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10 Books to Help Children Understand Alzheimer’s

Make a tough conversation easier with these reads

Published on: November 28, 2017

Grandchild with grandmother

One of the most heart-wrenching moments a parent can imagine is their child asking “What’s happening to Grandma?” It can be difficult for young people to come to terms with the fact that an older relative is suffering from memory loss or dementia, and just as difficult for parents to explain the situation. Fortunately, a number of excellent books are available to help children and teens learn about Alzheimer’s and reassure them that they aren’t alone.

Because it’s all too easy to get lost in lists of facts and symptoms, it’s important to seek out quality reading when it’s time to introduce young people to the idea of Alzheimer’s. Books can introduce this difficult subject in a gentler way, give children insight into the disease, and also help parents guide discussions.

For young readers

  1. The Memory Box by Mary Bahr and illustrated by David Cunningham
  2. Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele, with illustrations by Claude K. Dubois
  3. Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard, illustrated by Anne-Claire Delisle — Elizabeth Bird, a Youth Materials Specialist at New York Public Library and reviewer for School Library Journal, recommends this story of a young boy who comes up with a charming way to relate to his grandfather as he suffers from the memory loss of Alzheimer’s. Bird says it’s “one of the better books on the topic I’ve seen.”
  4. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas — Julie Danielson, a book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and former children’s librarian, recommends this book which features a boy who lives next to a retirement home and provides cheer and company for a senior who is losing her memory.

For tweens and teens

Older children and teenagers may be able to get a grip on the science of Alzheimer’s, but they may still benefit from reading stories about characters going through a similar situation.

  1. What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver — A children’s book that helps to share what a grandparent suffering from Alzheimer’s is going through.
  2. Pop by Gordon Korman — Reviewer Marjorie Ingall writes this is “the rare book in which a character has early-onset Alzheimer’s.”
  3. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblic — Jackie Parker-Robinson, a teen librarian in Lynwood, Wash., echoes the recommendation for Curveball and also suggests Wherever You Go by Heather Davis.
  4. Remember This by S.T. Underdahl — Allie Costa, a bookseller in Los Angeles, California, suggested this book about a girl whose grandmother has Alzheimer’s.
  5. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner — Children’s book author Kelly R. Fineman recommends this book for middle grade readers in which a girl must deal with her grandmother’s memory loss while having to do a fall project.

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