Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Mommy, Mama, and Me

Here's our second installment celebrating Banned Books Week:

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Title: Mommy, Mama, and Me
Author: LeslĂ©a Newman (website)
Illustrator: Carol Thompson
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Year: 2009
Format: Board Book
Pages: 18
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler
Kid Love Factor: 2.5/5

Adult Sanity Factor: 3/5

Mommy, Mama, and Me alternates telling what Mommy and Mama do for their young toddler over the course of a day.  They play and cuddle and cook and snack and read and bathe and (hopefully for the moms' sake) eventually sleep.  The toddler is delightfully androgynous, making it easy for any little girl or boy to step into his or her day.

Mommy picks me up, up, up
Mama pours juice in my cup.

Mommy, Mama and Me has of course qualified for review during banned books week due to its portrayal of a presumably lesbian couple.  The entire focus of both women is the child, and they're only rarely on the same page together, but the trio is clearly a family, and the love the women both have for their baby is clear.

I think it's important for every child to be able to find decent books about people like them and their families.  I know when Boo's a bit older I'll be doing my best to find books with accurately and positively portrayed autistic characters.  I also think it's important to expose Boo to books about people who are different from us; the more familiar something is, the less likely it is to be something to fear or disparage.

All that being said, while the rhyming text is cute, the pictures well done, and the message important, this would get pretty monotonous 15 times in a row, so I can't make myself give it a higher Adult Sanity Factor.

Boo is not overly interested in Mommy, Mama, and Me.  He's outgrown most board books of this simplicity, though he was happy enough to sit through it a couple of times, especially if I emphasized the page where Mama and the toddler go down a slide.   I think it would have been more of a hit about six to twelve months ago for its absolute content.  For the more controversial aspect, I'm not sure he understood that the two ladies were both mothers to the child.  For one, we're still working on the whole Mommy is a girl and Daddy and Boo are boys concept, so I'm not sure he gets that a man and a woman make up the average set of parents.  For two, we still use Mommy (what my husband and I call me) and Mama (what Boo calls me) interchangeably, so I'm also not sure he really gets that the book is portraying two separate women.  Many toddlers will be able to start having conversations about different family types before they lose interest in the other content of this book; sadly, Boo is not one of them.

If reading about a family with two dads is of more interest to you, Newman and Thompson also collaborated on Daddy, Papa, and Me.   While we haven't read that one, I imagine its quite similar, though the child looks like he or she may be slightly older.

Autism Spectrum Bonus:  Mommy, Mama, and Me goes through a lot of average every day activities like having a nap and playing in the park, so if your child craves reading about the familiar (while learning about something that may not be familiar), this is a good choice.  As I said above, the love both women have for the child and the child has for each woman is very clear and may help with discussions on expressing affection.  It's also a good starting point for reassuring kids that it's okay to be different and that different doesn't mean bad.

Bottom Line:

Mommy's glad a need is filled,
Mama knows Boo's not as thrilled.


Mommy, Mama, and Me at

Mommy, Mama, and Me at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Perfect Picture Books By Post: A Picture Book Swap

C'mon.  You know you wanna....
Want to receive a brand new picture book in the mail?  Want to share your love of a particular book with someone likely to appreciate it?  Then Playing by the Book's Perfect Picture Books By Post is the swap for you!

You don't need to be a blogger or even a parent to play.  You just need to be willing to send a copy of a favourite picture book to someone else and to receive one in return.  Come on.  Join the fun.  The more the merrier.

Head on over to Zoe's blog and read her Perfect Picture Books By Post FAQ to find out how to sign up.  Deadline for sign-up is October 22nd, with books needing to be in the mail by November 5th.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: In the Night Kitchen

For those of you who don't know, this is Banned Books Week a campaign of the American Library Association.  Celebrating banned books is encouraged every September as kids head back to schools and are presumably introduced to books their parents may or may not appreciate.

The Canadian Library Association, while not mounting a campaign per se, also keeps a list of all book challenges.  You can find the Canadian list for 2009 here: Challenges to Canadian Library Resources and Policies.  If you're from somewhere other than Canada or the US, there's a good chance your own library association keeps a list of books challenged in your country.  Go have a look; you're sure to find a book or two on it that will appeal.

