A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey, Author

Samantha Woo, Illustrator

Beaming Books, Fiction, May 5, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Grandparents, Memory, Nursing Homes, Intergenerational relationships, Love

Opening: “Kiera and Grandma always found ways to have fun together.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Kiera loves spending time with her grandma. They play dress up. They paint their nails. They make cookies for picnics with Kiera’s doll. But then Grandma starts to change. She starts misplacing items and forgetting how to do everyday tasks. Soon she has to move out of her home into a memory-care center for people with Alzheimer’s. She starts calling Kiera by a different name. Instead of driving around in her sporty car, her grandma travels in a wheelchair. Many times her Grandma stares out a window and doesn’t say much. Then Kiera has an idea and finds a new way to enjoy time with her Grandma.

Why I like this book:

A Doll for Grandma is heartwarming story for children facing a changing relationship with a beloved family member who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s difficult for adults to cope with, but even more confusing for a child. It is also a lovely story about one of my favorite topics — intergenerational relationships.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey’s sensitive approach of telling the story through a child’s eyes  is so sweet and tender. Sharkey soothing narrative tells of the happy times together until one day Kiera finds her grandmother’s keys in the refrigerator. Other signs of memory issues appear. One day Kiera’s grandmother calls her “Sally Mae.” Kiera comes up with an idea that helps her connect with her grandmother.

Samantha Woo’s illustrations are cheerful and colorful. They lighten the mood on a heavy topic and focus on the positive. And they beautifully express the loving bond between Kiera and her grandmother.

Resource:  A special page with information on helping children understand Alzheimer’s disease written by expert Judy Cornish, the founder of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s Well Being Network® is included for family discussion. Parents will want to read the many uplifting suggestions that will help the entire family enhance their time together with a loved one.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey is the author of dozens of articles and puzzles for children’s magazines. A Doll for Grandma is her debut picture book. Her inspiration for this story came from working as a volunteer pianist with memory-care residents and from caring for family members with dementia. Both brought moments of great joy and fulfillment. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

19 thoughts on “A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

  1. This is such a delicate topic and one that is important to talk to children about. I remember when my father needed to be moved into a nursing home and suffered memory loss. He had forgotten many details about his life and was confused at times. Luckily, he never forgot who I was, and he never forgot who his granddaughter was, and seeing us on our daily visits always made his face light up. I’m glad you shared this book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Delicate, butimportant. There are many families dealing with grandparents and other loved ones with memory issues. You were so foturnate that he didn’t forget you. And it was so important he saw you daily — memories you won’t forget. But, it can be unsettling for children to visit a grandparent in a nursing facility.

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    • Yes, it is such a heartwarming story! I think you are right, but it’s still nice to have a book on hand to help explain what’s happening. And kids see that they aren’t alone.

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  2. This book sounds like it could really help kids understand and figure out a way to continue to participate in their loved ones lives. I’ve heard stories about using music, too, as a way to reach patients with different forms of dementia.

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    • Yes, I think that is the carry way message of the book — finding a way to connect. And, music therapy is a big asset. I know a woman who is a music therapist and she works in memory units. She’s told me that when elders have difficulty communicating, music is a pathway to getting them to speak. Another part of their brain will remember a favorite song.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, when my mom was in the ICU after open heart surgery years ago, she wasn’t quite coherent and they wanted her to practice deep breathing. A music therapist came in and asked mom what her favorite song was, and my mom immediately sang all of the words to “You’ll Never Know,” with her eyes closed. It was a song from 1943, during WWII when she and my dad got married and then he shipped out. It was two years before she saw him again. Everyone was crying but my mom. She was just singing. It still makes me cry to think about it. The power of music is extraordinary.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like such a touching book! I can imagine many young readers will relate, unfortunately, to having a grandparent with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Thanks for the great review!

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  4. What a great story to help kids understand this unfortunate change in their relationship with a grandparent. I know several families who would benefit from this book and will forward the link to your review to them.

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  5. I am excited to see this book. Having experieinced this in our family and with friends, I’d love to have a tender resource to share. Thank you Patricia for finding and highlighting it.

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    • You are welcome. I was excited to share it because seniors are living longer and many have great grandchildren. It also introduces them to senior care facilities and makes them less scary.

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  6. This sounds like a lovely story, Patricia. I remember reading some time ago that Alzheimers patients responded well to having a doll of their own – something to cuddle. I wonder if that story prompted this one.

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