Summer Reading for Middle Schoolers
The goal of most adolescents is to fit in with their peers, even if nursing aspirations that will set them apart from everyone else. But when a parent or grandparent has Alzheimer’s disease, young family members may find it impossible to “fit in” anymore. And the aspirations may have to take a back seat to familial needs. There is a growing list of young adult books that address these challenges with eloquence, humor and compassion.
All of the following books capture the essence of dealing with a sick parent or grandparent with cognitive impairment. These books can reassure young people that they are not alone, and they can help start conversations about Alzheimer’s within your family. These stories provide insights into the disease and how families maintain their relationships despite the inevitable losses in ability and memory.
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip
By Jordan Sonnenblick
Peter Friedman, a highly promising high school baseball player, has experienced a career-ending injury to his elbow. He is struggling to accept this loss, and worried about the impact it will have on his friendships. To add to his problems, his grandfather, his mentor and a professional photographer, is forgetting important things and acting strangely, but his parents seem not to see these changes. This is a story about giving up some dreams, forming new ones, and honing one’s sense of responsibility even in the face of adults’ denial.
The Graduation of Jake Moon
By Barbara Park
Jake and his mom have lived with his grandfather since he was a baby and he is very close to him. But his grandfather is increasingly forgetful and can no longer be left alone. Since Jake’s mother works, Jake has to assume a lot of responsibility for his grandfather. Jake still loves his grandfather, but he often embarrasses Jake around his friends, and he resents having to take care of him. The evolution of the powerful relationship between Jake and his grandfather is realistic and touching.
Living with Alzheimer’s Disease
By Bill McAuliffe
This is a straight-forward, basic science book on Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects the functioning of the brain. Its tone is respectful, the depiction of the disease process is accurate and it is an excellent introduction to the subject for a young adult wanting to understand more about this disease.
By Gordon Korman
This is the story of Marcus, a high school junior who has just moved to a new town, and Charlie, a fifty year old man, who meets Marcus on a practice field. Marcus wants to be the football team’s quarterback and Charlie starts coaching him for the tryouts. Marcus is aware that Charlie inexplicably forgets things and acts strangely, but he is a great coach and turns into a friend. It turns out that Charlie is a former NFL player with early onset Alzheimer’s, and his son Troy, is the current quarterback of the high school team. However Charlie’s family is in denial about Charlie’s situation.The story deals with the specific issues of early onset disease, and the denial and guilt of his family who want to remain “normal” and protect his reputation.