Friday 28 March 2014

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th March 2014 - "Grandma" by Jessica Shepherd (Child's Play Books)


Written and Illustrated by
Jessica Shepherd

Published by Child's Play Books

We had to double up on our Book of the Week nominations for this week, simply because there was no dividing our two choices and we couldn't wait to share both with you with as much enthusiasm as possible. So you've seen our Hermelin review, it's now time to shift gears to focus on a book that's like a huge big sledgehammer-sized whump in the heart to read, and one that we've shared between family members, each coming away from it with something subtly different.

"Grandma" by Jessica Shepherd, like "Really and Truly" deals with a subject that's extremely difficult to explain to a child, but this book does so in a sensitive, thoughtful and patient way.

Jessica Shepherd's book is borne of years of working in care situations, experiencing first-hand situations like the one so touchingly described in the story. Oscar talks about Grandma, and how she's an amazing energetic person full of joie de vivre. She loves to play, she loves to read stories, and always makes time for Oscar.

Grandma becomes ill, and has to move into a sheltered home in order to be looked after properly. It takes a while for Oscar to adjust, but with lots of help on hand, and lots of other people to talk to, Grandma gets the sort of care and attention she needs.

Oscar doesn't understand why Grandma gets angry sometimes, or doesn't recognise him, but knows that deep down in his heart Grandma is the same person, still well loved and a part of a loving family.

My wife commented on how fantastic this book is, and how it helps Charlotte understand the situation with her own two great-grandmas (Great Nanny and Great Grandma) who suffer from dementia. This year has been particularly tough as the marked change in both of them has been rapid, taking most of us (including Charlotte) by surprise with how quickly things can change. Child-friendly illustrations add to the sensitive and thoughtful text, and there's a reference at the end to explain some of the terms used in the book so that children can read and refer to them to gain a greater understanding (though the story conveys things so fantastically on its own).

Jessica's book is quite rightly championed by everyone who has read it so we really needed to experience it for ourselves. (Please drop by Carmen's "Rhino Reads" blog for her review of both Grandma and "Really and Truly"). Child's Play very kindly sent us a copy and it's been read and re-read ever since.

It's often difficult to adequately describe what dementia is to a child, or what it means when a well-loved family member begins such a rapid spiral into such a horrible disease. This book has helped us a lot, and if you're in a similar situation we seriously cannot recommend it highly enough.

Charlotte's best bit: Finding out about Grandma's new home (with a brilliant floor plan drawn to show where everything is)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A book that took us all on an emotional roller-coaster, but has been a hugely valuable book to help Charlotte (and us) understand what it feels like to be in this situation

(Kindly sent to us for review by Child's Play Books)