If My Moon Was Your Sun, written by Andreas Steinhofel, illustrations by Nele Palmtag, translation by Matthew O. Anderson and CD music by Georges Bizet and Sergei Prokofiev, by Plough Publishing, 2017, 75 pages.
How do you explain dementia to a child? How can you possibly help a grandchild understand why a beloved grandparent no longer knows their name or recognizes their face? How can you put some of a child’s natural fears to rest? If My Moon Was Your Sun is the perfect conversation starter for parents, grandparents and teachers to help young ones through this challenging time.
When the book arrived from Plough Publishing, I was instantly drawn to it. Perhaps because it was from Germany which is where my family hailed from. Maybe because the topic is dementia, which my Mom was afflicted with. Or because the main character has the same name as our oldest grandson, Max. Maybe it was simply the mischief; a nine year old boy kidnapping his grandpa from a nursing home!
Or, all of the above.
A long time ago, while searching for that place where our feelings of longing live, some people believed that they had discovered the spot. Longing they claimed, lives in the heart. But Max knew better: his body was made up of billions of tiny cells, and, since each one of these cells hurt, it could only mean that his feeling of longing lived everywhere in him.
Nine year old Max decides to skip school and sneak his grandpa out of the nursing home and take him to the field where Grandpa proposed to Grandma so many years ago. Sadly, the “Great Forgetting” is starting to take away some of Grandpa’s precious memories. Max is worried about that Grandpa will soon forget him and he wants to have one more fun day together. He knows the field is a very special place.
There are magical places in the world – children know this, and some grown-ups know it too – places where enchantment is at work.
I vividly remember, while visiting my Mom’s nursing home, the first time she no longer remembered me. It was heartbreaking and gut wrenching as an adult. I can’t imagine a young child trying to understand how that could be, especially knowing the very special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
As they lay in the field, Max shares his concern with Grandpa:
“I’m afraid,” said Max.
“Afraid of what?”
“That someday I’ll ask do you remember?, and you won’t remember anymore. And that someday…someday you will forget how much you love me.”
Oh, goodness, got me right in the feels!
Of course, the school noticed that Max wasn’t in attendance and the nursing home soon realized that Grandpa was missing. So what happens at the end of this very wonderful day? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
If My Moon Was Your Sun is also filled with beautiful and light-hearted illustrations throughout. They help readers feel exactly what Max is feeling at the moment and can also help generate good conversation with children. The accompanying read along CD includes twelve classical pieces created especially for children to enjoy and is a lovely accent to the book. Note – please don’t substitute the CD for actually sitting down with your child and reading the book though! It’s a meaningful dialogue to have and there will be important questions to answer.
I read the book in less than twenty minutes. It will certainly take longer with children but it will be time well spent. If you want to help children through the fear and loss of dementia or if you need a different approach to your own emotions, buy this book. Just don’t put it on a shelf. Keep it nearby and enjoy the opportunity of a powerful conversation.
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher at no cost to me. In no other way did they attempt to influence the content of this review.