Celia and Nonna by Victoria Lane
Ill. by Kayleen West. Ford Street, 2014. ISBN 9781925000603 hbk.
ISBN 9781925000610 pbk.
Celia has the most wonderful relationship with her nonna, and her most favourite thing is having a sleepover at Nonna's house. Together they bake and fill the kitchen with delicious smells, and Celia has her own special cupboard full of her jigsaws, colouring books and felts. Best of all is when Nonna reads her a bedtime story - or two or eight or nine. But as time passes, Celia notices that Nonna is getting forgetful, so much so that Nonna is in danger and so she has to move to a hostel. Instead of her familiar house with its tumbled garden, kitchen, and its special cupboard, Nonna now just has a room with bare grey walls, a tiny bookshelf and a funny smell. And NO special cupboard. But Celia has an idea.
This story will really resonate with so many young children, my own grandchildren included, as they come to terms with their nonnas and great-nonnas having to move from familiar surroundings to assisted care facilities. Gone are the things that make it a special personal place and instead there are other old people, funny smells and blank walls. Even though my grandchildren coped with that quite well, as Celia does, because Great Gran was still Great Gran and Nonna is still Nonna, it's hard to be quiet and still so you don't disturb others. Nearly as hard as it is for Great Gran and Nonna to be confined to such a small space where there is only room for a tiny bookshelf and a few special things. Celia's solution is both clever and poignant and makes the transition to a new way of life so much easier for both her and Nonna. Miss 8 did a similar thing!
Victoria Lane has hit on a topic that will be the story for many of the children in our care and I know Miss 8 and Miss 3 not only empathised with Celia but also got a lot of comfort in knowing that they weren't the only ones dealing with these changed circumstances that really bring old age into such a clear focus for them. It can be scary to see so many old folk, especially those needing so much assistance, and hard for them to understand what's happening, but if books like this can encourage them to continue to visit and celebrate their special times, then we will have a compassionate generation to look after us.
Accompanied by the most gorgeous pictures from which love just oozes out, this book touched my heart and that of a friend in similar circumstances. You can read her review here.
A must-have if you know of children who are facing these big changes and who need a little support to deal with them.