In honour of Banned Books Week, I'll be reviewing three picture books which have been challenged repeatedly.  Here's the first:

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Title: In the Night Kitchen
Author/Illustrator: Maurice Sendak
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Year: 1970
Format: Paperback, also available in hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4.5/5

In the Night Kitchen is of course a classic. Mickey, a child of about two or three, is awoken by noises in the night and falls out of his clothes and into a giant bowl of batter the Night Kitchen.  There are three bakers who apparently mistake Mickey for milk and mix him into the bowl and place it in the oven.  Luckily, Mickey escapes the oven, tells off the bakers, and turns some bread dough into an airplane, which he flies to the top of a giant bottle of milk.  Mickey swims in the milk and then pours some down for the bakers to make their cake.  Mickey then crows like a rooster and slides down the milk bottle and back into bed.

And he grabbed the cup as he flew up
And up
And up
And over the top of the Milky Way in the Night Kitchen.

Whew.  I wish I had more awesome dreams like that.  You know the ones: they enchanted you when you were a child and still do to a certain extent, though now you wonder what exactly it was you ate/drank/smoked yesterday to cause them.

The rhythm of the text is fantastic, but it's really the illustrations that carry the day here.  To me, the three bakers look like they're the identical triplet cousins of Oliver Hardy, although apparently Selmek may have been referring to the Holocaust with their small black mustaches and their baking of Mickey.  In any case, Mickey's irritation, frustration, wonder, and mischief all come through brilliantly.  The backgrounds are amazing, resembling the depression or wartime era Manhattan skyline made completely out of kitchen products and utensils.  The detail is astounding with Hosmer's Free Running Sugar, Kneitel's Fandango, Woody's Kosher Salt, and whatever Ta-Ka-Kake is supposed to be.  On second thought, I'm fairly sure I don't want to know...

The illustrations are also the reason the book has made challenged and banned book lists for years.  See, Sendak had the audacity to keep little naked Mickey anatomically correct.  It's not detailed, but Mickey definitely has a penis and testicles.  I'm not entirely sure what the problem of a naked three-year-old is, given that half the real ones on the planet would run around naked every day if given the choice, but apparently it's highly offensive in a children's book.


Boo loves the rhythm and rhyme of the text and the sing-song way in which we read it. He's been fascinated with the pictures from well before he was speaking, and he continues to love pointing out the stars and moon and milk et al.

And that's why, thanks to Mickey
We have cake every morning.

For a hint of irony on the whole book banning thing, I must admit to verbally editing the end of the book when we read it to say "we have milk every morning", but only because I don't want to start an argument with my literal little man on why pancakes aren't going to happen every day.

Autism Spectrum Bonus: In the Night Kitchen is almost a comic book in the way it relies on the pictures to tell the story which might appeal to more visual learners, while the rhythm and rhyme of the text might encourage vocalizations, especially during the bakers' two chants and the rooster crow at the end.  The incredibly detailed backgrounds give you plenty of opportunity to encourage pointing and interaction with Where's Waldo type questions like "Can you find an egg-beater?  What about a tomato?" And for those just  learning to name body parts, especially little boys, there aren't too many other picture books that allow you to practice "bum" and "penis" identification.

Bottom Line:
Boo takes the book to the reading nook
And climbs into Sam's lap for The Night Kitchen.


In the Night Kitchen at

In the Night Kitchen at

Banned Books Week 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Flaptastic Sizes

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Title: Flaptastic Sizes
Author/Illustrator: See publisher
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishing
Year: 2009
Format: Board book
Pages: 12
Age Range: Baby, Toddler
Kid Love Factor: 3.5/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 2/5

Flaptastic Sizes is a lift-the-flap book that teaches, well, sizes.  Surprise!  Didn't see that coming, did you?

Each page spread has a picture and a size descriptor, and then the flap can be lifted and an opposing descriptor and picture is seen.  Kids learn that daisies are short while sunflowers are tall, elephants are big while chicks are small,, paint brushes can be wide or narrow, and acorns are tiny while trees are enormous.  Lots of fun vocabulary-stretching words to be had here.  It’s awesome having your toddler describe something as “Eeee-no-muss”.

