The story begins:
“I love my Nana.
I love playing in Nana’s garden.”
Through out spring, summer, and autumn, we share the little girl’s delight working and playing with her Nana in the garden. Using descriptions of sight, sound, smell, and texture, Kathryn Harrison invokes the reader’s senses.
The writer is also the illustrator. The full page, often double spread, pictures are impressive. Nana is portrayed as an elderly but lovely woman with a warm, gentle smile.
When mother explains about the tangles in Nana’s brain, the little girl compares them to weeds in the garden. They discuss what is most likely to happen and comfort each other.
“Remember,” Mom soothes, “like the beautiful blooms beneath the weeds, Nana is still Nana underneath.”
As Nana’s health deteriorates, so does the condition of her garden. The granddaughter does her best to fight the weeds. When her grandmother, one day, begins to rip out the flowers along with the weeds, the little girl realizes that it would be more upsetting to try to stop her. After Nana stops on her own, the little girl gives away the bouquets. What an incredibly powerful message.
Eventually Nana has to go to a care facility but the little girl, who is now quite grown up, keeps up the garden for her.
Throughout this story, both the granddaughter and the Nana mention fairies in the garden. This is not stressed but I think it is another important image. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease as of yet, fairies represent hope in the possibility of a cure. They also show us that innocence, a sense of wonder, and a lightness of attitude can help to bring a family through a tragedy even as the big as this.
Harrison has done a beautiful job of addressing a heart breaking family situation. This is the book I would recommend these shared with young children in a family with an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
I was given a free ecopy for review.