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Really and Truly by E. Rivard and A. C. Delisle

Rivard, Emilie and Anne-Claire Delisle. Really and Truly. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2011. Print.

Really and Truly is a book that really and truly needed to be written. It is about a boy named Charlie, whose grandfather used to entertain him with wild stories. Now an “awful disease has eaten up his [grandfather’s] memory and his words.  It has even swallowed up his smile”. The book is about Charlie’s antics as he tries to connect with the small parts that are left of his grandfather’s memory to get him to eat or laugh or even just smile.

Anyone who has cared for a loved one who has suffered a memory loss disorder such as Alzheimer’s will identify with this book.  The most valuable thing about this book is the fact that it is accepting of the disease. Charlie’s grandfather just is the way he is. Charlie is upbeat and positive about coping with his grandfather’s memory loss. He is determined to connect with his grandfather, so for each visit he thinks up wild stories like his grandfather used to tell him. Sometimes he’s a ninja, a great African hunter or a magician – whatever it takes to get a reaction. Charlie knows that his grandfather probably won’t know who he is the next time he sees him, but he knows that he can make him smile.

It is painful to watch a loved one suffer progressive memory loss, and exhausting to try to provide care for them. Really and Truly affirms the value of working at communicating with elderly people who have lost their memories, even to the point where a smile is a victory and a reply is cause for celebration. It is about focusing not on what is lost, but on what remains.

This is primarily a picture book, with small amounts of text appropriate for the age 4 and older target audience. The colour drawings usually take up the whole page with text printed on the facing page or overlaying background images. On almost every page, there are also small line drawings that represent the stories that Charlie tells. The drawings are of gazelles that leap across the pages, pirates that steal cookies and little bugs in top hats that sit on Charlie’s head or insert themselves into pictures. Children will enjoy looking for where they appear next.

While this is designed as a children’s book, adult readers will also be uplifted by it. Really and Truly should be included in public and school libraries and should be read by anyone who has a family member who is suffering memory loss.

Recommendation:  4 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.