My one real peeve is the set of Russian dolls at the end. They’re lovely, of course, as Russian dolls tend to be.  The problem is that there are seven of them and they’re labelled Biggest, Bigger, Big, Middle, Small, Smaller, Tiny.  Seriously?  Tiny? They couldn’t finish that off symmetrically with ‘smallest’ instead of ‘tiny’?  And shouldn't middle be medium? Gah!

My nearly compulsive desire for linguistic order aside, Boo was fond of the book, though he seems to be outgrowing it now.  He especially loves the flowers; we were often treated to top-of-his-lungs exclamations of “Sunflower!”  and eventually, once we’d read Lemons Are Not Red,  “Sunflower is not short! Sunflower is tall. Daisies are short!”   

My other peeve is that the acorn described as tiny is in fact pictured at approximately 200% of an actual acorn's size, but I find that quite bearable compared to the issue with the dolls.  Yes, sometimes my quibbles are ridiculous even to myself...

Autism Spectrum Bonus: As with neurotypical children, Flaptastic Sizes might help to get the concept of quantifier adjectives across.  The lift-the-flap design may encourage kids who are usually less than eager to participate to follow their curiosity and check out what’s underneath.  For very young kids or those with fine motor skill delays, the multiple directions in which the pages open may provide an interesting challenge.

Bottom Line:
Good and Bad.


Flaptastic Sizes at

Flaptastic Sizes at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

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Title: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy
Author/Illustrator: Lynley Dodd
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Year: 1983
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4/5

Hairy Maclary, a Scottish Terrier, takes a stroll one day:

Out of the gate
and off for a walk
went Hairy Maclary
from Donaldson’s Dairy.

One by one, Hairy meets up with Hercules Morse (Great Dane), Bottomly Potts (Dalmation), Muffin McLay (English Sheepdog), Bitzer Maloney (Greyhound), and Schnitzel von Krumm (Dachshund) who all join him on his walk.  They sniff and snoop and scavenge and scratch, just like...well, pretty much every dog in existence.  They proudly march though their neighbourhood until they accidently come across Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town.  Luckily our doggie troupe is not stupid, and with one hiss from Scarface they’re off and running as fast as their 24 feet can carry them.

As Hairy meets each of his friends, they’re named and described in a rhyming couplet, and every dog is repeated in order as each new one is added; very rhythmic and great for improving little memories.  Lynley Dodd is also very good at alliteration, using it sparingly but effectively.

My one quibble isn’t the fault of the author.  It's a difference between most Canadian accents and those of New Zealand.  I just can’t rhyme door with saw.  Well, I can, but only by crudely imitating my father’s English accent as it may have appeared before being overlaid by 45 years of life on this side of the pond.  Let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight, er, sound.

Boo’s loves the book, as long as I go easy on Scarface’s “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ!”  I was a little too enthusiastic with it the first time, and terrified him enough we didn’t get to that page again for four months.  Oops.

Autism Spectrum Bonus:  Because the dogs and their rhyming descriptions are recounted in reverse order each time a new one is introduced, there’s lots of opportunity to build anticipation, pattern recognition, and recall skills.  Once Boo was very familiar with the book (and after he’d fully recovered from my accidental discovery of his aural sensitivity to fake cat howling), we started pausing after each dog’s name and let him fill in the description.

Bottom Line:
Lynley Dodd
did a great job


Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: At the Supermarket

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Title: At the Supermarket
Author/Illustrator: Anne Rockwell (website)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Year: 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 3/5

At the Supermarket follows a young boy and his mom through a regular outing to buy food at, well, a supermarket, of course.  The boy narrates what foods they pick up and which ones he likes best.  It all culminates in him reminding his mother they need to pick up the ingredients for his birthday cake, which they of course do, promptly returning home to bake it.  Guess the trip wasn’t quite so mundane for the boy after all!

I saw this reviewed at Kidslit and thought it might be worth trying.  

It was.

Boo’s favourite part is the second page where “the door opens all by itself” is discussed.  He’s very big on anything that happens all by itself, himself, or herself right now, and magic doors are all the rage in his world.  He can talk about them for hours.  I’m not kidding.

