I Smile for Grandpa, written by Jaclyn Guenette and illustrated by Kathryn Harrison, is the sad but powerful story of Buddy and Grandpa, and how their relationship changes as Grandpa succumbs to dementia. The highest praise I can give this book is that I passed it on to a friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers because I thought it could be helpful for her to read with her children. I read it with my children, who don’t know anyone with dementia, and it led us to have some great conversations. The illustrator’s decision on dressing Buddy is genius – it’s never mentioned in the story whether Buddy is male or female, and the clothing could go either way. To my daughters, Buddy was “clearly” a girl because “she” wears purple; truly, though, I think a young boy could just as easily say Buddy is “obviously” a boy. The simple but powerful language combined with the illustrations that allow all children to see themselves as Buddy make this book a great tool for talking to kids about dementia. I highly recommend this book, and thank illustrator Kathryn Harrison for gifting me a copy in exchange for a (very, very, very overdue) review.
Find more information about the book and how it supports the Alzheimer Society of Canada, visit ismileforgrandpa.com.