Pugsley was scared, but Norah helped her be brave. I want Daddy to get me a Pugsley doll—the one with the 'after' nose."
"I like the part where Lissa The Thin-Lipped Butterfly changes from a butterfly into a beautiful betterfly," said Amanda Robles, 8, a collagen-therapy patient from Long Beach, CA. "She'll win all the butterfly pageants now. And even though Matt R. Pillar now pays attention to her, she realizes she's way too good for him."
For all the praise Norah's New Nose has received from Krieg's colleagues, the book is not without its detractors.
"This sends a horrible message to children," renowned pediatrician and author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton said. "I shouldn't have to tell anyone how damaging it is to put so much emphasis on a child's physical appearance. This is by far the worst book I've ever seen."
Krieg said she was not surprised by Brazelton's reaction.
"Of course he'd say that," Krieg said. "It's just like what Miss Moon tells Norah at the end, after she comes back home with her beautiful new nose: 'My dear, now that you are as beautiful as a little girl can possibly be, all those people are just jealous.'"
"The message isn't that being good-looking makes everything okay," Krieg continued. "It just presents a whole new set of challenges—challenges these children are finally beautiful enough to face."