This updated edition is illustrated by Anne Rockwell herself with help from her granddaughter.  I must admit to being a bit ambivalent about the results, but they’re certainly bright and colourful and get the idea of the products and setting across.  Boo has no trouble identifying the fruits and veggies, which he likes to point out while I’m listing each one.

I must confess that we actually substitute the term “grocery store” for “supermarket” while reading this, and thus that’s what Boo calls the book “Ah duh Groswy Doh”.  No one around here ever uses the term Supermarket, but it’s easy enough to change while reading, provided I’ve had some caffeine at some point to keep me quasi alert.  Good thing the boy and his mom buy coffee and tea!

Autism Spectrum Bonus: At the Supermarket is a great find for young kids on the spectrum, particularly those who crave routine and knowing exactly what is going to happen in advance.  While vague enough to apply to many countries and cultures (perhaps with a food/terminology substitution or two), it’s detailed enough to really give anxious kids an idea of what they can expect to happen at the store. It also introduces a wide variety of basic foods and household products; if your child enjoys the book enough, perhaps it may encourage him or her to try a food listed in it that they might otherwise be hesitant about.  The book also mentions that the little boy likes grapes best, while his mom prefers brown eggs, which might help you start a conversation about favourite foods and different preferences.

Bottom Line:

This book seems to open all by itself at the grocery store supermarket. 


Friday, September 17, 2010

BBAW: Future Treasure - Experiences and Goals

The final prompt for Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010:

Friday—Future Treasures
We’ve been visiting each other and getting to know each other better…now is your chance to share what you enjoyed about BBAW and also what your blogging goals are for the next year!

Having decided to participate in BBAW at literally the last minute, my experience may vary from others who A) knew it was coming, B) participated last year, and C) have a clue.

I’d intended to just lurk this year, but due to a surprisingly complimentary post by the fabulous Brimful Curiosities, I figured I might as well go for it and join in.  For the statisticians among you, here’s a hint: don’t accidently disable your site meter gadget on the day before a blog way bigger and better than yours sends a bunch of fabulous readers your way.  I’m staring at a three-day hole in my stats instead of a nice, gratifying peak. Sigh.

I really enjoyed finding other book bloggers and experiencing blogs I hadn’t heard about before.  I haven’t yet had time to visit very many of them, but I’ll do so slowly over the next little while, hopefully finding new favourites and making new blogging buddies.  I expect my blogroll to expand quite a bit.

The interview swap was one of the highlights for me.  I interviewed Jen at Teach Mentor Texts (who also interviewed me) and was blown away by her philosophy and insights.  I’m hopeful that when Boo gets to school, he’ll have teachers just like her.  Teach Mentor Texts was one of three blogs short-listed for Best Kidlit Book Blog this year (along with Playing by the Book and the eventual winner, There’s a Book).  All three of them are amazing, so if you’re a kidlit fan and you live in some sort of alternate universe where you’ve heard of me but not them, get yourself over to their blogs ASAP.

My goals for the upcoming year are:
  • Continue reviewing children’s books at least 3 times a week. – that’s 156 by this time next year!  Better haul Boo off to the library tomorrow…
  • Expand my familiarity and interaction with other book bloggers and also with bloggers from the autism community.
  • Participate in more events; for example, it looks like Zoe at Playing by the Book is planning a new swap
  • Host at least one giveaway.
I must admit to being bit disappointed that so few blogs focusing on children’s lit participated in BBAW this year.  I’m hopeful that more will hear about it and choose to play in 2011.

Thanks so much to the organizers and volunteers who ran BBAW 2010.  It must have been an incredible amount of work, but from my perspective it was fantastic!

Review: Rhyming Dust Bunnies

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Title: Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Author/Illustrator: Jan Thomas (website)Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Year: 2009

ISBN: 978-1416979760
Format: Hardcover, also available in Paperback
Pages: 40
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 3/5

Unsurprisingly, Rhyming Dust Bunnies is about dust bunnies that rhyme.  Well, three of them (Ed, Ned, and Ted) rhyme.  The fourth, Bob, doesn’t seem to be in tune with the others:

Ted: Hey! What rhymes with car?
Ed: far
Ned: jar
Ted: tar
Bob: Look!

