I don’t normally like books that overtly teach. I prefer the teaching part to settle gently in the recesses of small minds ready for them to catch and adapt as life throws circumstances to them that don’t quite match the books they’ve read.
Mile-High Apple Pie is an exception. It’s about the impact of Alzheimer’s and I bought it when I had a young friend whose Grandma was in it's early stages.
Perhaps what makes this book exceptional is that it doesn’t overtly teach the child how to act but rather shares another child's experiences.
In this story, Margaret is a little girl who doesn’t believe her Dad when he says that one day
‘Grandma’s remembering will go away forever.’
But slowly Margaret starts to see Grandma’s remembering disappearing and so she adjusts. Margaret helps Grandma remember what apples are for, she holds her hand when they go for walks because Grandma sometimes forgets where she lives and so on.
Eventually, as Grandma’s memory fades even more Margaret comes to terms with her own role and says to Grandma -
“I am your remembering.”
One of the reasons I don’t like books that overtly teach is that they can set an impossibly high standard for a child to reach or they can far too neatly tie up the loose ends. This one doesn’t tie up the loose ends - and that's nice. That said, it does set a rather high standard for a child. Not every child will be able to reconcile the loss of a loved one to Alzheimer’s and not every child will be able to cheerfully accept the new relationship they will necessarily have.
This meant that while Mile-High Apple Pie was helpful for my kids' understanding of the changes happening with their friend’s Grandma - I’m not sure it would be as helpful in the trenches so to speak. But children are different and maybe it is just what a particular child needs to navigate Alzheimer’s in the family.
Still, I think there are all sorts of things this book can teach besides the obvious: rolling with the punches, accepting that some things really are out of our control - loving someone even when they change - the sacredness of family relationships and how ‘worth it’ it is to keep working on those, etc etc.
And the illustrations are cheerful and full of life, which helps to reinforce that life goes on and is good. Plus, if you're so inclined, there’s an awesome apple pie recipe in the back of the book!