Balcombe author’s new children’s book looks at dementia: Grandpa Forgets by Suzi Lewis-Barned tackles a difficult subject
Mid Sussex-based author and health writer Suzi Lewis-Barned is tackling the difficult subject of dementia with her latest children’s book.
Grandpa Forgets, which is illustrated by Sophie Elliot, is available to buy now for £6.99 through Ragged Bears and is sold in Haywards Heath Waterstones.
Balcombe Stores also sells copies.
Suzi, who lives in Balcombe with her husband and family, said she has written the story from a child’s perspective.
The book, she said, is about a funny Grandpa who still knows what is important in life even though he cannot remember everything.
“What I was trying to show is that in the middle of a really tricky situation, like dealing with a relative who’s got dementia, there are still moments you can reconnect with them,” said Suzi.
“Then it’s not something to be frightened of because that person still loves you very much,” she said. “It’s just that it’s more difficult for them to express it.”
Suzi said she wants to help children manage their feelings while educating them about dementia.
She said dementia affects many people and their families, and that talking about it in a lighter way can make it less scary.
“Writing children’s books is possibly the hardest writing you can do because you have to condense so many feelings into so few words and still get across the message,” she said.
“I also feel the story is relevant, not just to small children but to families of people with dementia too,” said Suzi.
“The message is very simple and I think it’s a message that’s accessible to people of all ages,” she said, adding that this includes friends and carers.
Suzi said she loves the detail in Sophie Elliot’s illustrations – like the elephant on each page – and especially loves the way they bring up discussion points that parents or carers can share with children as they read.
“In a typical dementia journey, many people feel that they travel from a place of ‘light’ to ‘darkness’, but Sophie’s illustrations actually do the opposite,” she said.
“They go from a place of darkness (all the things Grandpa can’t do) to a place of light that focuses on the connection he still has with his grandchildren and the way they can express their love.”
Suzi said the book comes from her own experience of having a relative with dementia.
“Looking for positive moments can be challenging when you’re tired, or short of time and patience but, when they emerge, they are priceless,” she said.
The subject matter of Grandpa Forgets is related to Suzi’s main profession too because she writes about health for a copy writing business, Lewis-Barned, which she runs with her husband.
“I write just about anything connected to health, from articles to websites and patient information for people of all ages,” she said, adding that it was only recently she became interested in mental wellbeing.
Grandpa Forgets is the second children’s book by Suzi that deals with mental health.
The first, Ned Gets Worried, was published at the end of last year by Amazon and looks at childhood anxiety and the ways to manage it.
“It was illustrated by my mother, Ursula Lewis-Barned, who is 92 and was a little lockdown project we did together,” said Suzi.
Suzi’s other books include The Clever Rat & Other African Tales and Tales of Abunuwas.