Two absolutely beautiful books reviewed today, both about kids who are trying to cope with major changes in their world. Forgetting Foster is about a little boy whose Dad has early-onset Alzheimer’s, while in The Thing About Jellyfish, Suzy is struggling to cope with the random drowning of her best friend. Both books highlight how children deal with complex situations, and reinforce the importance of discussing issues with children rather than letting them glean information from other places.
Forgetting Foster – Dianne Touchell
22nd June 2016, Allen&Unwin
240 pages, 5/5 stars
Foster is a seven year old boy whose father is starting to forget things. He has early-onset Alzheimer’s, but Foster doesn’t really understand what that means, just that his Dad isn’t quite the same anymore. He’s losing his stories. Foster is worried, but no one really wants to tell him what is going on…
This book is an incredibly poignant perspective on disease and how it affects a family. Told from Foster’s point of view, Touchell touches on the often confusing aspects of illness for all members of a family. She also highlights how much children observe and understand, emphasising the need to keep them informed.
Although it is beautifully written fiction, Forgetting Foster is so much more – it teaches understanding and empathy for families going through incredibly tough times. By telling the story through the eyes of a child, Dianne Touchell has enabled her readers to connect with a very complex situation. It’s a short book, but unbelievably sweet.
The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin
8th September 2015, PanMacmillan Australia
256 pages, 5/5 stars
Suzy is 12 the summer her best friend, Franny, drowns at the beach. Suzy can’t accept the news: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, ever since the two met in swim class at age five. Suzy is certain that everyone must have it wrong: Franny can’t have drowned – she must have been stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes more sense to Suzy’s logical mind than a random drowning: it’s all cause and effect.
Suzy deals with her grief silently, wanting to make any words she does say profound and important. She studies jellyfish on her own, but also as a part of a larger science project. The book is structured in parts named after the sections of a science report, highlighting the stages through which Suzy must move to come to terms with her grieving.
If people were silent, they could hear the noise of their own lives better. If people were silent, it would make what they did say, whenever they chose to say it, more important. If people were silent, they could read one another’s signals, the way underwater creatures flash lights at one another, or turn their skin different colors.
It is a truly beautiful book, though not without its sad moments. It is a beautiful representation of grief, for children and adults alike. It’s also a story of growing up, as Suzy tries to find her place in middle school without her best friend by her side.