Never Forget Eleanor

HarperCollins. Feb. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063039629.
K-Gr 2–Young elephant Elijah loves to spend time with Grandma Eleanor, especially when the two of them share a crossword puzzle. She always seems to know all the answers, and she patiently teaches him the pronunciations and meanings of unfamiliar words. She also serves as a beloved storyteller for friends and neighbors on Saturdays in her yard. The entire community is deeply saddened when Grandma Eleanor’s famed memory begins to fade (a partially glimpsed newspaper story contains a subtle reference to Alzheimer’s disease). At first she has difficulty recalling a word here and there, but then she begins forgetting the cherished weekly story sessions. One day, she leaves her house and cannot find her way back. Fortunately, Elijah devises a clever system of signs painted with familiar words and images to serve as trail markers to guide her home. From then on, these signs remain in place as a helpful reminder on her walks through the town. When Grandma Eleanor finally dies, Elijah keeps her memory alive by telling the stories and sharing her treasured words with all who will listen. The author’s empathetic writing style is well-suited to the tender story of family and loss. Long eschews backgrounds, opting instead for vignettes on expanses of white, which gives the art a curiously unfinished feel. However, the characters themselves, rendered in richly textured gouache and colored pencil, display a touching emotional depth.
VERDICT This sweet and sensitive story will hold particular resonance for children and families with elderly relatives in their lives.

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