4 out of 4 stars
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Nana Doesn’t Know Me by Donna M. Dube is a children’s chapter book about an eight-year-old girl’s experiences when her grandmother moves in with her family. Cally’s grandmother, known as Nana, has Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer live alone. The young girl is initially thrilled at the prospect of having fun with Nana. However, Cally quickly realizes her grandmother is not the same person she once was.
The story is written in the first person from Cally’s perspective. The reader is given an up-close view of the impact on a child’s life when a relative moves in, not to mention someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I liked the way the effects on the main character’s lifestyle were subtly woven throughout the story. Right off the bat, Cally’s environment is altered as her playroom is turned into Nana’s bedroom. Also, the young girl's extra-curricular activities are curtailed at times, now that Mom has become Nana’s primary caregiver. Cally’s reactions are realistically written, as it’s common that a child would be upset by even small changes in their routine.
The author is adept at giving a well-rounded view of living with someone who has Alzheimer’s. As you can imagine, it’s startling when Cally sees Nana wearing two different shoes. She is also hurt when the elderly woman has frequent mood swings. Besides the disturbing behavioral changes, there are fun family moments, such as dancing together in the living room.
The book is well written and appears to be edited well. Although the vocabulary isn’t overly sophisticated, parents may want to give young readers a fuller explanation of Alzheimer’s disease. Clear information is provided, but kids might have additional questions. There is also a discussion section with activities, where children can write about their own experiences with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or other diseases. This section is a nice, cathartic addition to the story that would give children a way to explore their feelings about similar situations.
There are no illustrations, although the vivid descriptions make it easy to picture the action as it unfolds. I felt like I was right there when Cally entered the kitchen and saw a towering pile of dishes, ready to topple over. Although artwork might have enhanced the story, I think having no pictures was a good decision. This way the reader can imagine their own family grappling with these issues.
This book has earned a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. It is a thoughtful look at how a family is affected by a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. Other than one minor grammatical error, there is nothing to find fault with in this sensitively written story. I would recommend it to children ages 7-12, especially readers who are dealing with the same types of issues. Parents can read the book aloud to the younger set, while advanced readers can read it on their own.
Nana Doesn't Know Me
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