Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Dad’s Camera explains Alzheimer’s to children

Dad’s Camera, by Ross Watkins/Illustrated by Liz Anelli, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201383

Ages 5-10

A boy’s father comes home one day with “one of those old cameras, the kind that uses film”, and starts taking pictures of the world around him. The boy and his mother don’t think much of it at first – Dad is doing funny things, like putting tools in the fridge, and milk in the cupboard; it’s what the doctor says will continue happening. As Dad continues photographing everyday objects, the boy and his mother wonder why he’s not taking pictures of them: aren’t they worth remembering, too? Dad just looks puzzled, and makes collages of his developed photos, sticking them on a window. When Dad passes, a package arrives for the boy and his mother: it’s the camera, with one photo left to be developed. The boy and his mother discover a final photo from Dad: a family portrait.

Dad’s Camera is a heartbreaking conversation about a young family struggling with Alzheimer’s, inspired by the author’s father-in-law, who developed the disease when his daughter was a tween. An author’s note explains that Ross Watkins wrote Dad’s Camera to “create a way for children and adults to talk about the confusion often surrounding Alzheimer’s, but also to celebrate the tenderness and small surprises of such difficult times”. Mission accomplished: Dad’s Camera is a series of poignant, small moments that are tender and loving; a bright spot in a family’s dark time. It’s a moving, bittersweet story of loss, grief, and the joy of memory and is a smart addition to your collections. It begins a conversation that is normally reserved for grandparents and elder family members, and provides a comforting strength for families.

 

Liz Anelli’s incorporates collage, watercolor, mono print, acrylic, and digital color to create a sedate atmosphere for the story, always mindful of details that readers will discover through multiple reads. A bus runs a camera film ad on its side in one spread; in the next spread, the camera arrives in a box with the same photo on the side. The colors are warm, homey, and yet, infused with a sadness and a yearning.

Dad’s Camera was originally published in the UK as One Photo (2016).