Reviews of Grandma (Child's Play Library)

“I’m Oscar and I have the best Grandma in the whole wide world.” So begins this sweet, fragile story about the finite, particular experience of moving an older person into assisted living, and its impact on a young child. Oscar’s direct story offers a linear account of the situation. Grandma is forgetting things and needs more help than the family can provide, so she’s going to live somewhere where there are lots of people to care for her. We will miss her, it will be different, and you can ask questions. Oscar visits Grandma, learns about her new routine, meets her friend Albert, and decides it’s going to be OK.
This kind of purposeful book rarely gets attention beyond its purpose. It may not attract a large audience beyond families sharing the experience it depicts, and probably won’t find its way into regular storytime rotation (though I would be all over it). But there is real art here, and detail that warrants our notice.
Let’s begin with the style of the artwork, fresh and tender and childlike. The images vibrate with the love of family, and reinforce the child’s perspective. Just looking at the book, one feels the sort of security a child might craft for himself. The handwritteny font further establishes this as something experienced directly by a child, not filtered through the wisdom of adulthood.
And within the art are many wonderful details. Right on the cover we see Oscar and Grandma cuddling in a soft, oversized chair upholstered in a particularly cheery floral fabric. We see that fabric, with its bright red, yellow, blue and pink blossoms, over and over, on the opening and closing pages, on the coverlet on Grandma’s bed, as a handkerchief in Grandma’s memory box. And the original chair comes with Grandma and is present in her room after the move. No mention is made of the fabric’s constancy, but the through-line reminds readers that while some things will be different, some things will stay the same. The imagery is not all about particulars, though. Open backgrounds and copious white space leave plenty of room for children to fit themselves into the story, and fully absorb its comforts.
Also worth noting is the candor of the first person address. Oscar, experiencing things genuinely, tells the truth. “Grandma still tells me lots of stories about her life. I know them all by heart, so that I can remind her if she forgets one day” he says, for example. The sweetness here is pure, and does not come from sugar coating. It would be disingenuous to suggest to children that things will be better than they are. Instead, Oscar gives us his own account, focused on the positive, to be sure, but fully acknowledging the reality.
As practitioners we are aware of the need for books like this to help families through situations of stress and change. How wonderful that we have at our disposal books that support and explain, and do so with consummate artfulness.”

Butler’s Pantry. 18th May 2015

You say: a selection of fantastic online reviews of our book…

Grandma (Child’s Play Library) by Jessica Shepherd

“This is a beautifully illustrated and well-written book. It teaches young children about the sensitive issues about Dementia as seen through a young child's eyes. The book has a section 'Let's talk about' to help parents explain to children about Dementia and how it is affecting their Grandparent. I would definitely recommend this book for children of all ages. I am really pleased I bought it. Excellent!”

“Well written and illustrated, a subject which needs to be talked about with children and this book is a good easy book to understand very moving.”

“Grandma is sweet and gorgeous... and real! This book perfectly does NOT shove dementia under the carpet, but offers opportunities to talk about what happens when a loved one goes through this or has to go to a care home, and shows how a relationship between child and grandparent can still exist and how they can still enjoy time together. Brilliant!”

"Dementia is a difficult concept to explain to a child. In her first book, Jessica Shepherd lovingly and gently explains some of the changes that can occur with dementia in a beloved family elder. It has statements and solutions that are easy for a child to understand and to implement. Plus, its pages are filled with opportunities to open communication with a parent or other adult to discuss dementia. It describes common fears and frustrations of a child, explaining them in clear language. Ms Shepherd even tackles a hospital bed and wheelchair, making them non-threatening and no longer scary. This could easily lead to discussions of other medical equipment, such as a walker or oxygen. This book is an excellent resource for children and their families dealing with dementia in a family member or friend. I highly recommend it as a resource for families and professionals."

Misc. 2nd February 2015

"Time to focus on a book that's like a huge 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 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, experiencing first-hand situations like the one so touchingly described in the story. Oscar talks about his 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 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). 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."
For more and to find out what Charlotte and Daddy's best and favourite bits are, please click HERE:

ReadItDaddy. 4th December 2014

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