My special guest today is middle-grade author and blogger Shannon Wiersbitzky. Shannon is a driving force in #AlzAuthors. Her book, What Flowers Remember is one of the few titles in Alzheimer's written expressly for children. Children are often on the perimeter of Alzheimer's disease, silent observers, sometimes caregivers in their own right. They represent an important part in the collateral damage the disease leaves in its wake. Shannon speaks to us today about a helpful collection of books on this subject for children and adults, books that can help start a conversation about Alzheimer's, books that enlighten and educate. Welcome to Adventures in Publishing Shannon!
by Shannon Wiersbizky, author of What Flowers Remember
There is a quote by American author Anne Ursu that I have thought about many times while writing. “Books put names on big feelings and then make them familiar and okay. And they tell you you are not alone in feeling them.” As I like to say, less eloquently, books help people cope.
Mix the healing power of books with a disease that is often shrouded in silence and you get a powerful combination. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.3 Million people currently have Alzheimer’s disease. Now add in caregivers, spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, and coworkers that are impacted. Suddenly that number grows much, much larger.
I suspect you have been affected in some way. If not you, then someone you know. There usually aren’t six degrees of separation with Alzheimer’s.
I was one of the forgotten ones. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s. When he died he had forgotten me and everyone else he loved. At the time, as is so typical of the disease, beyond my immediate family I didn’t talk about it with anyone. Why? I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times. Why didn’t I talk? Why didn’t anyone ask? Why weren’t there others sharing their own perspectives, their own stories, to give me hope, or at least a better understanding of what was to come?
Years later, by then a published children’s book author, I found myself compelled to write a story. A story about a young girl who is forgotten. I didn’t set out to write a book “about Alzheimer’s”. I set out to write a novel inspired by my own truth.
Many other authors have been inspired to do the same.
For November, National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, I’ve pulled together a book list of titles for all ages, six for children, six for adults. Get a book for yourself. Get a book as a gift for someone you know. Then talk. Share. Comfort and be comforted. Together we can end the silence of Alzheimer’s.
Ages 4-8 – Picture books.
What's Happening to Grandpa?, Maria Shriver
Kate loves her Grandpa’s stories but when he begins repeating them and forgets Kate’s name, she knows something is wrong. As a way to cope, she creates a special photo album of their times together.
Forget Me Not, Nancy Van Laan
When Julia’s Grandmother begins to forget things and even get lost in her own neighborhood, the whole family knows something is wrong. Eventually they need to move Grandmother out of her home, a place filled with memories, into a place where she’ll be safer.
Ages 9-13 – Middle-grade novels.
The Graduation of Jake Moon, Barbara Park
Jake Moon and his grandfather, Skelly, are close. Until Skelly is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Now the roles are switched. It’s as if Skelly is the kid and Jake is the adult. Much of Skelly’s care falls to Jake, which doesn’t leave much time for being a kid.
What Flowers Remember, Shannon Wiersbitzky
In the small town of Tucker’s Ferry, West Virginia, Delia and Old Red Clancy are friends and business partners. When he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many of his memories as she can, and she convinces the whole town to help.
Ages 12-18 – Young Adult novels
Curveball, Jordan Sonnenblick
Peter Friedman used to be a star baseball pitcher. In the year following an elbow injury, his grandfather is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The only bright spot is his new girlfriend and his grandfather’s photography equipment.
Pop, Gordon Korman
Marcus strikes up a friendship with Charlie Popovich, a former pro football player. As the two become closer, Marcus learns that Charlie has early onset Alzheimer’s as a result of head injuries suffered during his career.
Tending Roses, Lisa Wingate
Kate Bowman and her family travel to Missouri with the intent of moving Kate’s increasingly frail and forgetful grandmother to a nursing home. Struggling to find her way, Kate finds her grandmother’s journal and is forced to reexamine her own priorities in life.
Blue Hydrangeas: an Alzheimer’s love story, Marianne Sciucco
Jack and Sara own a New England bed and breakfast. When Sara is stricken with Alzheimer’s, everyone suggests a care facility. Unable to bear the thought of life without her, Jack makes an impossible promise. They will stay together no matter what the disease brings.
An Absent Mind, Eric Rill
Saul is a man used to being in control. Then he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Saul and his family know how it has to end, because no one has ever outsmarted Alzheimer’s. But as they journey the unfamiliar path of the disease, they leave behind their once disconnected lives and come together to weather their difficult journey.
On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's, Greg O'Brien
OnPluto is a book about living with Alzheimer’s, not dying with it. Acting on long-term memory and skill coupled with well-developed journalistic grit, O’Brien decided to tackle the disease and his imminent decline by writing frankly about the journey.
Alzheimer's Daughter, Jean Lee
With wincing honesty, Jean Lee chronicles the journey of understanding and accepting the memory loss of her parents, both of whom were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on the same day. The story spans nearly a decade of caregiving, documenting frustration, sorrow, love, and ultimately acceptance.
Somebody Stole My Iron, Vicki Tapia
Vicki Tapia’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, followed shortly by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s related dementia for her father. Detailing the daily challenges, turbulent emotions, and painful decisions in caring for her parents, Tapia provides lessons learned for anyone facing Alzheimer’s with their own loved ones.
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