“Summer days at Grandpa’s house began with a booming song…”
Noah and Grandpa wake up every morning and sing songs, go exploring, whatever was “on the docket” for the day. One year, though, Noah noticed that Grandpa began to forget things: to ask what was on the docket, how to cut his French toast, and once, even who Noah was. Grandma explains that sometimes, Grandpa gets confused, but still knows and loves Noah. After a little time to think, Noah discovers that he can still reach Grandpa through song. What a Beautiful Morning is the sensitive, touching story of how one family walks “down the road together… for as long as the song would last.”
There is no specific condition mentioned, but it’s something too many families know too well. When a relative, particularly an older relative, like a grandparent, experiences memory loss, it’s a hard thing to bear. I remember seeing it happen when my husband’s grandmother experienced it, and I remember seeing my own children struggle with their emotions when it happened. Arthur Levine, author of What a Beautiful Morning, writes with an empathy borne from understanding. Katie Kath’s uses her line and watercolor art to communicate the emotions in the story, with bright, happy color to emphasize the joy in Noah and his grandparents’ household, fading to shades of gray when Grandpa forgets. When Grandpa’s memory kicks in, she draws the color back to the page subtly and beautifully.
What a Beautiful Morning is a beautifully written and illustrated book that reaches out to families going through a difficult time. It’s a strong addition to special topics in any collection; school, public, or, if needed, personal.
Arthur Levine was kind enough to write a special note to readers:
It’s estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. But millions more belong to families (many with young children) who have loved ones directly affected by it, and other forms of memory loss.
My dad suffered from Alzheimer’s. My family is one of those families. My son was one of those young children.
My dad was a joyful, vibrant, brilliant man. It was unbelievably hard to watch those qualities fade before my very eyes. And I kept wondering how my son, just 7 and 8 at the time, was coping with it.
My little guy would be so kind. I quoted him in the book gently showing his grandpa where the fork was. And he would hold his grandpa’s hand, leading him to the bathroom, or to dinner.
Meanwhile friends told us to appreciate what he still had day by day and we tried to do that. But it was difficult when I could no longer even talk to him, really. But then we discovered that singing was a way we could still connect – My father could reproduce lyrics to entire songs. And the pleasure on his face when that happened was unmistakable.
Singing songs like “What a Beautiful Morning” was almost like having a conversation again.
It gave us both pleasure and comfort as I hope this book will do for so many who are experiencing the same thing with a family member or neighbor or friend.
Thank you to all you parents/teachers/librarians and caring family members who are reading this blog. If you want to know more about how to use my book to open discussions with kids about memory loss please visit http://bit.ly/2a2nIVY.
-Arthur A. Levine
Arthur A. Levine’s Scholastic imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books, publishes the Harry Potter series in the United States. Katie Kath illustrates children’s and middle grade books, including The Nora Notebooks series, and Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.