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What a Beautiful Morning Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Noah loves visiting his grandparents and especially spending time with Grandpa. Summer days there always begin with a "booming song" about a beautiful morning. Grandma is no morning up-and-at-'em person, so Noah and Grandpa bring her a nice cup of coffee to help her day get started. Then they go for a walk with the dog, rain or shine, singing all the way. Back home for breakfast, they make their plans and check "what's on the docket" for the day. This particular summer, however, things are different. Grandpa forgets to ask about the docket, and one morning he can't even remember how to cut his French toast. Even worse, one day Grandpa fails to recognize Noah when he wakes up from a nap. These changes are scary and make Noah very sad. Grandma tries to explain and helps Noah focus on appreciating "what [Grandpa] still has…not on what he's lost," even though that means some days Noah completes his docket all by himself. One day when Noah is playing the piano and singing loudly, Grandpa joins in, just like old times. Lunch goes pretty well, too, as Noah sings Grandpa's favorite Tuna Fish Sandwich Song. But it's not really the same anymore. So Grandma and Noah come up with a docket plan themselves while Grandpa naps. Some days for Noah and Grandpa seem like old times, and some don't, but they'll go on their walks together still, singing "as long as the song would last." Kath's charming illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. She hints at Grandpa's state of mind by changing the color of his shirt and scenery from full color to grays as the dementia takes over. The layout is easy on the eye, and the book remains child focused and upbeat. VERDICT This sweet and tender story about dealing with change and loss is suitable for sharing in a group or one-on-one. No happy ending here, but a satisfyingly realistic one all the same.—Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA
"It's a lovely, bittersweet story, and Levine carefully modulates a challenging emotional arc, offering readers just the right measure of hope."
"[a] perfect picture book story about how love helps us find even what we think is lost... very highly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4 to 8."
-Midwest Book Reviews
"A comforting, honest resource ideal for little ones confronted by aging relatives."―-Booklist
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Artist & Illustrator, Joanne Coulton
This book is so beautifully done. It is about the very special relationship that children have with their grandparents, the delight of staying with them, and how each morning can be special just because someone cares for you and spends time with you. It is also about the power of music to connect people and experiences as well as its special quality with those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Throughout, the character of Grandma is there, at first secondary to the strong relationship between grandfather and grandson and then stepping up to fill some of the gaps left behind. She is warm and loving and very special.
Kath’s illustrations are bright colored and friendly. When Grandpa is confused or feeling separate, she uses a visual device to indicate the change by having his face lose color. If he is particularly confused, the colorlessness spreads on the page, taking up his entire body. In this way, children will see visually the change coming over Grandpa and understand that it is deeply affecting him and his personality.
It is rare that I tear up when reading a picture book, but this book is particularly moving. Have tissues ready. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
The author, Arthur A. Levine, has written poetry and picture books for young readers - books full of heart and hope. He is also the editor and publisher of many books enjoyed by readers of all ages including the J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The illustrator, Katie Kath, has created the images for a number of award-winning books and writes that "she cherishes the memory of making music with her own grandparents, sitting at their ancient pianola and trying to get it to play the torn-up scroll of 'Don't Bring Lulu.'"
Enjoy this beautiful book published by Running Press, and then enjoy sharing special grandparent memories with who ever is snuggled next to you or sitting on you lap.
The illustrations show the way forgetfulness or dementia can gradually creep into everyday activities. The pictures go from vibrant, warm colors to having areas that are done in shadowy gray. It might be Grandpa's head partially in shadow, or his breakfast plate when he forgets how to cut his French toast. The day he wakes up from a nap and doesn't recognize Noah is a 2-page spread in those dreary grays, a definite low point.
The cause of Grandpa's forgetfulness is never explained, it is simply shown, along with how Noah and Grandma support him. Noah sings the tuna sandwich song at lunch, or their morning song as they walk the dog. Grandma lays out his walking clothes and swaps roles to be the one to bring the morning coffee.
Readers who have enjoyed the way the title character in Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge tries to help his friend Miss Nancy find her lost memory will love Noah's story. Both boys are such caring individuals and become such a help to their older loved ones, one can't help but see the similarity. Families who are dealing with grandparents or great-grandparents with memory problems may want to share this book with the younger generation to help them see they are not alone. It is also perfect for class studies of family stories, and another companion book could be Song and Dance Man (with the tie-in of the music).
Highly recommended for all ages.