Arthur Levine’s new picture book, What a Beautiful Morning, illustrated by Katie Kath, launches on August 8. It is a stellar example of treating a story concerning a serious issue with tenderness and joy.
Full disclosure; this review may be biased for a couple of reasons. First of all, I consider Arthur a friend and I got to hear him read this as a work-in-progress a year ago at a retreat. A work-in-progress that had actually sold right before the retreat. When Arthur stood up and read it to the 60 or 70 of us there in his smooth and gentle voice, everyone in the room was moved. I was choked up to the point of tears.
What a Beautiful Morning is a tender story of the relationship between a boy, Noah, and his grandfather. They spend their summer days together. They get up early, Grandpa belting out a big song with “big round notes” about what a beautiful morning it is. He belts out songs when they walk the dog, eat their breakfast and figure out “what’s on the docket” for the day.
But this year, Grandpa forgets to ask what’s on the docket. He has trouble cutting his French toast. And at one point even forgets who Noah is. It is clear that Grandpa is experiencing the the early stages of dementia. This upsets Noah greatly. As the summer goes on and Grandpa becomes more and more, as Grandma says, confused, Noah makes his own docket, walking the dog, feeding the birds, and playing by himself. That is until one day when Noah is playing the piano and Grandpa comes in bursting into song. Music seems to clear Grandpa’s head and he is his old self again. At least for a little while. Noah discovers, with the help of Grandma, how to best spend his time with Grandpa working towards a moving and heart-warming end.
The simple ink and watercolor illustrations are perfect for this book. A soft earthy palette brings a warmth to the story. Kath also employs a technique where Grandpa fades into a sepia monotone when the dementia has taken hold and back to color when his head clears. This works very nicely.
The second reason I might be biased in this review is that my wife is in the late stages of young-onset Alzheimer’s. This story speaks truth in a number of ways to me. The relationship may be different; husband/wife as opposed to grandparent/child, but the love and the commitment are the same. This will be an important and comforting book for those who have had their lives touched by dementia, but it is much more than that, it is a joyous and charming story about love beyond circumstance.
What a Beautiful Morning. What a beautiful book.
This brought tears to my eyes, Kevan. Partly because I was lucky enough to hear it last summer, too. Partly because of your circumstances. Hugs, friend.
I remember—Thank you, Jill!
I could have used a book like this when I was a child watching my beloved grandmother go through a similar experience. Nice to know such a sensitive, tender title will soon be in the hands of children! Hugs all around.
A comfort for those who are experiencing it now, for those who will experience it in the future, but also, Andria, for those who have lived through it already.
Sounds lovely! I will look for it.
I too went through a similar experience with my Grandmother, and of course, my heart goes out to you, Kevan Atteberry. I wish you courage and strength and your wife, peace and comfort.
Thank you, Lynne.
Sounds utterly beautiful and touching. I can’t wait to read it.
What a beautiful book; this is such a difficult topic for parents to explain to their children, and even to ourselves. So glad that What a Beautiful Morning will be out there soon to help.
Kevan, I’m so very sorry that you are going through this. What a lovely and heartfelt book. Thank you for letting me know about it!
Thank you, Jennifer.
What a lovely treatment of a difficult topic. My father-in-law had Alzheimer’s and also responded to music – we could whistle a tune and he’d whistle back – and it always made us smile. Sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this difficult disease, Kevan. Peace to you.
Thank you, Patricia.
My father has Alzheimer’s now. I will definitely find this book.
I’m sure this book will help a lot of families. Thanks for sharing.
What a beautiful review, Kevin! Looking forward to reading and sharing this heartfelt book.
What a heartfelt and moving review, Kevan. I will order this book right away in gratitude and anticipation.
Definitely a book to watch for. Thanks for sharing, Kevan.
Kevan, I’m sending prayers to uplift you through this difficult time. Arthur’s book reminds me of FARAWAY GRANDPA. Both books are very poignant.
Thank you, Kathy. I’m unfamiliar with Faraway Grandpa but will search it out.
Ohh…this hits close to home. I can’t wait to read it!
This sounds like a book that will be a great comfort to so many people. Thanks for sharing and prayers for you and your wife and family.
I must red this book. Thanks for telling me about it. I recently lost my husband and dementia was part of it. Sending healing thoughts to you and your family.
So sorry for your loss, Rosi :(.
I’m sorry for your loss, Rosi.
It looks so lovely. That art is gorgeous too!
And Kevan, my <3 goes out to you and your beautiful, Teri!!
I hope we can meet at next year's retreat 🙂
I so look forward to that, Maria! Thank you for all your words of suppor tover hte last couple of years.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book, Kevin, as well as your own personal connection. I hope the writing community and it’s readers embrace both with love and thoughtfulness.
I can’t even begin to tell you how supportive they have been. There is no community in the world, I am certain, as caring and supportive as the kidlit community.
I am so looking forward to this book. I think it will be a comfort to so many.
This sounds lovely, Kevan. Such a difficult journey–my heart goes out to you. I love how music factors into the story. When my mother had forgotten seemingly everything else (including who her kids were), she still recognized old songs and lit up when we played old favorites for her. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Linda. There is a lot of recent science about music and dementia. Arthur does a bang up job tying it all together.
Thanks so much for your lovely post, and for sharing your heart!
What a sweet post, Kevan, and thank you for sharing your personal connection to this book and topic. This looks like a truly special book, and I’m such a fan of Arthur Levine as an editor, and can’t wait to see his writing. What a cool experience it must have been to hear the manuscript earlier on!
Much love to you and your wife.
Thanks so much, eliza.
Thank you for sharing this post and your own story.
My mom has dementia and this would be the perfect book for her great grandchildren. I, too, was lucky enough to hear Arthur read and was very touched.
Hugs to you, Kevan.
This sounds like a stellar book from Arthur Levine, tender and honoring the connection of the generations too. How wonderful that this demonstrated that loving relationships continue on through difficult conditions and circumstances. And I wish the best to you, Kevan and to your wife. Sound like life has presented some challenges that were unexpected. Maybe your journey will become a PB as well.