The Fence, by Meredith Jaffe

‘Brandy and I have discussed this at length and to our minds there is only one viable solution.’
Gwen glances up at the house where Eric potters in the garage, oblivious to the unfolding crisis.
‘I mean, the trees will still have to go of course, given they are encroaching on our property there is no way around it. but trees or no trees, the only real solution is to put up a fence.’
Without thinking, Gwen Turns on her heel and races towards the garage, away from this vile woman and her extraordinary ideas.

Gwen and her husband Eric were the first people to live on Green Valley Avenue. They’ve raised their children here, and now their grandchildren love to visit.  Gwen doesn’t plan on ever leaving. But her neighbour and best friend Babs has died, and the house has been sold, and suddenly there’s a new family moving in, with a tribe of little kids and two uncontrolled dogs.

Francesca has brought her family to Green Valley Avenue in the hopes of a new start. Her marriage is in trouble, and starting anew in the suburbs seems the only solution. The only problem is her nosy new neighbour, Gwen, and the lack of a fence between their properties. It isn’t long before the two families are battling over the boundary, even while each woman’s life is facing terrible changes.

The Fence is a tale of fences, neighborhood disputes and much more. Gwen’s husband, Eric, is aging and behaving oddly. Frankie’s house-husband Brandon has been having an affair, and seems increasingly unable, or unwilling, to keep the house running. At times funny, at others moving and even sad, The Fence  is a wonderful debut novel.

The Fence, by Meredith Jaffe
Pan MacMillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743540152

 

 

 

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan

Newspaper Hats
Georgie walked through the doors that opened like curtains.
‘Will Grandpa remember me today?’ she asked.
Her father squeezed her hand and smiled. ‘Wait and see.’

Georgie loves her Grandpa, and goes with Dad to see him. But Grandpa has trouble remembering things, and sometimes he doesn’t even remember Georgie, even though he remembers things from long ago. Georgie tries to jog Grandpa’s memory with photographs and when they find a photo of Georgie wearing a newspaper hat, Grandpa remembers how much he loves those hats. Soon, Georgie, Grandpa and Dad are busily making paper hats for each other and for the other residents of the nursing home.

Newspaper Hats is a beautiful story of the love between a grandchild and grandparent, and the issues of memory loss and dementia. While the child character is challenged by the fact that her grandfather doesn’t remember her, she is empowered by being the one who finds a way to connect with him, enriching both of their lives.

The illustrations, rendered in watercolour and pencil in gentle pastel tones, are a lovely complement to the text, and touches such as news font on key words, and endpapers featuring headlines and front pages from a wide range of time periods add visual interest and talking points.

A wonderful tool for discussing issues of ageing – and celebrating newspaper hats!

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743622544

Available from good bookstores and online.

Celia and Nonna by Victoria Lane, ill Kayleen West

Celia loves sleepovers at Nonna’s house. Nonna roasts and bakes.

The kitchen fills with delicious smells that tickle Celia’s nose.

‘How’s my little angel/” Nonna whispers in Celia’s ear.

Celia tugs open her special cupboard. It is full of secrets.

Jigsaw puzzles, colouring books and felts – all her favourite things.

Celia loves sleepovers at Nonna’s house. Nonna roasts and bakes.

The kitchen fills with delicious smells that tickle Celia’s nose.

‘How’s my little angel/” Nonna whispers in Celia’s ear.

Celia tugs open her special cupboard. It is full of secrets.

Jigsaw puzzles, colouring books and felts – all her favourite things.

Celia loves to visit her grandmother, Nonna. Together they cook and play, draw and share stories. But Nonna is becoming forgetful. Each forgetting is small, but together they mean that it’s not safe for her to live alone anymore. So Nonna is moving to a new home, a single room. There is only just room for Nonna, no space for Celia to stay and very little that is familiar. It doesn’t smell right either, no cooking smells, no smells that belong to Nonna’s house. Celia begins to draw the things she loved about Nonna’s house, beginning with the outside. Picture by picture, Celia adds to the collection for Nonna’s wall. Nonna loves Celia’s pictures and Celia loves that she can still share time with Nonna. Illustrations are full page in warm colours and depict the loving relationship between Celia and her grandmother. The font has been particularly chosen to assist readers with dyslexia.

It can be difficult to understand why life has to change, when a loved grandparent can no longer live in their home. Celia and Nonna suggests that a relationship is more than walls and windows, more than just the place where the memories are set. With help, new memories can be created, memories that build on what was and give meaning to new circumstances. Many young readers will relate to the closeness that a child can share with a grandparent and will rejoice that Celia finds a way to enjoy and decorate Nonna’s new home. It also demonstrates that a child can have an active role in establishing belonging in a new place. Celia and Nonna may also help young children understand changes that they are experiencing in their own family. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

 

Celia and Nonna, Victoria Lane ill Kayleen West Ford Street Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925000603

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Looking for Lionel, by Sharon Snir

Dementia peeled away layers of how things should and should not be. It peeled away the surface that was concerned only with appearance. Over time it revealed someone I had never really met. Someone pure and sweet and filled with innocent gratitude. In the end, all that was left of Lily was love. How ironic that dementia gave me the mother I had always wanted.

With a growing number of people in Australia suffering from dementia, there is a good chance that all of us are going to have a family member, a friend or at least an acquaintance who suffers from the disease at some point in or lifetime. It is a diagnosis which cares most people, and an illness which affects everyone in the life of the sufferer.

Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother Through Dementia is both a personal memoir of one family’s journey through dementia and a wonderful aid for the families and carers of other sufferers. With gentle honesty author Sharon Snir tells of the highs and incredible lows of her own family’s experiences, as well as sharing first hand experiences from others who she has spoken with, and offering gentle guidance based on those experiences, for others in similar situations.

This is an important and touching book whose ultimate message is positive.

Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother Through Dementia

Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother Through Dementia, by Sharon Snir
Allen & Unwin, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews

Don't Breathe a Word, by Marianne Musgrove

I, Mackenzie Elizabeth Carew, do solemnly swear never to communicate anything about what happened tonight.’…I closed my eyes and said the sacred words.
‘May my nose fall off and my hair turn blue,
May I fall in a tub full of alpaca poo.’
Tahlia nodded. ‘We have some major thinking to do.’

Mackenzie and Tahlia live with their grandad. He’s almost the only family they have since their parents passed away. But something has happened to Grandpa and suddenly he isn’t the responsible one any more – it is up to the girls to look after him. Tahlia tells Mackenzie that they mustn’t tell anyone – but as Grandpa gets increasingly erratic and Tahlia leaves more and more of the work to Mackenzie keeping the secret gets harder and harder.

Don’t Breathe a Word is a gentle exploration of some difficult subject matter. Grandpa is suffering from dementia, and, for the girls, their fear of being separated from him shapes their attempts to care for him, and their interactions with friends and neighbours, as well as their older half-sister Lydia.

For children who face difficult situations, Don’t Breathe a Word will be a help, and for those children who don’t face such dilemmas it will be intriguing. Musgrove portrays the situation with gentle creativity, and the use of the first person narrator takes us inside Mackenzie’s head as she struggles courageously with the hand life has dealt her.

Beautifully rendered.

Don't Breathe a Word

Don’t Breathe a Word, by Marianne Musgrove
Random House, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.