“Now that she’s losing her memory, She’s still my Grandma, isn’t she?"

Book Cover

"Wordsworth felt like the entire house was holding a big secret."

"Wordsworth was a poet...."

Shhhhh...

"hush, hush,
Grandma's losing
her memory.
She's forgetting,
To flush the john.
Hush, hush
She's lost
her glasses again.
Hush, hush,
She's forgotten
my name.
Hush,hush,
Shhhhh."

- Wordsworth

Check the 'events tab' for Frances' schedule of workshops and talks on caregiving & writing.

 
 

'Wordsworth Dances The Waltz' - Description:

In "Wordsworth Dances the Waltz", children are introduced to the concept that as grandparents age, they may become different, and even forget important things. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still a part of the family nor do they love us any less than they did before. Nor, are they any less valuable to us, despite their difficulties. As the story progresses, Wordsworth finds comfort in writing poems that express his confusion over the changes in his beloved grandparent and the fond memories he has of her more vibrant days. His poems also help his family understand that Grandma would still like to do the things that she always loved to do, spending time with the family, laughing and dancing. "Wordsworth Dances the Waltz" is the second book of Frances Kakugawa featuring the literary mouse Wordsworth and his friends. The Northern California Publishers & Authors group named it the 2007 "Best Illustrated Children's Book" as well as the Bronze Award for "Best Book Overall; a rare achievement for a children's book. an 'overall' category."

Hardcover; 32 pp. Author: Frances H. Kakugawa; illustrated by Melissa DeSica
Publisher: Watermark Publishing, HI, June 2007

   

'Wordsworth Dances the Waltz' - Reviews:

From The 3Rs Reading Den:

Wordsworth Dances The Waltz features a family of mice, living much as any family – enjoying their day to day lives, when time creeps up on them…

Wordsworth's first love is poetry – for a long while now it has been his source of comfort and understanding…writing is this little mouse’s way of dealing with life. And so when his beloved Grandma comes to stay with the family Wordsworth is shocked and a bit frightened by the changes that have taken place. The once vibrant, boisterous home, filled with the sounds of music and laughter has fallen quiet and his parents talk in hushed voices…whispering about how Grandma is losing her memory and things just aren’t the same.

Wordsworth is saddened and very disappointed when his father tells him Grandma can’t attend the special Grandparent’s program at school. Before class that morning Wordsworth sits beside his Grandma’s bed and writes a poem, expressing his feelings – ending with – “She’s still my Grandma, isn’t she?”

What follows is a touching reunion of family, with a new found understanding of how they will interact from this day forward. This is a beautifully written, heartfelt story that addresses dementia, Alzheimer’s and loss of independence, subjects families are dealing with everyday. Seniors are an integral part of the family tree and it’s important to maintain close bonds and continue to interact with and allow children to enjoy the time they have with them…it is precious!

I highly recommend this story to all families – there should be a copy in every elementary school, library and nursing home. Especially senior care facilities – this book would be an excellent tool to ease youngsters fears, answer questions they may not be able to express and reassure them Grandma or Grandpa may be different, but they love you and they’re still an important part of the family! If you or someone you know is facing any of these situations, pick up a copy of this book!

Additional Comment:

The language utilized is age appropriate and the author speaks with a delicate, parental touch that’s warm, supportive and kind. Many of the words are defined quickly, within the sentence, providing an educational side to the book as well.

Ex: “….dojo, or school”

“gi, the white robe worn by karate students,…”

I cared for my Grandmother and although she was not suffering from dementia, this book would have been a real blessing when talking with my daughter about the changes that were taking place within our family. I will not hesitate to share this book!!

Kudos & Congratulations to author, Frances H. Kakugawa for delivering a well written, helpful story that is beautifully illustrated.

 

 

Midwest Book Review says:

"Wordsworth the Poet is a little mouse who is worried about his Grandma. She's is losing her memory and having trouble doing things she used to be able to do quite easily. What can Wordsworth as a loving grandson do to help his Grandma? This is the story and premise for "Wordworth Dances The Waltz", a superbly written picturebook story by Frances H. Kakugawa which is enhanced throughout with the full color illustrations of Melissa DeSica. Just what can Wordsworth do? Well for one thing, writes some poetry to express the situation and his feelings. In the end, Wordsworth comes to understand that despite all the changes in his Grandma's behavior, he still loves her and always will. "Wordworth Dances The Waltz" is an especially recommended picturebook for young children experiencing the phenomena of memory loss, Alzheimers, and other forms of dementia manifesting within their own grandparents. Simply stated, "Wordworth Dances The Waltz" should be a part of every elementary school and community library picturebook collection for young children.

 

 

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Trying to capture a better view of the illustrations of a dragon chasing a flying bird, sixth-graders leaned forward as Frances Kakugawa read from her book "Wordsworth Dances the Waltz."

Her book tells of a poetic mouse whose grandmother has been stricken with Alzheimer's. Kakugawa knew she had held the crowd spellbound: When her lilting voice modulated with the poem-with-a-story, some nodded in time. When she stopped in a dramatic pause, the Niu Valley Middle schoolchildren drew a collective breath.