The rhyming bunnies seem confused by this.  Ted even goes as far as putting a sympathetic (condescending?) hand on Bob’s shoulder and telling him “No, Bob... ‘Look!’ does not rhyme with car!

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to help Bob, who each time the game is played answers with a non-rhyming interjection instead. 

For those of you above the age of toddlerhood, you’ve probably predicted that the others should be listening to Bob instead of telling him that he’s not rhyming.  Ed, Ned, and Ted do clue in when the ‘monster’ with the broom arrives, though it’s not enough in the end, and all four of our friendly dust bunnies end up getting an all-expenses paid tour of the inside of a vacuum cleaner.

This is how I know they’re not the dust bunnies in my house.  See, the vacuum doesn’t come out unless the queen (or my grandmother) is visiting...though we do have a small scary monster who sometimes waves a toy broom in the general direction of dust bunnies.

This book would be entertaining to toddlers, preschools, and beginning readers.  It’s certainly snort-worthy for adults.  Older kids will likely catch on that Bob is in the know rather than just bad at rhymes on page 2, whereas younger ones may take longer. 
I was surprised by how much Boo enjoyed this book.  Rhyming isn’t a concept we’d tried before, and I’m quite sure he still doesn’t really get it, but he enjoys the game of trying to guess whether a word rhymes with another word. 

He’s also really keen on the word “Thwptt!” which I probably could have predicted if I’d thought about it beforehand.

Autism Spectrum Bonus:   Apart from the lessons in rhymes, which kids with a fondness for word games will love, you might be able to discuss the emotions the dust bunnies are portraying; they have simple faces, but they’re quite expressive and go through a range of emotions.  Also, and this might be just me, but having read Temple Grandin’s quote (“After all, the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie who chipped away at rocks while the other people socialized around the campfire.”), I must admit that I can’t help but think of little blue Bob as possibly being on the spectrum, trying in vain to get his more social counterparts to focus on their surroundings rather than chat.

Bottom Line:
What rhymes with cute?
Dust Bunnies!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW: Forgotten Treasure - Review: Terrific

Today’s theme for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is Forgotten Treasures:

Thursday—Forgotten Treasure
Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

There are plenty of classic children’s books that I love: James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Velveteen Rabbit, In the Night Kitchen…and so many more that I’m not remembering right now.  Of those, only the last one has thus far been shared with Boo.  The others all will be as well once Boo’s old enough to appreciate them.

But I figured I’d instead tackle a book that seems to be going out of print far before its time.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe the publishers are pausing before a re-release or a special edition.  After all, this book has been included on some impressive lists: Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books 2005, New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2005, Child Magazine Best Children’s Books 2005, and a bunch more.

However, a quick search of,,, and Barnes & Noble reveal that you can only by it used, not fresh off the shelf. And considering I bought our copy in a Chapters bargain bin for $2 a year and a half ago, I’m not overly optimistic.

And so, here it is.  If it sounds appealing, you might want to grab one before it disappears completely.  And just so you know I’m not the only person impressed by it, here’s Not Just For Kid’s opinion, too.
Title: Terrific
Author/Illustrator: Jon Agee (website)
Publisher: Hyperion
Year: 2005
Format: Hardcover, also available in Paperback
Pages: 32
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 3.5/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4/5
Terrific is the story of Eugene, a pessimistic middle-aged man whose response to winning an all-expenses paid cruise to Bermuda is:

“Terrific,” he said. “ I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.”

Eugene was clearly not pessimistic enough, because on the way there, the ship sinks in a storm and Eugene ends up washed up on a deserted island.  Well, deserted except for a parrot. 

“Terrific,” said Eugene.  “What good is a parrot?”
[BWACK!] “You’d be surprised,” said the parrot.

Okay, I admit I add the “bwack” in myself.  It helps me get into the role.  
Eugene and his new parrot buddy live off of pomegranates (which Eugene hates) and build a boat from blueprints (sandprints?) the parrot designs.  Who knew parrots made such good draftsmen?  All is almost lost when they shove off, run out of pomegranates, and get taken out by a passing ship, but eventually our castaway does find himself in sunny Bermuda, and I bet he has a much better time there than he thought he would.

