From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4–Shriver walks a girl through acceptance and a beginning understanding of her Grandpa's condition. Kate questions not just what can be done to address the changes Alzheimer's will bring within her own family but she also tries to place her concern in the larger context of growing old. She decides how to help her grandfather as he goes through this difficult time. Together they sit down with a box of photographs and his still-intact memories and create a scrapbook. This well-meaning book is clearly and lovingly written. Kate is admittedly "wise beyond her age," which serves the author well as the child becomes the voice of reason. Grandpa is known to talk to God and is grateful for having been granted a good life despite his current adversity. The book is squat and square, helping to establish intimacy. There is a soft focus to the pastel art that matches the tone of the story. The application of color is lively, scratchy yet self-contained, giving a sense of controlled movement. The art is especially effective at giving Grandpa energy and verve. Certain phrases are printed in a larger type on each page, giving multiple entries into the book's key concepts simply by reading these emphasized statements. As Grandpa says, "the important memories of my life will forever be in my heart." It's a warm and touching thought.–Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI
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Reviewed with Roberta Karim's Faraway Grandpa
PreS-Gr.3. Written from a child's viewpoint, these two picture books tell the story of a beloved grandfather with Alzheimer's disease. In Faraway Grandpa, set nearly a century ago, Kathleen visits her Grandpa Danny every summer, and they have uproarious fun together. He loves shenanigans, he teases her, and together they bellow out his song from Ireland, "Danny Boy." But one year, he forgets that she's coming, and eventually he comes to live with her family. He hides in her closets and does other silly things. He makes trouble with the neighbors, and he even forgets her name. But he remembers things from long ago, and always, he and Kathleen share the melancholy song. The old-fashioned setting distances the story, but it also shows that the illness is not new. In Rand's warm, pencil-and-watercolor paintings and Karim's short, unrhymed lines the quiet scenarios of hurt and humiliation and heartfelt love tell the truth.
In contrast, Shriver's characters are absolutely perfect, and her scenarios are pure bliss. Gushy words and misty pastel illustrations depict family members across three generations as unfailingly kind, strong, and understanding. Young Kate is "curious, sensitive, and wise beyond her age," and Grandpa had an "absolutely happy" life. Yet how supportive is this scenario when a child trying to cope with a beloved, ailing grandparent feels (and sees family members feeling) irritation, anger, and guilt? There will be many requests for this; it has been widely promoted and endorsed by Nancy Reagan. But the purposive story isn't what works; it's the information woven into the fiction. The clear facts about the disease, what to expect (Will Mom get it? Will Kate?), and how to cope are supported by an excellent list of resources and organizations to contact. Hazel Rochman
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