In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, please welcome Brightview’s Corporate Director of Dementia Care, Cole Smith, who has compiled reading materials for caretakers and their families in order to help ease difficult conversations and explain dementia to children.
What books would you add to this list? Thanks so much for your suggestions!
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month Children’s Book List
The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Grandma and Me by Beatrice Tauber Prior and Mary Ann Drummond, illustrated by Julia Walther
Told in diary form, this is the story of how one child’s Grandmother has to go into care. The change is unsettling, but there are many positives to draw from a touching and heartfelt relationship. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Striped Shirts and Flowered Pants: A Story About Alzheimer’s Disease for Young Children by Barbara Schnurbush, illustrated by Cary Pillo
Libby and Nana love to read stories and color pictures together. They plant the garden in spring and feed the songbirds. But Libby notices that Nana is forgetting the words in books. She’s mixing up the names of birds. She’s wearing clothes that don’t match. For parents, a note by psychologist Linda Scacco, PhD, offers guidance for helping children cope when a family member has Alzheimer’s disease. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Still My Grandma by Véronique Van den Abeele , illustrated by Claude K. Dubois
Camille and her grandma have a special friendship. They have sleepovers, bake chocolate cupcakes together, go out shopping, and giggle at old photographs. But one day Grandma forgets Camille’s name. Then she can’t remember where to put her shoes. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
A Heart Full of GEMS by Rev. Linn Possell and Teepa Snow, illustrated by Katya Villano
This is a story that teaches children to pay attention to and share in the human connection that can be maintained when a loved one is living with Alzheimer’s. This beautifully illustrated book can be shared with any child, removing their fear and anxiety of Alzheimer’s disease and replacing it with calm and confidence. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs
For twelve-year-old Lucy Crandall, the last week of August is the most perfect time in the world. It’s the week she gets to spend with Grams at the lake house, canoeing, baking cookies, and glazing pots in Grams’s potting shed. Grams has a way of making Lucy feel centered, like one of the pots on her kick wheel—perfect, steady, and completely at peace. But this summer, Grams doesn’t seem to be exactly the person she once was. And as the week turns into a roller coaster of surprises—some good, some awful—Lucy can’t help but wonder: Will things ever be centered again? [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
Alzheimer’s Awareness Middle Grade
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Merci Suárez attends a private school on scholarship which makes her feel like a second-class citizen. She has to do extra community service including The Sunshine Buddies where she gets paired with a boy that the girl who bullies her has a crush on. Merci would rather play soccer but now her family won’t let her try out for the school team because her grandfather needs help. No one tells her exactly what is going on, but it seems that her Lolo acts strange sometimes, wandering off or getting angry for no reason. This coming-of-age story sometimes feels like it’s really geared to the middle-grade audience. The reference to Vanna White of The Wheel of Fortune game show, for example, won’t resonate with most young readers as it’s before their time. Still, those readers who like a coming-of-age story that is steeped in the realism of everyday struggle will relate to Merci Suárez as she tries to find her place at school and at home.
There’s a lot in common with Merci Suárez Changes Gears and The First Rule of Punk. Both girls are experiencing transitions at school and have to deal with girl bullies. I would describe The First Rule of Punk as cinematic and Merci Suárez as a documentary. The former is more light-hearted, the latter is more somber. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Code Name Serendipity by Amber Smith
Review from Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Sadie lives with her moms and her older brother Noah, who constantly gives her a hard time. Her best friend has moved away, and while they can still text, it’s not the same, especially since she feels lonely at school. When there’s no French toast for breakfast one weekend morning, it is a bad sign; Sadie’s grandfather has been struggling with memory issues and is coming to live with Sadie’s family. In some ways, this is great. Sadie can talk to him when she gets home from school, and the two have a good time together. But even she can see that his memory is failing, and there are a couple of scary incidents because of this. At the same time, Sadie finds a dog outside who seems to call to her. She can communicate telepathically with Dewey, as the dog calls herself. Since one of her moms is a vet, Sadie knows she’s not supposed to approach strange dogs, and eventually Dewey shows up in her mom’s shelter. At school, where she struggles with a learning disability she tries to hide from her classmates, she has at least made a new friend in Macey, a girl with whom she had not previously gotten along because of an earlier misunderstanding. Macey has struggles of her own, and the two are soon hanging out. Macey even tries to help Sadie with a plan to get Dewey out of the shelter, but when that falls through, her grandfather comes to the rescue. He sets up a shed near the house as a “puppy palace”, and they bring Dewey home, lying to the shelter and saying she is their lost dog. They make plans to eventually tell the moms, but how long can they keep up the ruse before they are found out?” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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p.p.s. Here are some suggestions for visual aids to help stimulate memories from Mixbook:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.