Dementia Action Week 2019

To celebrate the launch of my new picture book ‘The Tide,‘ illustrated by Ashling Lindsey and publishing with Little Tiger Press, we timed a special blog tour to coincide with Dementia Action Week, 20th -24th May.

‘The Tide’ sets out to support families through the many emotions they may feel when a loved one is diagnosed with Dementia. The story was inspired by my husband’s grandmother, Veronica Spry. As well as being a mother, teacher, artist and nurse, Ronnie lived with Dementia. Everyone involved in the making of this book hopes the story goes some way to offering a little support during what is often a difficult and devastating time for families.

To find out more about the making of ‘The Tide,‘ Ashling and I are part of a small blog tour for ‘Dementia Action Week’.

You can view a gallery of Ashling’s incredible illustrations on the BookTrust website here.

You can read more about ‘The Story Behind the Story’ and the inspiration behind ‘The Tide’ here, hosted by Two in a Teepee.

You can read my post about using stories to support children’s emotional development here, courtesy of Library Book Boy and Girl.

You can read my research about the benefits of intergenerational friendships on Booklover Jo’s blog here.

You can read our interviews with Reading Zone about the making our book here.

And here are some of the glowing reviews for our special book:

“The story, which centres around a family day out at the beach, explores the relationship between a little girl (the narrator) and her beloved grandad, who lives with dementia. The girl has become aware of changes in her grandad’s behaviour: he sometimes gets confused, forgets things, or acts oddly (one illustration shows Grandad trying to bury the picnic sandwiches in the sand). The girl’s mum (who is a silent but important loving presence in the story) has cleverly described the situation to her daughter using a comforting metaphor: Grandad’s memory is like the tide: sometimes near, sometimes distant. The girl is learning to ‘go with the flow’ of her grandad’s condition, cherishing the precious lucid moments when he is able to play and interact, and also to be able to ‘just sit’ and be at peace with him during the times when his memory and thoughts seem more distant. The girl is very considerate: she empathises with her grandfather and compares his forgetfulness with times she has forgotten things herself and has needed help (and in doing so appreciates that it’s not easy for him).
This is a skilfully crafted and incredibly beautiful picture book which shows a perfect collaboration between author and illustrator. It is by no means easy to create a story about a subject like dementia which has an air of of joy, playfulness and hope, but Clare Helen Welsh and Ashling Lindsay have aced it. The love and understanding shared between the three family members radiates from the pages, reinforcing the story’s concluding message: the girl and her grandfather still love each other and will continue to do so, regardless of what lies ahead.” (Little Parachutes) 

“This book will move you and delight you. It might even make you cry. The wonderful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather is at the heart of it. But there is a deeper 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 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 with this distressing condition. Moreover, it could provide a springboard into discussing how we might help those with the condition to live well. I recommend that schools make copies of this book available.” (Mary Roche, Just Imagine)

|”A beloved grandfather’s memories ebb and flow.
A small child muses that Grandpa “sometimes…forgets things” and “sometimes…gets confused.” Still, while the narrator, Mommy, and Grandpa are at the beach, they engage in favorite activities together and watch the tide come in. The child is comforted to recall also having needed help in forgetful moments and also occasionally having behaved in perplexing ways. The child’s loving, easy forgiveness of Grandpa’s differences leads to understanding and acceptance of his predicament even though “sometimes, I get upset.” The child deals with these feelings—even the unsettling idea that Grandpa might forget his grandchild—by thinking about how scary forgetfulness must be. The author’s use of the tide as a metaphor for the way Grandpa’s memories softly drift in and out works persuasively. The simple strategies the protagonist employs to cope with the changes in Grandpa’s mental state are helpfully and naturally incorporated into the narrative. The reassuring, satisfying ending allows that loving family closeness can still prevail, particularly in dementia’s earlier stages. Artwork is loose and appealing, and the colorful, refreshing seashore scenes are inviting. Protagonist and family appear white; other persons in the background are depicted as ethnically and physically diverse.
This will be comforting for many readers.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“This is a story about a little girl, her grandfather and his memory loss. The family go for a day out at the beach. They build sandcastles, hunt in rock pools and eat ice creams. Although the little girl’s grandfather sometimes does things which are a little unusual, or forgets what he has done, she lives him just as much as she ever has because she understands how annoying it must be to forget how to do things properly.
The tide is a gentle metaphor for the ebbing and flowing of Grandad’s memories and although the terms ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s’ are not specifically mentioned, this touching story would provide the perfect starting point for a conversation about these topics. Ashling’s warm, soothing illustrations brilliantly capture the magic of a day at the seaside”. (Library Girl and Book Boy)

“In a poignant story about accepting a loved one’s dementia, a girl with long, cherry-colored hair tries to understand that her gentle, mustachioed grandfather sometimes becomes confused: “Mommy says Grandpa’s memories are like the tide”—sometimes “near and full of life,” other times “distant and quiet.” During a day at the beach, the girl and Grandpa build sand castles and search for sea stars. But when it’s time for lunch, Grandpa mistakenly buries the sandwiches in the sand (she wonders “but where are all the sandwiches?”). The girl empathizes with her elderly relative by remembering times when she, too, forgot things: how to tie her shoes, and “the time I buried Polar Bear, and Mommy helped me find him.” Lindsay fills her seaside images with warm, fruity color tones that conjure feelings of kinship and comfort rather than absence and despair. No one is ever truly lost, Welsh suggests, so long as they are loved by those around them.” (Publishers Weekly)

To further raise awareness of Dementia among young people, I am also planning to visit some local schools and libraries to share in some important discussions and activities. I hope these will allow children to share their experiences of Dementia and provide ideas of how we can all support older people in our community. Keep an eye on the events page. Here are a selection;

‘Memory Beach’ craft and inspired poetry:

‘Sand Clay’ Keepsakes:

‘Memory Boxes and Collages’ for family members and older people in our communities:


If you’re interested in hosting an event, please do get in contact.

It would also be wonderful to hear from you if you have read #TheTide and have been touched by its message.

Clare x

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