CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012
Charlie's grandpa is a master story-teller. Charlie loves the adventures his grandpa dreams up for him:
Grandpa has tales about witches, toads and a gnome who lives in his basement. Every story ends with "Really and Truly Charlie!"
But over the years, Grandpa has changed:
Visiting with Grandpa is a sad affair. When Charlie and the family walk into Grandpa's room, the old man doesn't even turn around. Suddenly, one of Grandpa's stories pops into Charlie's head. In no time, Grandpa's attention is caught. The next week, Charlie remembers a story that Grandpa used to tell to persuade his grandson to eat his dinner. Charlie's spirited delivery of the story of Mamsa, the famous African hunter, does the trick, and soon Grandpa is finishing his dinner. Charlie is determined to come up with stories to make his grandfather smile the way he used to do before the "awful disease" ate up his memory and his smile. When Grandpa bursts out laughing at one of the boy's stories, Charlie makes a discovery. He realizes that, although his grandfather may not smile or talk, or even know who his grandson is at the next visit, the magical power that once belonged to the master story-teller now belongs to Charlie. Really and truly!
Really and Truly deals with a sensitive subject, one that can by truly frightening for young children who are in close contact with an adult who is suffering from dementia or "the awful disease." Rivard does not attempt to sugar-coat the reality of watching a loved one change under the effects of this disease. While she does not come up with a "happy ending" in this book-which is intended for very young children-the ending is not one of despair or hopelessness. Alzheimer's is a reality in many families today, and it is often true that humour can sidestep the symptoms and open up communication with the person afflicted. Such is the discovery that Charlie makes in Really and Truly.
Anne-Claire Delisle's brightly coloured illustrations suggest a sense of fun and mischief as the characters from Charlie's yarns materialize in black and white drawings on each page. Her artistic depictions of Charlie and his grandpa are appealingly realistic and guarantee that the pictures are an excellent match with the text.
Really and Truly would make a good read-aloud with younger primary grade students and would provide a good springboard for discussion of "the awful disease" which is so sadly prevalent among the older generation today.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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