The Tide is a book will move you and delight you. It might even make you cry. The beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather is at the heart of it. But there is a more profound and very poignant message here too, about the long goodbye that is caused by dementia.
The narrator of this story is a little girl. Sometimes her beloved Granddad gets confused and forgets things. The child feels guilty because she often gets impatient with him. She is anxious that someday he might even forget her. She balances that anxiety against trying to imagine how frightening it must be for him to find his everyday world strange and confusing.
Welsh handles the topic of dementia here with huge insight and sensitivity. Her text is clear and unadorned. She captures the child’s perspective perfectly. Lindsay’s illustrations are charming. Using red, orange and yellow tones to contrast with the blues and greens colours of the sea and sky, she infuses her images with colour and warmth. She encourages us to recognise the loving relationships between the little girl, her Mum and Granddad.
As we study the other people at the beach, we notice that a very positive version of family life is depicted. Although Welsh deliberately avoids using the terms ‘dementia’ or ‘Alzheimer’s’, parents and teachers could use this book as a beautifully gentle means of opening up a dialogue about the illness and its effects.
Reading and discussing the book could encourage children (and adults) develop empathy with family member or neighbours who suffer from this distressing condition. Moreover, it could provide a springboard into discussing how we might help those with the disease to live well. I recommend that schools make copies of The Tide available.
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