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Illness in the Family

Children's lives can be turned upside down by serious illness in the family. Sometimes a book can help explain what's going on and give them the chance to ask questions and talk about their feelings.

My Little Grandmother Often Forgets
by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Kathryn Brown
Walker Books
Memory loss – forgetting where you’ve put things, forgetting the way home, forgetting names and repeating things over and over again – is distressing both for the individual affected and for family and friends. In this sensitive portrayal, young Tom tells readers how he and his parents cope with his grandmother’s condition. Love, patience and understanding are the virtues that shine through both in the rhyming text (which is based on the author’s personal experience with her own mother) and the tender watercolour and ink illustrations.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Lola Rose
by Jaqueline Wilson
(Corgi)
When Jayni's mother wins £10,000 on a scratchcard, she, Jayni and Jayni's little brother Kenny run away to London to escape from their abusive father. They all adopt new names, and Jayni becomes the glamourous and grown-up Lola Rose. However, things are not all bright and sunny in Lola Rose's life, and as the money begins to run out, the whole family starts to worry. The final straw is when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and taken to hospital, leaving the children by themslves. Suddenly Lola finds that she is not as grown-up as she would like to be. She needs to get help for her and Kenny - fast...
   This is a great book that tackles many real-life problems with humour and understanding in the way Jaqueline Wilson always does. You find yourself feeling and idetifying with Jayni in different parts of her story, and worrying about what will happen to her next.
For girls aged 11 - 14.
(reviewed by Maddie Wilson)
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Why, Charlie Brown, Why?
by Charles M Schulz
(Ravette Publishing)
Charlie Brown and the other well-loved characters from the Peanuts gang have a variety of reactions when their friend, Janice, develops leukaemia. Lucy worries it might be catching, Linus becomes her protector and her sisters feel a bit left out. This gentle, compassionate book looks at the whole of her illness from her first symptoms, through her treatment and hair loss to the time where her hair is back in all its glory. It's useful for explaining what's happening to young friends and family members and for triggering discussion on how they feel. (All royaties go to help children with cancer.)
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In a Little While
by Charlotte Hudson, illustrated by Mary McQuillan
(Bodley Head) 0 370 32656 3
The author and artist of this picture book have chosen a comfortably distant setting for their story of a small child’s experiences when his mother is hospitalised: a North American landscape inhabited by bears, racoons and beavers.
Wobbily Fang’s Mummy isn’t there when he comes down to breakfast one morning: he’s very worried and even more so when Daddy says she’s not very well and has gone away for a little while. Daddy takes him to visit her in a strange place full of beds, far away from the forest; and when he finds her she looks ‘small and lost and alone.’ Over the next few days Wobbily Fang thinks of ways to make his Mummy feel at home. He enlists the help of members of the wolf choir who make the ward resonate with sounds of forest folk songs and paints her a picture of her favourite mountain view, but still, that ‘little while’, seems endless.
Right from the endpapers wherein readers and listeners can trace Wobbily’s journey to the hospital, and note the differences between the beginning and ending of the tale, this book is a delight. Stylised landscapes with triangular mountains, dovelike snow clouds and lollipop and arrow shaped trees, inhabited by friendly native fauna, ‘back-woods’ interior scenes with reassuring touches of domestic detail, and deliberately low-key telling combine to create a safe space within which to explore the feelings of being scared, uncertainty, loneliness and concern.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Mile-High Apple Pie
by Laura Langston and Lindsey Gardiner
(Bodley Head - Random House)
Alzheimer's is a very difficult illness to live with and, sadly, too many families face the task of explaining to their children why a much-loved grandparent is losing the ability to remember them. The girl narrating the story in this book is facing just that situation. She can cope with Grandma needing help to bake her famous mile-high apple pie and forgetting the way home but she refuses to believe that one day the old lady won't recognise her. When the inevitable happens, she turns away from her for a while before finally accepting the situation and declaring "I am Margaret. I am your remembering."
A sensitive, much-needed picture book.
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