It’s that time of year when the “Best of” lists are being published. The following books received five stars from me on Goodreads, which isn’t easy to do. I’ve read 499 picture books this year; most which were published this year. Only fifteen received 5 stars.
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Home by Carson Ellis
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Simon’s New Bed by Christian Trimmer and illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt
Waiting by Kevin Henkes
Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? by Stephen Savage
Lizard from the Park by Mark Pett
A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko
Everybody Sleeps (but not Fred) by Josh Schneider
How to Share With a Bear by Eric Pinder and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de La Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson
Beep, Beep, Go To Sleep by Todd Tarpley and illustrated by John Rocco
Look by Jeff Mack
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt
Yesterday, I wrote about a woman reading picture books to her mother suffering Alzheimer’s Disease. Today, I’m highlighting two books about grandmother’s suffering this horrible disease. It’s a sensitive subject for me. My grandmother went from a vibrant lady tending her garden and orchard, making homemade preserves and cooking the best country fried steak in the world to not recognizing her children or grandchildren.
Months ago Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin arrived at the library. I read it to ML. Then, told her about my grandmother. How she would make sweet tea, then forget she had added sugar. So she added more which made it too sweet to drink.
I told her about the time Grandmommy was visiting for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my family attended the candlelight service at our church. Grandmommy and I didn’t; because I was sick with the flu. She wanted to stay home and care for me. Every few minutes she’d pop in my room asking, “Do you need anything?” She didn’t remember she had just checked on me. It’s heartwarming to think of her concern today; but as a feverish, aching teenager I didn’t appreciate it. When my family returned, I told them in no circumstances should Grandmommy be allowed to check on me again. I share stories like this with ML because it’s important to talk about hard things before she experiences them. The likelihood someone she loves will experience dementia is high.
I’ve read other picture books about grandparents with Alzheimers Disease. Forget Me Not is the best. In a comforting narrative it shares the realities of the disease, the fears of a child as her grandmother starts forgetting things, and how that child copes. The pencil and ink washed illustrations evoke a feeling of love and security.
I didn’t devour Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord; instead I kept coming back to it over the course of a month. Every few weeks, I go through the library books at home and decide which ones I know I’ll never get to or finish. Every time I saw this book in the pile, I couldn’t bring myself to return it. It’s a beautiful story about tween friendships, family dynamics, a grandmother in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and new beginnings. It includes one of the most important quotes I’ve read in a children’s novel.
“Oh, people will think what they think!” Grandma Lilah said. “Don’t ever choose the people who don’t matter over the ones who do.”