Welcome to the Kid Lit Love blog series, celebrating new picture book releases every Monday! Today’s new release is by Paulette Sharkey, illustrated by Samantha Woo, titled A DOLL FOR GRANDMA: A STORY ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. I’m excited to showcase this book because my life has been personally touched by family members with Alzheimer’s disease. As a preschool teacher, I’ve had parents or grandparents ask me about how to explain this to young children and I’ve always felt picture books are one of the most natural ways to do so.
My debut picture book, A DOLL FOR GRANDMA: A STORY ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, is coming May 5th from Beaming Books, illustrated by Samantha Woo.
A little girl and her grandmother always find ways to have fun together. Then Kiera notices that Grandma is changing: leaving keys in the refrigerator, knitting hats too small to fit anyone’s head. When Grandma moves into a memory-care home, Kiera finds a new way to sustain their close relationship. She embraces the altered reality inside Grandma’s mind and gives Grandma a doll. Now they can take care of their “babies” together. This is a story about empathy and kindness and the special bond between grandparent and grandchild. It’s about loving and accepting people as they are, even when they change.
Paulette Bochnig Sharkey worked for many years as a librarian, first in her home state of Michigan, and later in Australia, Nevada, and Wisconsin. She has also been a proofreader, ghostwriter, developmental editor, recipe indexer, and transcriber of children’s books from print into braille. A DOLL FOR GRANDMA: A STORY ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (Beaming Books, May 2020) is her first picture book.
It was a pleasure to connect with Paulette through social media. She took the time to answer questions and share some advice.
1. Tell us how you came to write books for children.
I started writing nonfiction articles for children’s magazines in the late 1980s and sold quite a few to places like Highlights, Cricket, Spider, and Ladybug. But I really wanted to write a picture book, a genre I’ve loved since my daughter was little and we read stacks of them every bedtime. It took me until 2017 to realize that goal, when I signed up for a Writer’s Digest course on picture-book writing and drafted A DOLL FOR GRANDMA. Many revisions later, I sold the book!
2. Tell us about the inspiration for your book or how you came up with the idea.
Around the time I retired from my job as a reference librarian, about 15 years ago, I read that musical memories are held in a part of the brain often left undamaged by Alzheimer’s disease. I’m also a pianist, so I started visiting memory-care homes to play the piano for the residents. It was fascinating to see how they responded to the music. Even those who could no longer recognize family or friends could recognize old familiar songs, especially the World War II–era songs of their youth. Even those who could no longer speak could often sing along. My inspiration for writing A DOLL FOR GRANDMA came from these experiences as a volunteer pianist. I enjoyed including a scene in the book where the “piano lady” comes to play—that’s what many of my elderly audience members call me.
3. Please share a piece of advice for children’s writers.
One thing I’ve learned on my way to getting published is that it’s impossible to predict the twists and turns in the road. I certainly never expected that my debut book would be released during a coronavirus pandemic. All we can do is try our best to stay focused on our work and trust that our words will find a way to the children we’re writing for.
To order: paulettesharkey.com/books/
Thank you for stopping by my blog. If you stop by on Mondays, you’ll find more new children’s book releases, both fiction and non-fiction. You are welcome here any time!
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