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What's Happening to Grandpa?
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What's Happening to Grandpa?

by Maria Shriver, Sandra Speidel (Illustrator)

Kate has always adored her grandpa's storytelling - but lately he's been repeating the same stories again and again. One day, he even forgets Kate's name. Her mother's patient explanations open Kate's eyes to what so many of the elderly must confront: Alzheimer's disease and other forms of memory loss. Determined to support her grandfather, Kate explores ways


Kate has always adored her grandpa's storytelling - but lately he's been repeating the same stories again and again. One day, he even forgets Kate's name. Her mother's patient explanations open Kate's eyes to what so many of the elderly must confront: Alzheimer's disease and other forms of memory loss. Determined to support her grandfather, Kate explores ways to help him - and herself - cope by creating a photo album of their times together, memories that will remain in their hearts forever.

Editorial Reviews

Celebrity journalist Maria Shriver focuses her gentle attention on a serious and sensitive topic in this picture book designed to help children understand the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Having collaborated on previous bestsellers -- What's Heaven? and What's Wrong with Timmy? -- Shriver and illustrator Sandra Spiegel team up once again for this heartwarming story about a young girl named Kate and her loving family. When her normally upbeat grandpa becomes irritable and begins forgetting things, Kate wonders aloud if this is more than just old age. A frank discussion with her mother reveals that Grandpa has a difficult illness that nobody understands; the only thing to do, says Mom, is to "support Grandma and just keep on loving and respecting Grandpa the way we always have." Understandably, Kate has many more questions, and after a talk with her school friends, she comes up with a special plan to help Grandpa keep his memories alive. Shriver gives young readers a hopeful perspective that parents sometimes have trouble providing. She also supplies a thorough list of resources for families affected by Alzheimer's disease, including web site addresses and phone numbers. For those dealing with this difficult and debilitating illness and for children in need of comfort and reassurance, What's Happening to Grandpa? is a compassionate, worthwhile read.
Publishers Weekly
Kate, first introduced in the bestselling What's Heaven?, struggles to understand her grandfather's symptoms of Alzheimer's in this third collaboration from Shriver and Speidel. Here journalist Shriver not only uses the narrative to model a potentially prickly conversation between parent and child (as she did with What's Wrong with Timmy?) but also conveys a challenging conversation in which Kate tells her friends of her grandfather's condition (to explain why she wants to spend Sunday with him instead of them). Speidel's soft pastel portraits reinforce the loving ties among family members. Shriver's succinct explanation of the condition ("It's a disease of the brain that some people get when they're older. It affects Grandpa's memory and makes him confused, irritated, and often angry because he's struggling to remember things he just did," Kate's mother tells her daughter), the examples of conversations that could easily be emulated by adults and children, as well as Kate's loving project (undertaken with her grandfather) to put together a photo album to preserve her grandfather's memories and to help him remember family and friends, make this a book that will appeal to an audience across generations. Ages 6-9. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This touching story is about Kate, a girl whose grandpa has developed Alzheimer's disease. Her Grandpa had always been sharp, energetic, and full of life, but when Kate noticed that he could not remember things as well, she asked her mother if something was wrong with him. Kate learned that Alzheimer's does not affect every geriatric person, and so she did not need to fear her own parents or herself going through the same thing. But she realized that she could make life easier for her Grandpa by listening to his stories and helping him remember his own past by making an album with labeled photographs and corresponding stories. This is a sentimental story that is appropriate for teenagers and pre-teens who are going through the same experience with their grandparents. Alzheimer's can be a devastating illness that affects the whole family when a loved one goes through it, and for a teenager who can relate to Kate, this book will shed some light on how to cope with the frustrations. 2004, Little Brown and Company/Warner Books, Ages 12 to 15.
—Cherie Ilg Haas
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Shriver walks a girl through acceptance and a beginning understanding of her Grandpa's condition. Kate questions not just what can be done to address the changes Alzheimer's will bring within her own family but she also tries to place her concern in the larger context of growing old. She decides how to help her grandfather as he goes through this difficult time. Together they sit down with a box of photographs and his still-intact memories and create a scrapbook. This well-meaning book is clearly and lovingly written. Kate is admittedly "wise beyond her age," which serves the author well as the child becomes the voice of reason. Grandpa is known to talk to God and is grateful for having been granted a good life despite his current adversity. The book is squat and square, helping to establish intimacy. There is a soft focus to the pastel art that matches the tone of the story. The application of color is lively, scratchy yet self-contained, giving a sense of controlled movement. The art is especially effective at giving Grandpa energy and verve. Certain phrases are printed in a larger type on each page, giving multiple entries into the book's key concepts simply by reading these emphasized statements. As Grandpa says, "the important memories of my life will forever be in my heart." It's a warm and touching thought.-Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.75(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.47(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