Sometimes even really, really bad weeks turn out okay.

There are three characters in the book, Eugene, the parrot, and the (2nd) ship’s captain.  Three is a perfect number of voices for me.  Any more and I start confusing them together.  My husband set the precedent and I followed his lead: Eugene has a deep, gravelly voice; the parrot has, well, a parrot-like voice; and the big brawny ship’s captain  sounds like Fran Drescher.  Well, as close as we can come to Fran Drescher.  Boo really enjoys it.  Boo even imitates it, and if you’ve never heard a two-year-old imitate an imitation of Fran Drescher, it’s something to experience.  Believe me.

Autism Spectrum Bonus: One word: Sarcasm. This is one of the few picture books that really incorporates it in a repeating and obvious way.  With a few read-throughs and perhaps a discussion or two, kids will hopefully start getting the idea that sometimes people say the opposite of what they mean.  It’s often a confusing lesson for people on the spectrum, and it’s one I’m hoping to at least start teaching Boo before someone else (i.e. a bully) does.

Bottom Line:
“Terrific,” said Sam.  “Where are kids going to buy this now?”
“Bwack!” said Boo.


Terrific at

Terrific at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure - Review: Still Alice

Today’s challenge for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is this:

Wednesday—Unexpected Treasure
We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

I’ve mostly been hanging out at other kidlit blogs and thus have only been influenced to try kidlit books, none of which are in a genre I’d have considered new.  So instead I’ll have to review an adult book recommended to me by a friend.   I haven’t taken much time to read adult fiction in the past year, something I’d hoped to remedy and which my friends suggestion kicked off.   Back in my days of avidly devouring every book I could think of, I probably would never have thought of this.

So here it is, the rare review of an adult work on Sam and Boo Book Reviews.  In case it’s not obvious, this one is purely from Sam’s perspective.  Boo couldn’t have cared less.
Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery
Year: 2009
Format: Paperback, also available in Hardcover, Kindle, and Audiobook
Pages: 320
Age Range: Teen, Adult
Kid Love Factor: Non-existent.
Adult Sanity Factor: Depends entirely on the adult.

Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who learns she has early onset Alzheimer’s in her early 50s.  Unlike many media treatments of the disease, this one is from Alice’s point of view.  She’s brilliant, she’s accomplished, she has a beautiful family, and she’s slowly losing it all as her symptoms progress rapidly over the course of a couple of years. 

It’s terrifying and it’s beautiful.  Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist herself, and her knowledge and obvious research make Alice nothing short of utterly believable as a character.

It’s not a fun book.  I was crying through parts of it, but it also does manage to find points of humour that made me laugh out loud.  The secondary characters, Alice’s husband John, her daughters and son, her colleagues, and her health care professionals are all believably human and realistic.  Not perfect, by any means, but true.

I also love a novel that makes me work for it.  Everything the reader gets is skewed through the lens of Alice’s deteriorating mind, leaving us to pick up the pieces and assess what’s really happening.   I’m a lover of unreliable narrators in general (Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye is the most widely known example I can think of), and this is one of the best instances of it that I’ve seen.

It’s also a bit personal for me.  My grandmother has Alzheimer’s.  She was in her late 80s before she began showing symptoms, so she is not early onset by any means, and her decline is much more gradual than Alice’s.  But it’s still scary and sad to watch and like Alice’s daughter Anna, my mother is terrified of the implications for herself.  At another generation removed, with time and genetic distance to my advantage, I’m simply anxious rather than petrified, though my anxiety is for not only myself, but for my mother and Boo.

For teachers or book clubs, Still Alice comes with discussion questions at the end that might stimulate some very interesting conversations.

Autism Spectrum Bonus For adults and older teens on the spectrum, this book might be an interesting take on the thoughts and perspective of someone who was once neurotypical and is becoming decidedly not.   Apart from your general enjoyment (or lack thereof) of Still Alice, if you have differences in how you process the emotions or motives of others compared to non-autistic folk, it might be interesting to see what your experience viewing the secondary characters through the atypical viewpoint of Alice yields.

Bottom Line:

Still Alice is a breathtaking and traumatic view of the world through the eyes of someone losing their way in it.   I don't in any way regret taking the time to see it.


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