How does Alzheimer’s disease affect a little girl? How does that little girl’s grandfather handle being the one afflicted? What role does the man’s daughter play in this scenario? All of these questions are beautifully addressed in the book The Staircase on Pine Street written by Mariana Llanos (and illustrated by Kate Gattey). In this short but touching tale we are immersed into the worlds of all 3 characters enough to empathize with each of their lives whether or not we have been personally touched by this disease.
Kudos to Llanos for using knowledge gathered from several sources to develop a story line that appears to have been lifted directly from first-hand experience. By her own admission this is not auto biographical yet the reader would never walk away feeling this was anything other than true-to-life. Because the child, Lilly, is the one around whom this story revolves it makes this book perfect for young people. It is written with an innocence that will transport any one or any age back to their childhood so empathizing with Lilly’s experience becomes easy. And just as interesting is that same innocence give us a glimpse into the experience of Alzheimer’s from the one caught up in the dementia for many revert into that child-like innocence at one point during the disease’s progression. The big difference, of course, is that Lilly seeks to grow while her grandfather regresses.
No spoiler alerts here; I will not tell you how the story actually ends but I will say there is an intriguing aspect because of the ‘mystery’ Llanos has woven into the plot. It mirrors the need to comprehend what cannot be understood easily and brings balance to pendulum swing of being able to put things to rest. Such heavy and deep topics may seem to be above the reach of a child but remember, this book presents this through the eyes of a 10 year old and is done so masterfully that we not only understand her needs but realize that children are much more perceptive than we may give them credit for being. This awareness will touch the heart of every adult who reads The Staircase on Pine Street in so many ways and may very well help them work with a young person should Alzheimer’s disease be an issue in their family.
Be sure to visit Mariana Llanos to not only learn more about this remarkable author but to order your copy of this terrific book.