" 'She's forgotten my name' ..." Kakugawa read quietly. Through workshops and classes, Kakugawa is showing that while Alzheimer's slowly saps loved ones' memory, writers even as young as these can help preserve those precious stories themselves.

It's something Kakugawa knows well. For five years she was the primary caretaker of her elderly mother, who was diagnosed with the disease in her 80s and died at age 90. She told the children about how the window into her mother's mind would open, allowing a glimpse of her former self, but close just as quickly.

A former schoolteacher who taught both here and on the Mainland, Kakugawa used that time with her mother to write in her journal and compose poetry, in part to work through the rigors of caretaking, but also to capture the stories and keep her mother alive while her condition worsened.

At last week's Niu Valley class, Kakugawa discovered how much her message really hit home when she asked the class to write their own memories of a grandparent.

"To be a writer, you must not be afraid of the truth," she prefaced. She also urged them to follow the golden rule of English assignments: Be specific.

One young man wrote about the times his grandfather, who was losing his memory, used to take him to buy slushies, but doesn't anymore.

"Maybe you can take him," Kakugawa told the boy, who looked up at her, proud to be singled out and visibly considering her suggestion.

'LIKE A GIANT ERASER'

To illustrate Alzheimer's effects, Kakugawa, who now lives in Sacramento, drew on the board the school children's estimated lifeline, assuming they live to be 100.

She asked them to think of important memories in their lives. One mentioned a trip to the ER when he was younger; another popped in with the time his family got a new puppy; yet another recalled a memorable birthday. "Here you are, at about 11," she said, marking little lines like the centimeters on a ruler, in a smallish space.

She asked them what memories their grandparents and great-grandparents might have over their greater expanse of years. One girl said "marriage"; another, the birth of offspring; even war came up.

Down the lifeline Kakugawa followed with her marker, dotting lots more lines. The exercise showed the children the vast reservoir of memories their elders lay claim to.

Then she sounded the knell. "Do you know what Alzheimer's does?" Kakugawa asked the children, reaching for the eraser. One little girl made a quiet gasp. Kakugawa began wiping away the lines, from the far end toward the near. "It works like a giant eraser," she said. Kakugawa told them how her mother first lost her most recent memories. She lost the ability to speak. To use the bathroom. Even to eat.

"That's why Alzheimer's has been called a thief, a robber," Kakugawa said. To preserve what she could, Kakugawa wrote down the stories from her mother's childhood in Japan. But eventually, Kakugawa's mother lost even the ones from childhood.

MEMORY KEEPERS

But, she told the children, no one can steal your memories, nor should we stop enjoying our loved ones while we have them near. As part of her ongoing work, Kakugawa has created another book, this one geared for adults, "Mosaic Moon: Caregiving Through Poetry" (Watermark Publishing, $16.95). It chronicles not only her time caretaking, but includes other caretakers' perspectives, as well.

Kakugawa said when she does readings and book signings, she can tell that many seniors are buying her latest "Wordsworth" book for their children and grandchildren, in the hopes that one might become the receptacle for their stories.

These children were taking the same lesson to heart. "Someday you can gather the memories your grandparents have," Kakugawa told them, "while they can still talk to you."

- Mary Kaye Ritz, Honolulu Advertiser

 

 

 

Red Slider writes:

"As with all of Kakugawa's other works, this one provides powerful insights to young and old alike, without the overbearing moralizing often thinly disguised in childrens literature. In this case, the lessons are multilayered. It breaks the 'ice-puzzle' for kids who live in households where grandma or grandpa's "condition" is still some kind of mysterious secret. The easy lesson is that those suffering from Alzheimer's remain family members, with the need for respect and love no different from any other family member - even if their needs for care may differ. The more difficult lesson is that we have as much to gain from the people we care for as they have from us. Kids will pick up on that on first reading. Adults may take a few more reads before they get it. It's a 'must read' for all kids and a reminder for anyone who thinks people with dementia are useless and strange. Ms. Kakugawa also conducts workshops and support groups for the Alzheimer's Assn. and other organizations. The book makes it clear that she's no arm-chair story-teller when it comes to caring for and about people. If there was another star, I'd give it to 'Wordsworth Dances the Waltz' hands down. "

- Red Slider, poet
Author of "Stewards of Mortality", "Noguchi - The Man Who Entered Stone",
"The Ballad of Emma Good" and other works.

 

'Wordsworth Dances the Waltz' - Awards:

  award of excellence

"Wordsworth Dances the Waltz" received the Northern California Publishers and Authors Association award for the 'Best Book of 2007' in the Children's literature catagory; and, and its Bronze Award in the overall awards for all catagories.

 

'Wordsworth Dances The Waltz' - More Information:

 

To a child, unfamiliar behavior and capability in a grandparent is no small matter. "Wordsworth Dances the Waltz" has been used in many settings to help children understand and relate to changes in elder family members that may puzzle or discomfort them. The book was used as part of the core curruclum in the Hawaii public school system; and has been used as the basis of classroom and workshop activites in public schools throughout the country. Presently, the work is under considerati0n for use in family support groups and workshops for children, a concept being explored by the Alzheimer's Association in Sacramento and the author.

More about Wordsworth The Poet can be found at:

  - Asian American Curriculum Project - An Interview with Frances kakugawa.

  - Northern California Publishers Association.