Illustrated by Anne-Claire Delisle
Translated by Sarah Quinn
(Owl Kids, 2011)
This is the story of an endearing relationship between a young boy named Charlie and his grandfather. Grandpa entertains Charlie with far-fetched tales about witches and pirates and gnomes. Each story is punctuated by Grandpa’s assurance that what he says is true, “really and truly.” Charlie is enchanted each time.
But only a few years later, things change. Sadly, Grandpa is not his old self.
An awful disease has eaten up his memory and his words. It has even swallowed up his smile.
Charlie struggles to understand why his grandfather has changed.
When we walk in his room, he doesn’t even turn around. The cars driving by outside are more interesting than we are.
It is a heartbreaking reality that too many families must face. Young children don’t understand, just as I felt insulted when my great-grandmother called me Reggie. She got most of the letters right, just jumbled them up.
Due to the change in Grandpa, Charlie becomes the storyteller. He retells his grandfather’s stories about ninjas and hunters. He even makes up his own tales in an attempt to reach his grandfather. Grandpa responds by looking, by eating and, on one special occasion when Charlie pulls out every trick he can imagine, smiling.
Rivard’s story provides a starting point in helping children understand dementia and Alzheimer’s. Delisle’s illustrations, particularly her drawings of Grandpa, will increase empathy in kids. (My one quibble with the illustrations is that the tiny black ink doodles of toads, gnomes and ninjas distract from the main subject matter.)
Really and Truly is a touching story that will enlighten children and linger with adults.