Author Clare Helen Welsh and illustrator Ashling Lindsay deliver on a beautiful story that conveys, with sensitivity, a child’s perspective on the memory loss of her beloved grandfather.
Recommended: Ages 4 – 7
In a poignant story of acceptance and understanding, The Tide explores the relationship between a little girl (the narrator) and her grandfather, who lives with dementia. The setting is a family day at the beach. The girl and her grandpa build sand castles and search for sea stars. But when it is time for lunch, Grandpa mistakenly buries the sandwiches in the sand. The girl has noticed that sometimes Grandpa gets confused or forgets. “Mommy says Grandpa’s memories are like the tide” – sometimes “near and full of life,” other times “distant and quiet.” With empathy, the girl remembers times when she, too, forgot things and needed help; or maybe behaved in perplexing ways. She plays and interacts with her grandpa, but has also learned to just sit and be at peace with him during those times when his memory seems more distant.
The Tide brims with emotion and firmly plants the reader in the world of the little girl, who is sometimes worried (“But what if Grandpa forgets me?”); sometimes scared (“. . . I get upset when he does silly things . . . it must be scary to forget.” ) but also joyous in her grandfather’s smile (“the biggest smile of all”) as they eat ice cream and dance with delight as the tide comes in. By taking a child’s perspective, the author opens a gentle dialogue for families to the emotions surrounding dementia, without mentioning the word specifically, and against a familiar backdrop of playfulness, smiling faces and family fun.
Ashling Lindsay’s seaside illustrations beautifully portray family at its best. Warm pastels conjure feelings of love, comfort and trust. A diverse group of happy beachgoers, including the little girl’s mother, fill the backgrounds of images, making this family day at the beach picture perfect.
Family closeness prevails in the end as the little girl assures all that sometimes Grandpa forgets . . .“but I love him as much as I always have, and I know that he loves me.”
Welsh and Lindsay have collaborated perfectly on a difficult topic, bringing joy, playfulness and hope to the pages of The Tide.
Clare Helen Welsh is a primary school teacher living in the South West of England with her husband and two children. Originally, she wrote the story based on a day spent on the beach with her children. It was the first time her children learned about the tide, and Welsh wrote about their play on the beach . . . singing “The tide is coming in, the tide is coming in!” About six months later she re-wrote the story with a dementia theme, inspired by her husband’s grandmother, Veronica (Ronnie). Ronnie lives with dementia, but, nonetheless loves to be around her grandchildren – sitting happily for an hour or more with her grandson on her lap – chatting, singing and smiling, showing all that it is possible to live well with dementia.