Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
This look at the impact of Alzheimer’s is personal and touching. Told in the first person, the book looks at the changes of Julia’s grandmother. Her grandmother used to make favorite foods, have her house just so, and even smelled of cinnamon and lilac when they cuddled. But as time passed, her grandmother started forgetting more and more. She made mistakes and even started to forget who her family members were. A little later and Julia’s grandmother started to forget what they had done together in the past, she wasn’t allowed to drive anymore, and her cooking wasn’t the same. She got worse and worse until she had to be given special care in a home. Julia and her family have to make the best of it, and that means that Julia has to find a way to continue to connect with her grandmother even though she can’t remember her.
Van Laan uses a delicacy of language her to weave her story. Since the entire book is about loss of memory and the loss of a grandparent to Alzheimer’s, this delicacy sets a lovely tone for the book. As the changes start to happen, Van Laan describes them: “But ever so slowly, like a low tide leaving the bay, a change came along.” Filled with constant change, the book captures moments along the way, showing how Julia’s grandmother is worsening but also how they continue to keep her spirit alive and well during the changes.
Graegin’s illustrations show the changes in the grandmother but also maintain a sweetness that never leaves the story. Despite the grandmother’s decline, the light remains bright in the illustrations and the family stays close knit in a visual way.
There are many books about Alzheimer’s available now, but this one takes just the right tone and gives information that young children are looking for. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley from Edelweiss and Random House Children’s Books.