This Is My Family
This is a children’s book for kids with a parent with younger onset dementia.
Jack is 13 years old. He lives with his dad, mum, sister Amy and dog Sam.
Dad has dementia. Something isn’t right in daddy’s brain and Jack can help him to do things. This kids’ book tells the story of Jack whose father lives with younger onset dementia.
An engaging tale for any child who knows a younger adult with dementia, it has been written by dementia care specialists, Barbara Chambers and Karen Harborow, with characters by renowned children’s animator Eddie Mort.
This 40 page kid’s picture book has been a labour of love, inspired by a young family we work with.)
Told in wonderful prose, with really poignant artwork, this book is a celebration of what we hold dearest- while losing so much... is an illustrated book which explores younger onset dementia using the vehicle of photography and exploring family's legacy.
*Regarding the illustrations - "Pictures enable children to explore the world within their own imagination and make connections to characters and events they see depicted in books. When you help children connect with characters and events, you make the book more real to them."
When Dad comes home with a camera, one of those old cameras that takes film which needs to be developed, the family, Mum and their son, watch on. He seems to be taking photos of things which have no inherent interest. There are no people in them, they are of things and places around the house. Photos of his study, of the table at breakfast time, his coffee cup, the clothesline, the bus shelter. He takes roll after roll of film to the developer in the city, bringing the photos home to stick on the window.
They find that he has put things in the cupboard that shouldn't be there, and puts the hammer in the fridge, so the reader begins to understand that this man is showing signs of dementia.
More photos appear, until one day he comes home without the camera. Then he is no longer there.
The illustrations are wonderful, showing the family in their house and all the things which will remind them of their missing father and husband. All around the house are things which he used and the photos of things important to him alongside the photo of him with his family.
But then Foster’s dad starts forgetting things. No one is too worried at first. Foster and Dad giggle about it. But the forgetting gets worse. And suddenly no one is laughing anymore.
Given that I have a special interest in books featuring characters suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, I can confidently say that this is an excellent addition to the fictional literature on the topic.
The use of a child character to address an adult issue is usually a sure-fire way to show a well-worn issue in a new light and that is certainly the case here.
Foster is sharp as a tack when it comes to the realisation that life as he knew it is slipping away, but the social nuances of the adults’ behaviour go over his head.
Many of the self-defeating actions of Foster’s mother are brought into sharp focus when viewed through Foster’s lens and I found it harder to sympathise with her as the book went on, despite the fact that she is obviously under enormous stress and dealing with her own issues of grief and the emotional and mental, if not phsycial, loss of a husband at such an early stage in life.
I found Foster’s aunty to be a breath of fresh air through the whole story, maintaining, as she does, an unflinching sense of optimism. This optimism is clearly feigned at times, and even though Foster’s mother doesn’t appreciate it, it worked neatly to stop the reader from being sucked into the pit of despair along with Foster’s mother.
Forgetting Foster is certainly worth a read if you are looking for a contemporary novel that deals with grief, loss and confusion in an extremely accessible way – not to mention if you are looking for a cracking OZ title.
For other readers looking for nonfiction reads on the same topic, allow me to suggest Green Vanilla Tea by Marie Williams (another brilliant Aussie tale).
Green vanilla tea