What's Happening to Grandpa?

By Maria Shriver

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2004 Maria Shriver
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-00101-5

Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a girl named Kate. She was curious, sensitive, and wise beyond her age. Her younger brothers and sister looked up to her and thought she knew the answers to everything. Kate's parents had taught her to celebrate life, be kind to friends, be respectful of teachers, and always, always to stick up for your family.

"Family" was a big deal in Kate's home. In fact, every Sunday Kate and her brothers and sister visited their grandparents. Kate felt lucky to have the grandparents she had. Her grandmother was a lot of fun and very funny. She was the kind of grandma who enjoyed giving tea parties and playing games like Chinese checkers and croquet. In the summer she loved to look for mermaids in the ocean or build sand castles for princesses, and when she went swimming, she always wore a bathing cap with big, bright flowers on it. When Kate took long walks with her, she talked about her "conversations with the angels." Kate though her grandma was so cool.

As for Grandpa ... well, he was a character. He didn't talk to angels-he talked to God. At least that's what he told Kate. He loved baseball, classical music, and eating potato chips-lots and lots of potato chips. Most of all, Grandpa loved to tell all kinds of storiesand charmed everyone with his tales about baseball, his life on a submarine, and riding his bike through Europe. As her mom often told Kate, Grandpa was "one of a kind." To Kate, neither of her grandparents seemed old. In fact, she was sure they thought of themselves as kids. That's one of the reason she loved being with them so much.

One Sunday, while visiting with her grandparents, Kate noted that her grandpa was repeating the same stories. He kept asking the same questions over and over. And when she asked him about his day, he couldn't seem to remember what he'd done. At first Kate didn't think much about it. She knew some older people had trouble reading, some couldn't hear like they once did, and some couldn't even walk very well anymore. So, forgetting a few things didn't seem like a big deal to her.

But one weekend while Kate was making lemonade in the kitchen, she heard her grandpa banging drawers in the hall and complaining that he couldn't find his keys. She watched as her grandma tried to tell Grandpa that he wasn't allowed to drive anymore and that she would drive him to the store. Grandpa threw down his books, yelled, and then turned and slammed the door. This behavior wasn't like Grandpa at all! Kate watched as her grandma stood alone in the hall, put her face in her hands, and began to cry. Kate's mother rushed in, wrapped her arms around Grandma, and held her just as tightly as she held Kate when she cried. Kate quietly turned away and went back to the kitchen to finish her lemonade.

After several more weekend visits with Grandpa, it was clear to Kate that something was wrong with him. She went to her mom and said, "Grandpa keeps repeating himself; he can't seem to remember what he just did. I saw him yell at Grandma, and then this morning he didn't remember my name. Mom," she said, "what's happening to Grandpa?"


Excerpted from What's Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver Copyright © 2004 by Maria Shriver. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Maria Shriver is one of television's most respected anchorwomen, the recipient of television awards, and the bestselling author of What's Heaven?, What's Wrong with Timmy?, and Ten Things I Wish I Known Before I Went Out Into the Real World. She and her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger have four children.

Sandra Speidel has won awards from the San Francisco and New York Society of Illustators, and most recently, from the Pastel Society of the West Coast. She illustrated What's Heaven?, What's Wrong with Timmy?, and a dozen other children's books.

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